If Sam’s Po-Boys in Old Jefferson was a sitcom, the stars of the show would be Jackie Dupeire, her sister Jo Levatino Lund and their sister-in-law Jeannie Dupeire. They keep the dialogue going between the cash register and the sandwich counter, their heads bobbing just above the deli case as they work, surrounded by a collage of Saints logos, old photos and Coca-Cola emblems covering the walls.

Their uncle Sam LaBruzzo would be a regular guest star. The 78-year-old makes his weekly appearance each Wednesday to help with that day’s special, a chicken Parmesan po-boy draped in chunky meat sauce that draws a crowd all on its own.

The customers on the other side of the counter might seem like the audience, but really they’re part of the show, too. When one of them calls out that he’s headed to a chain restaurant “to get a real sandwich,” everyone laughs. As if.

“These people are family,” said Wally Pontiff, a customer who beams with proprietary pride when showing a newcomer around Sam’s, which is notched into a little pocket neighborhood between Jefferson Highway and River Road, surrounded by trucking routes and warehouses.

“If you don’t show up for a few days, what do they do? They call you,” said Pontiff.

“That’s right. We got to make sure you’re still OK,” quipped Lund, while stirring a pot of gravy on a small stovetop.

“There’s nowhere in the world like this,” said Pontiff.

The po-boy culture of New Orleans is deep and wide, extending from acclaimed eateries on every visitor’s bucket list to convenience store delis for a simple, no fuss lunch. This weekend’s Oak Street Po-Boy Festival even functions as a high-profile showcase for where po-boys can go, with a wild range of one-day wonders on French bread.

But a different read on the city’s favorite sandwich persists at another type of po-boy purveyor, places like Sam’s, in business since 1960. These are the unsung backstreet shops, eateries that keep a low profile but maintain a strong tradition, show gregarious character, enjoy loyal followings and have added some distinctive signature sandwiches to the po-boy pantheon.

I’ve been on the hunt for this type of po-boy shop lately and have turned up a particularly rich haul in New Orleans’ older suburbs, thanks perhaps to the preservative effect of lower real estate costs and a highly local clientele attuned to the prospect of New Orleans flavor, good values and no pretense.

Usually found a few blocks off the main drag, their locations seem obscure but in fact reflect a pedigree because many evolved out of onetime groceries serving the self-contained universes of their own neighborhoods. Today, they’re quick, inexpensive sandwich shops for a dose of local flavor that extends beyond the loaf. The six examples that follow help tell the tale.

Sam’s Po-Boys

260 Brooklyn St., Jefferson, 504-835-0689

Breakfast and lunch Mon.-Fri.

Founded: 1960

Don’t miss: chicken parmesan po-boy (Wednesdays only)

Jackie Dupeire gets up before sunrise to prep ingredients for the breakfast po-boys and plates she starts serving at 6 a.m. At least her commute is easy. She still lives in the family home, attached to Sam’s Po-Boys. When she opens a door next to the sandwich counter, you can see right into her living room.

It’s also easy to see Sam’s history as a neighborhood market, once called Sam’s Food Store. Some of the old wooden grocery racks are still here, now converted to chest-high dining counters where customers sit on barstools, notching their feet on the well-worn shelves below.

Sam’s was started in 1960 by Jackie’s father, the late Sam Levatino. He took over an existing grocery, called Cannata’s, that had long served this neighborhood by the Mississippi River levee.

Fried seafood — shrimp and catfish — is only served on Fridays. But everyday, Dupeire makes “submarine po-boys,” stacked high with thick cuts of bologna and salami, liver cheese, ham, American cheese and Swiss. The standout is still the Wednesday-only special chicken parmesan, smothered not just with any old marinara but with a chunky beef sauce.

A hand-drawn chart taped to the deli case shows the various sizes available. Somehow, the po-boys always seem even bigger than advertised when you unwrap them.

Parenton’s Po-Boys

4304 Ellen St., Jefferson, 504-846-3545

Lunch Mon.-Sat.

Founded: 1946

Don’t miss: chicken fried steak po-boy (Thursdays only)

Parenton’s shares a tiny paved patio with the adjacent house, and it looks a little like a detached garage. In fact, its roots go back to a grocery store that opened in 1946 in the Irish Channel, at the corner of First and Constance streets.

It was moved to Jefferson sometime in the 1950s and changed hands a few times before Brenda Castillo and Dennis Valentino took over in 2009.

Today, Valentino runs the kitchen and Castillo runs the show. It’s an interactive one. She keeps a comment book just for children to give their feedback (“hats off to the chef,” wrote one in careful penmanship; “I love fries,” another declared in crayon). Every year she makes a calendar with a collage of photos showing her regulars and newcomers on each page.

The paneled walls here are covered with New Orleans memorabilia and personal mementos, from Rex pins to a vintage Schwegmann’s grocery bag, both framed.

“It’s a small place, but every inch of it tells a story,” she said. “This place keeps my heart beating.”

The po-boy business is a second act for Castillo, who worked just down the road for many years at Ochsner hospital. Though it was a new line of work, the old school menu and approach that were already well established at Parenton’s struck a chord.

“When I grew up Uptown, you’d get a pound of liver cheese and a loaf of French bread and feed the whole family,” she said. “That’s why we still have that stuff here. People from the older generation love that.”

The size of your appetite, rather than the vintage of your generation, might steer some of the more contemporary choices at Parenton’s. For his “Gramp’s Italian Boy,” Valentino covers Italian sausage with peppers and onions, provolone and mozzarella. And a weekly plate lunch special of chicken fried steak made the leap to the po-boy loaf, served on Thursdays only, with long, thin sheets of steak stretching across the length of the bread, its crisp, well-seasoned edges jutting out past the crust.

Juneau’s Sandwich Shop

4016 7th St., Marrero, 504-341-6879

Lunch Mon.-Fri.

Founded: 1952

Don’t miss: weenie po-boy

It seems like everyone at Juneau’s has some history with the place. That goes for the proprietor, too.

“We all grew up coming here,” said Nina Romaguera. “But the thing was, it was only open during school hours, so you could only go if there was a half-day or you were out sick.”

The Marrero native and her husband Chad bought the old shop from the original Juneau family owners about a dozen years ago. They saw little reason to change much. That includes the hours, and also the menu.

The roast beef is very tender and fully flavored, and patties for the hamburger po-boy are hand-formed and griddled crisp. The unlikely star at Juneau’s, however, is the weenie po-boy.

The wieners are sliced and chopped and stuffed into the crusty bread with a distinctive pale red sauce. It has the texture of gravy, but an entirely different flavor, a little bit sweet, a little bit peppery. It’s also a mess, so much so that this po-boy automatically comes with a fork. It may be an acquired taste for some, but it’s tops in Marrero and easily Juneau’s bestseller.

“It’s been a little controversial,” Romaguera said. “I have some people coming here since the ‘60s who say it’s exactly the same, and then there are other people who think we changed it. Well, we didn’t. That recipe is passed on is like a secret when we bought the place.”

Tag’s Meat Market & Deli

1207 E. Judge Perez Dr., Chalmette, 504-277-6594

Lunch and early dinner (until 7 p.m.) Mon.-Sat.

Founded: 1948

Don’t miss: gumbo head cheese po-boy

Now a combination grocery and sandwich shop near Chalmette High School, Tag’s roots go back to the 1940s, when butcher Alphonse Taglialavore operated a stand in the French Market. Mickey Michalik married into the Taglialavore family and now operates the business, hand-making the butcher shop staples that supply his po-boy menu. Order the sausage po-boy and the kitchen starts with the excellent hot links or juicy Italian links dotted with caraway and parsley and busts them open to get a crisp edge on the griddle.

Hog head cheese on French bread has long been a not-so-delicate delicacy in local homes, and here it joins the lunch menu as a po-boy, sliced thin, stacked up and dressed. From the regular and spicy versions, Tag’s has branched out with head cheese studded with mozzarella and jalapeno, like the popular sausage variation. More recently, Michalik added “gumbo head cheese.” A thin slice reveals hunks of smoked sausage, green peppers and onions all suspended in the gelatinous embrace of the head cheese. As a po-boy, this all slowly melts into the crags of the warm French bread.

Spitale’s Deli & Catering

2408 N. Arnoult Rd., Metairie, 504-837-9912

Founded: 1983

Don’t miss: dirty turkey

Housed in a metal building hard by the interstate, Spitale’s is well camouflaged among the plumbing supply warehouses surrounding it. Gerald Spitale, however, knows how to make his place memorable. “Nothing is sweeter to someone’s ears than their own name,” he said. “When you know their order, you know how they like their sandwich, you call them by name, and you’re comfortable enough with them to tease them a bit, I think that’s what makes this place what it is.”

Gerald and his brother Charles Spitale started the business in 1983 as the continuation of a family tradition. Their father had for many years run an Uptown corner store, a place on Willow Street called Tony’s. Spitale’s was supposed to be a grocery, too, but the po-boy side of the business quickly took over. The menu is lengthy now, and customer preference has trumped every attempt to cull it.

“Every time we try, we looked on the list and every one of them is somebody’s favorite,” Spitale said.

That goes for an unusual roast beef au jus, the grilled tuna steak and the “dirty turkey,” a combination of gooey, year-round Thanksgiving-style sandwich of melted mozzarella, brown gravy and onions and turkey, both given a crisp griddled edge.

Guillory’s Deli & Tamales

3708 Derbigny St., Metairie, 504-833-1390

Breakfast and lunch Mon.-Sat.

Founded: 1972

Don’t miss: hot tamale po-boy

There’s still a massive old butcher block in Guillory’s kitchen, its surface wavy from decades of use, while up front a huge flat screen display shows a digital menu. Between the two is the story of an old neighborhood standby in transition.

Guillory’s was once a sweet shop that the Guillory family turned into a meat market in 1972. Sandwiches slowly joined the rotation, and the family’s next generation, the Gauthier brothers — Mike, Peter and Wayne — have conjured up some unique specialties during their tenure.

Wayne once ran Whitey’s Pool Hall, a block down Derbigny Street, where he first started serving hot tamales as a bar snack, using his father Myron’s old family recipe. These eventually made the leap to the deli and, inevitably, ended up as a po-boy filling.

They’re New Orleans style (they compare favorably to that old greasy gold standard, Manuel’s), and the shop makes about 120 dozen a day. When packed into a Leidenheimer loaf, they look a little like meatballs — only more oily and spicy — and they’re dressed with chili gravy and cheddar.

Guillory’s still stocks eggs and milk and Bunny Bread, and a few six packs. There’s a glass case filled with fried chicken and Cajun country convenience staples, like crawfish pies and boudin balls.

But it’s the po-boys that sustain the place, whether it’s the “hots delight” with sausage, chili, cheese and jalapenos or the straight-ahead, slow-simmered roast beef.

“If you live in New Orleans, you eat po-boys, and when you leave that’s the first thing you miss,” said Peter Gauthier. “It’s just a New Orleans thing. I don’t think anyone can define it any other way.”

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.