I’ve claimed for many years that one of America’s great cuisines, the gorgeous Creole/Cajun mashup that is New Orleans cooking, doesn’t travel well. Trying to reproduce its flavors outside the swampy lowlands of Louisiana just doesn’t work. It’s like traveling with a $3000 suitcase. It’s looks beautiful at first, but one long flight and it’s beat to hell and looks like hobo luggage. You really should have left it where it belonged.
I’ve never had gumbo outside of Louisiana that stood up to the NOLA original. Never had jambalaya that tasted quite so good. Never had barbecue shrimp encased in quite the same slick, salty, delicious slurry.
Part of it is ingredients. That particular Louisiana rice is unmistakable. That light-as-helium French bread that shatters into 5 bajillion crumbs when you touch it is irreplaceable. That sweaty, swamp-ass, half-drunk semi-coma that most people in NOLA live in permanently is impossible to reproduce outside the greater 504.
Nevertheless, plenty of cooks and restaurateurs try their hand at recreating the Crescent City in their own home towns, and rarely do they come as close as French Po-Boys One here in Sacramento.
First of all let’s talk about where the name “Po’ Boy” comes from. HAHAHAHAHA. Seriously, you thought I was going to tell some dusty shit-story that’s been trampled on a thousand times by bad tour guides? Let’s get to the food.
French Po Boys does the traditional NOLA sandwich right. Fried shrimp or oysters or catfish or soft shell crab, “dressed” with mayo-lettuce-tomoato is what you should get. It you’ve a seafood allergy, I’ll allow you a more pedestrian cold cut affair, but really the fried seafood is unmatchable. The cornmeal crust on the seafood replicates perfectly that New Orleans corner-store micro-kitchen texture.
To really bring home the classic NOLA po’ boy shop feel, that greatest of all hot sauces, Crystal, is on every table in the modest dining room. The silverware is made of plastic and the plates of paper. The family that runs the joint, is, I’m guessing, Vietnamese. The only reason I say so is that I doubt anyone other than a Vietnamese baker could get quite so close to that shattering French bread. It’s not 100% the same as New Orleans French, but it’s as close as I’ve ever had on the West Coast.
You’re also welcome to try the “Potato Tornado,” a spiral cut potato on a stick that is about as state-fair as you’re gonna get in April.
Trust me, just go and get some grub there. You’ll love it.
French Po-Boys One- 6498 Broadway (at 65th Street), Sacramento
Food **** Atmosphere (doesn’t matter)* Service ** (perfect)