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.
Tag’s Meat Market & Deli
1207 E. Judge Perez Dr., Chalmette, 504-277-6594
Lunch and early dinner (until 7 p.m.) Mon.-Sat.
Don’t miss: gumbo headcheese po-boy
Charcuterie has been making a huge comeback at upscale restaurants. At Tag’s, rustic, hand-made specialty meats have always been the draw.
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, making the butcher shop staples that supply his po-boy menu by hand. 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 headcheese on French bread has long been a not-so-delicate delicacy, 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 headcheese studded with mozzarella and jalapeno, like the popular sausage variation. More recently, Michalik added “gumbo headcheese.” A thin slice reveals hunks of smoked sausage, green peppers and onions all suspended in the gelatinous embrace of the headcheese. As a po-boy, this all slowly melts into the crags of the warm French bread.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.