The journey from the original Killer Poboys to its second location is about two blocks. For the three chefs behind the venture, however, this new café in the French Quarter represents a quantum leap, and a multifaceted evolution for an eatery that has defied expectations from the start.
“This place isn’t very big, but it means a world of difference for us,” said Cam Boudreaux, surveying the narrow service counter and handful of tables at his new restaurant. “There’s so much more we can do here.”
Along with his wife and co-chef, April Bellow, Boudreaux started Killer Poboys in 2012 in the back room of the Erin Rose, a Conti Street bar that looks too small to have a back room. With a correspondingly short menu of modern “new school po-boys,” they quickly built a following among locals and well-informed visitors.
Built on crusty, light-weight banh mi loaves, their po-boys are stuffed with the likes of rum-glazed pork belly, meatloaf with a coffee barbecue sauce and, for a vegan version, a hamper of Southern flavors combining roasted sweet potato, greens and a black-eyed pea and pecan spread.
Now, joined by new business partner and chef Eric Baucom, they have a second Killer Poboys around the corner at 219 Dauphine St. Its opening schedule is coming in phases. It will serve its first official lunch on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., then return Nov. 12-14, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. The regular schedule (breakfast and lunch, Wed.-Mon.) to begin soon thereafter.
Po-boys as “emotion”
It’s a boxy, outwardly nondescript storefront space, formerly home to the slider joint Nosh and, for many years prior, the diner Annette’s. As Killer Poboys, it’s colorful and configured for flexibility.
For instance, they’ve expanded the regular kitchen with a prep kitchen built from wheeled counters and metal racks that extends into the dining room. The added space will help them augment the menu at the Erin Rose, and it can all be pushed back to open more room for pop-up dinners from other chefs or for their own special evening events. Meanwhile, their original Erin Rose location will continue its lunch-through-late-night service.
All three chefs share fine dining experience working around New Orleans restaurant kitchens, and all are locals. Boudreaux grew up in the French Quarter and Uptown, Bellow is from Gretna and Baucom is from Algiers.
Looking for a niche to start his own business, Boudreaux fixed on po-boys, reasoning that the traditional New Orleans sandwich has always been somewhat open to interpretation. Asked to explain what makes his modern sandwiches po-boys, he explains that “it’s a feeling, an emotion. It needs to feel a little heavy, a little messy and drippy.”
“As long as we stay in that spirit, we can go in a lot of different ways,” he said.
Initially, Killer Poboys was a pop-up concept that saw Boudreaux doing most of his cooking at home and carting his haul to the Erin Rose bar each day, where he finished his sandwiches on a propane stove.
In this bare-bones setting, he could have simply started slinging bar food. But Boudreaux has always taken a more deliberate approach to his ideas for new school po-boys, even devising a mission statement to guide the brand.
“We make internationally inspired, chef-crafted, New Orleans-style sandwiches,” he recited.
This dialed into a need for more food in the French Quarter that’s quick, inexpensive and available late but still distinctive and handmade. This year alone, Boudreaux said, the shop has served about 50,000 po-boys.
A “new school” approach
Boudreaux and Bellow expanded once before, opening a taco stand inside the Decatur Street pub Molly’s on the Market in 2013 called Dis Taco. It subsequently closed. But the couple are confident Killer Poboys can grow with more room, and with another partner. They recruited Baucom, who was previously sous chef at the high-aiming Restaurant R’Evolution.
Their new menu on Dauphine Street has additions like a chicken thigh confit po-boy and another with roast beef braised in the dark Bière Noire from Bayou Teche Brewing. Others are breakfast po-boys, served all day, like the cheddar omelet po-boy and one that sounds like a smoked salmon plate on a po-boy loaf, with red onions, capers and remoulade.
But even with the chefs’ open interpretation of their niche, the new Killer Poboys menu has a section dubbed “not po-boys,” mainly because of the choice of bread. There’s a roasted cauliflower sandwich on multigrain, for instance, and then the “bread pudding griddle,” a gut buster of a sandwich with bread pudding as the “bun” stuffed with pork belly and eggs and spicy cane syrup.
More is in the works. The prep area in the dining room looks like a workshop with experiments underway. There’s a food dehydrator, for instance, and sous vide cookers. On the racks, cardamom seeds, vanilla extract, smoked serrano pepper sauce and pickled okra hint at the creativity this kitchen applies to its subject.
“This is our shop, we can do whatever we want in here, try things out, and if they don’t work, you’re on to the next idea,” Baucom said.
They’ve applied for a license to serve beer and wine. To put their own stamp on the selection, the beer will be in cans (and mostly from regional brewers) and the wine will be from cans and small, single-serve boxes, just so nobody gets the idea that it’s too fancy.
“I can’t wait to start doing box wine pairings with po-boys,” Baucom said.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.