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.
260 Brooklyn St., Jefferson, 504-835-0689
Breakfast and lunch Mon.-Fri.
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, which is 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, originally 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 bar stools and notch 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.
The store was more about meat than seafood, which is reflected on the po-boy menu today. 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. There’s a hot dog po-boy, made with sliced red wieners under chili sauce, though the standout is the Wednesday-only special of 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.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.
Other parts in po-boy series: