Mardi Gras is a time reserved for unbridled celebration. Debaucherous parades, dancing in the street, drinking heavily before noon; New Orleans is the undisputed epicenter of all that jazz (oh yeah, and jazz). Yet you needn’t head to the French Quarter to enjoy one of the best parts of Fat Tuesday: creole cuisine.
The po’ boy, the staple sandwich of this culinary tradition, can be found at any number of Southern-inspired spots around L.A. Not much more than a sub built around roast beef or fried seafood, a po' boy can be easy to make, but next to impossible to master. Put the good times on a roll — or a hoagie — anytime of the year with this list of the city’s 10 best po’ boys.
10. Orleans and York Deli
Orleans and York is bold enough to offer "deli-cacies" from the Bayou and the Big Apple, side by side. But don’t bother mulling over the extensive menu; their shrimp po’ boy is where it’s at. Piled high with plump seafood on a lightly toasted French baguette, the large serving legitimizes its $12 price tag. The shrimp is fresh and juicy, with a light flakiness to the breading. It isn’t over-battered, so you’re actually able to enjoy what it brings to equation. If that taste is too delicate for your palate, consider spiking it with some hot link sausages — another speciality here. 4454 W Slauson Ave, Windsor Hills; (323) 291-8800
9. Hambone’s BBQ and Po’ Boy Sandwiches
The fried catfish is king at Hambone’s, Bellflower’s go-to barbecue joint. Crusted in a crunchy layer of cornmeal, it offers a textural dynamic that is difficult to resist: gritty crispness on the exterior and wispy flesh within. For $13 you get you enough of the seafood to handily fill out an eight-inch sub. Although the bread isn’t the authentic New Orleans-style baguette, the spicy remoulade is up to creole standards, and far superior to plain mayo. 9342 Alondra Blvd, Bellflower; (562) 920-1090
8. Sal’s Gumbo Shack
Sal’s in North Long Beach doesn't skimp on portions, so come hungry — and allow time for a nap afterwards. I counted 15 crispy crustaceans on their ‘Remy Style’ shrimp po’ boy, served with parsley-dusted fries for $12.99. A thick homemade sauce drizzled on top plays more like a Russian dressing than a remoulade, but it delivers a suitable tang without drowning out the flavors of the sea. Get the Rex's Special, a combo shrimp and catfish po' boy named after now-councilmember Rex Richardson. 6148 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach; (562) 422-8100
7. Fishing with Dynamite
What it lacks in stature, chef David LeFavre’s shrimp po’ boy certainly compensates for in flavor. Cajun-minded, with a spicier take on remoulade oozing over the sides of a sizzling mound of blackened seafood, it packs an unctuous punch. Maryland soft-shell crab serves as a must-have seasonal substitute come early summer. Good things come in small packages. 1148 Manhattan Ave, Manhattan Beach; (310) 893-6299
6. Preux & Proper
Specializing in modern shakeups of traditional creole classics, Preux & Proper is new to the downtown dining scene. The menu is awash in Southern specialties, which makes the fried oyster po' boy easy to overlook. Served on four separate skewers, the bite-size sandwiches are coated in a cornmeal crust and brightened by fresh arugula and sliced cherry tomatoes. The additions bring a touch of California into the fray, without trying to reinvent the wheel. 840 S. Spring St. Los Angeles; (213) 896-0090
5. My Two Cents
Speaking of reinventing the wheel, we had to include one distinctly L.A.-ified version of the po' boy, and the one at My Two Cents happens to be the best in the city. The fried green tomato BLT po' boy bears little resemblance to either a BLT or a po' boy, yet it somehow bridges the divide with glorious gusto. The sandwich is jacked up with thick slices of Texas toast, wild boar bacon, and a savory tomato paste — and just might convince you that perhaps nothing should remain sacred in the name of culinary exploration (including a side of quinoa fritters). 5583 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles; (323) 938-1012
Promising to bring the "state of New Orleans" to Hollywood, Five0Four makes good with its blackened chicken po' boy. The reasonably-priced $10 offering is blanketed in cheddar, pickled onions and crispy avocado. The char of the chicken breast remains discernible, even amid a smattering of cloying flavors tugging the palate in separate directions. The somewhat doughy bread is welcomed here, ensuring that next to nothing is lost to the plate. 6541 Hollywood Blvd. #102., Los Angeles; (323) 960-0224
3. Brun’s Creole Soul Kitchen
This Eagle Rock-based food truck offers soul food on steroids to adventurous eaters eager to experiment with unexpected mashups of cuisine. The BeastMaker remains a consistent crowd pleaser. Juicy roast beef hugs a tight core of lightly fried shrimp in a balanced union of surf and turf. The texture of tender meat somehow works with the chewiness of the seafood. Brun's makes weekly appearances downtown and on Abbot Kinney in Venice. Eagle Rock, various locations; creolesoulkitchen.com
2. Uncle Darrow's
Uncle Darrow's was around long before anyone dared to do creole or Cajun in the Los Angeles area, and it's earned its reputation as a local institution. The Zeek is the culinary calling card. The gut-busting $10 lunch special is stuffed with plump shrimp and flaky catfish and smeared with a housemade tater salad. Not overly-eggy, the potatoes bring a satisfying smushiness that makes this sandwich almost as compelling texturally as it is in taste. 2560 Lincoln Blvd, Venice; (310) 306-4862
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1. Little Jewel of New Orleans
The only drawback to ordering a po' boy from Little Jewel is having to decide between a dozen gems of authentic awesomeness. These sandwiches aren't just New Orleans-style, they are the real deal. The Louisiana-bred owner flies in bread, daily, from Leidenheimer Baking Company in the Big Easy. The recipe for the batter is a well-guarded family secret, and the flavors would make any Bayou expat teary-eyed with homesickness. When the patient lady at the register finally forced my hand, I went with the Deluxe Half and Half—a mixture of fried oysters and shrimp, only slightly smaller than my forearm. The housemade remoulade is applied evenly, helping tie together spice and savory, crunch and chew. At $16, there is an element of sticker shock, yet it's difficult to down this much deliciousness in just one sitting. Expect leftovers for dinner. 207 Ord St., Chinatown; (213) 620-0461