History of the Po-boy
the early years of the 20th century, two brothers, Benny and Clovis
Martin, migrated to New Orleans from rural Raceland, Louisiana.
When the Martins first reached the city, they found employment as
streetcar conductors. Later, they opened a sandwich shop near the
French Market and made a culinary discovery: if they concocted sandwiches
out of the traditional loaf of French bread, with its tapered ends,
the resulting sandwiches would vary in size. The solution was relatively
simple: the modern, more or less symmetrical po-boy loaf, which
could be cut into equal size sandwiches.
As for the name, during the late 1920's,
the New Orleans streetcar conductors went on strike. The Martins
vowed to feed their striking brethren for free. When one of the
strikers entered their shop, the call went out: "Here comes
The ingredients that go on a po-boy are virtually
limitless, depending on one's imagination: hot roast beef with gravy,
ham and cheese (known in New Orleans as a "combination"),
fried seafood (oysters, shrimp, softshell crabs, catfish), hot sausage,
meatballs--even French fries. When the New Orleans po-boy is "dressed,"
the reference has nothing to do with fashion: "dressed"
in New Orleans nomenclature means that lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise
are added. Po-boys are the great equalizers of New Orleans culture,
consumed by workingmen, bankers, doctors, lawyers, musicians, Mardi
Gras Indian chiefs, and Carnival Kings. What the finest po-boys
have in common is bread baked by Leidenheimer, "Good to the
last Crumb" since 1896.