This post is about where to find the best po-boys in New Orleans, including within and French Quarter and beyond. We also explain what a po-boy is. Of course, you could learn about them on one of our food tours.
- What is a Po-Boy?
- Best in the French Quarter
- Other Neighborhoods
- French Quarter Food Tour
- 13 NOLA Foods to Try
- Things to do in NOLA
WHAT IS A PO-BOY?
People come to New Orleans and say, “I need to try a Po-boy!” – and you definitely should while you're here. Our tour guides are always asked about what a Po-boy is. Here's the simple answer: a Po-boy is anything sandwiched between either 8, 16, or 32 inches of French Bread.
However, locals have a more concrete idea of what they think a true Po-boy should be. A New Orleanian will tell you a Po-boy is a protein ingredient (e.g. fried oysters, fried shrimp, or hot sausage) in between Leidenheimer French Bread.
Now, whether you want it dressed or not, that is the question. Locals usually just get their Po-boy dressed, and that means mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. That being said, don't feel shy about asking for any of these toppings to be excluded from your sandwich – just don't say you want it naked!
Why is It Called a Po-Boy?
The first instance of a published description of a sandwich sounding like a Po-boy was in the Daily Picayune newspaper on Dec. 7, 1851. At the time, the paper actually called it a dugout.
Most agree that the Po-boy came to be during the streetcar strike of 1929. Former Streetcar Conductors Benny and Clovis Martin opened the Martin Brother’s Coffee Stand and Restaurant in 1922 at the French Market in the French Quarter.
Being former members of the Street Railways Union, they wanted to support the striking transportation workers, who they feared were destitute and starving. They published a letter in a local paper stating any of the people from the striking division 149 would be given a free sandwich. They would feed any poor boy that came into their shop.
The most popular Po-boy options are fried shrimp, oyster, or catfish. The more traditional options come with ham, roast beef, or hot sausage. But, if you want to be adventurous, there are many more options are out there.
In the next section, we list some of the best Po-Boys in New Orleans by neighborhood (as per the Free Tours by Foot tour guides).
BEST PO-BOYS IN THE FRENCH QUARTER
Below we list several of our tour guides' favorite locations in the French Quarter for a Po-Boy with some information on the location and what type of sandwich that each specializes in.
If you will be in the area, then be sure to read our guide of things to do in the French Quarter.
Located just a few blocks from Jackson Square, this restaurant is one of the most popular places to grab a Po-boy. Their signature sandwich includes fried shrimp, but they also sell a variety of hot and cold options such as roast beef and Chisesi ham.
Our French Quarter Food and Culinary History Tour actually end here.
Originally opened as a pop-up in the back of the Erin Rose bar post-Katrina, they now have their own restaurant on Dauphine. Their inventive Po-Boys are a cut above the norm. If you want to try a Pork Belly or BBQ Chicken Confit Po-Boy, this is the place. Their most expensive Po-Boy is $13.
This photo of Killer Poboys is courtesy of TripAdvisor
You can still get a Killer Po-Boy in the back of Erin Rose.
People visit Johnny’s time and time again for what is often considered to be the truest form of the Po-boy. This is the Oldest Po-Boy shop in the Quarter, and you can find it on St. Louis St. near Decatur Street.
Voted the Best Po-boys in the City, Johnny's is definitely worth checking out. They have a balcony for dining and their ½ Po-Boy gumbo special is a hit!
The shop is located near the end of our French Quarter Tour.
This restaurant is on the edge of the Quarter near Esplanade Avenue. They serve southern style hot plates like Mac n’ Cheese or Roast Beef. However, their All That Jazz Po-boy should be written into the history books. On a seeded roll, it has ample amounts of ham, turkey, sautéed shrimp, cheese, shrooms, and a tartar based "wow" sauce.
We say that this is at least 1000 calories!
BEST OUTSIDE THE FRENCH QUARTER
This section will include several different restaurants that serve Po-Boys outside of the French Quarter. We will cover neighborhoods such as the Garden District, the Central Business District, and Bayou Saint John.
Local coffee purveyors at French Truck Coffee reopened this New Orleans institution – and we are grateful. We suggest the Pickled Shrimp – it is yummy! This is also a coffee shop with a range of options at a low cost.
The Grocery is located just one block away from the start of both our guided and self-guided audio tours of the Garden District and makes for a good opportunity to fill up before your tour.
It’s easy to catch the St. Charles Streetcar to this upscale seafood eatery. Superior Grill, their Mexican restaurant, has been a New Orleans institution for years. Superior Seafood’s specialty Po-boy is one of the best in the city.
Angels on Horseback consists of fried, bacon-wrapped oysters topped with ravigote sauce set on French bread, dressed in shredded lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mayonnaise. Accompanied by fries and at a price point of $13, it is worth every penny.
Guy’s Poboys on Magazine St. is a New Orleans mainstay. As you stand in line, you will be amongst the true locals of Uptown New Orleans. It's likely that everyone in the small restaurant will know each other’s names – except for you.
Even so, you shouldn't let that scare you, as they're very friendly. We suggest the classic Shrimp 16" dressed because it is one of the best in the city. Remember to bring cash, as that is all they accept.
Mahony’s offer throwback Po-boys of days gone by, as well as other sandwiches with wholesome Southern ingredients.
We suggest their standout The Peacemaker. In between the slices of Leidenheimer French Bread are Jumbo Shrimp (never frozen), P&J Oysters with bacon, cheddar cheese, dressed with lettuce, mayonnaise, tomatoes, and pickles.
If that’s not your bag, the Ham (marinated in Barq’s Root Beer) and cheese, or the Fried Green Tomato sandwiches are delicious.
An Irish Channel Institution, this is the epicenter of St. Patrick’s Day festivities in The Big Easy. Located near the end of our Garden District Tour, this restaurant is an excellent option if you want to grab a bite for lunch. They also have all types of bar food.
Locals usually choose their Roast Beef Po-boy dressed and saturated in garlic gravy, or debris as some call it. The Magazine Street #11 bus has a stop to and from the Quarter right outside their door. It is an option if you don’t want to brave the lines at Mother’s.
Central Business District (CBD)
If you have ever watched the Food Channel then you have likely seen an excerpt on Mother’s. Close to the French Quarter, many would say it is worth the walk. That said, you should be prepared to wait in line for their world famous Ferdi Roast Beef and Ham Po-boy with debris on top.
Debris, what’s that? It’s all the little bits that fall from the Roast Beef as it cooks for hours and hours, added to the gravy – and it is delicious.
A great spot for lunch, Luke provides celebrity Chef John Besh’s Cochon De Lait pressed Po-boy. Similar to a Cuban Sandwich – but still a Po-boy – it is what non-Cajuns might call pulled pork accompanied by Chisesi Ham, caramelized onions, Emmenthaler cheese, housemade pickles & housemade fries. They also have a great oyster happy hour!
Near the Convention Center, Mulates is a Cajun Country institution that has opened a location in the Big Easy. Often featuring live Zydeco music, many people come for the ambiance and to see traditional dancing. We’d say go for the Mardi Gras Shrimp Po-boy, with shrimp tossed in Cajun Spiced Honey Mustard, you’ll forget the music playing isn’t in your head!
Pho Tau Bay moved to the Westbank after Katrina, so many travelers did not experience this generational restaurant. Thankfully, they are finally back on Tulane Avenue in the CBD, and we couldn’t be happier.
Baking their own fresh bread, they make what many people call a Po-Boy, but it’s actually a Banh Mi. You can get many traditional ingredients inside, but we suggest Banh Mi Pate Thit.
This Vietnamese delicacy is rolled ham with chef’s special chicken liver sausage on their fresh bread. The sandwich is dressed with homemade mayonnaise, julienne carrots, onions, cucumbers, and peppers. We warn you to be prepared for the peppers.
Bayou Saint John
This neighborhood joint is where locals always go before and after Jazzfest. If you find yourself taking our Self Guided Bayou St. John Tour, make sure to walk the block or two for their cheap Po-boy and Gumbo menu special. Accompanied by either a Barqs root beer or an Abita Beer, this meal will hit the spot. The Corned Beef or the Hot Sausage is something you can’t get in many other places.
The bar has been open since 1911, and generations of New Orleanians drink there. That said, they are most famous for their Po-Boys sold out the back. We suggest going during off-hours, as it is quite popular and the line has been known to snake down the block.
We also suggest if you are in The Big Easy during the month of November, make this a must-see destination. After all, they actually have a Thanksgiving Po-boy! Only served on Wednesdays, it is broken down into a mix of white and dark meat. They add cornbread dressing, gravy and whole-berry cranberry sauce on Leidenheimer loaves.
Their 1929 Potato or Sweet Potato Po-boy is another standout, as they tout it is what the Martin Brother’s first served to the striking Streetcar Employees.
This market offers a variety of different foods, but they also make some pretty good Po-boys in the deli for a very low price. As usual, you can expect all of the traditional favorites such as fried shrimp and roast beef. You'll find a Canseco's Market on Esplanade Avenue just North of the area where you can take our self-guided Bayou St. John Tour.