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.
2408 N. Arnoult Rd., Metairie, 504-837-9912
Don’t miss: dirty turkey (grilled turkey, onions, brown gravy and mozzarella)
Housed in a metal building next to a big dirt parking lot by the interstate, Spitale’s is well camouflaged among the plumbing supply warehouses around 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. When someone called Spitale’s asking for an order of finger sandwiches, the deli side of the business was born and from there the place quickly evolved into a po-boy shop. The menu is lengthy now, but customer preference trumps every attempt to cull it back.
“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.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.