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. These are the unsung backstreet shops of the suburbs, 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. We’ll feature them all together in tomorrow’s paper, and today we highlight them one at a time.
3708 Derbigny St., Metairie, 504-833-1390
Breakfast and lunch Mon.-Sat.
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 tools is the story of an old neighborhood standby in transition.
Guillory’s started as 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 been conjuring 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.