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Po Boy fixings

Just noticed at my neighborhood Berkeley Popeye's that "Po Boys are back." They are back with cabbage/cole slaw instead of lettuce (and tomato?). Is cole slaw a common Po Boy fixing?

I don't recall that from my 2 visits to New Orleans in the mid 90's (although I only ate po boys at one place: Streetcar Sandwiches on South Carrollton at the end of the St. Charles streetcar line).

Popeye's has shrimp, chicken and catfish po boys. The shrimp used to be pretty good, for fastfood and California. It had roundness as Paul Prudhomme said.

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  1. A "dressed" poor boy has lettuce, tomato and pickles. Sorry no cole slaw.

    3 Replies
    1. re: State St.

      Mother's uses shredded cabbage not lettuce.

      1. re: State St.

        gotta have the mayonnaise. Some also pile on the sliced onions, too.

        1. re: marchperson

          but you have to say "my-naz" in your very best nasal Yat accent. Preferably Blue Plate.

      2. Agree with state st lettuce for po boys, cabbage or cold slaw for pulled pork in Kentucky

        1. I always found the bun to be tough on Popeye's po-boys. For a while, they also used the same bun for chicken filet sandwiches, so I stopped buying them.

          1. Chris' Po-Boys her in Lafayette uses shredded cabbage. It stays crisp and won't wilt like lettuce.

            1. a dressed poboy has lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. sometimes pickle, depending on the place. cabbage isn't customary these days, but it's not unheard of. the reason mother's uses cabbage is tradition. before the advent of modern refrigeration, cabbage was more common than lettuce, as it was a heartier plant that didn't wilt so quickly. shredded iceberg lettuce is way more common now, but it wasn't always so.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Shiloh

                Cabbage is a fraction of the price of iceberg, too.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  You are correct Shilo and Celeste. Mother's posts an explanation of its version of a "dressed" poor boy in its menu to avoid confussion with the generally accepted New Orleans version of lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

                  Dressed: a po' boy with added toppings. At Mother's this means fresh shredded cabbage, pickles, mayo, Creole and yellow mustard.

              2. How quickly we forget our food history, even in a city that loves it like New Orleans.
                Iceberg lettuce gets its name from the ice that was used to pack it in when it first began to be shipped by rail across the country from California in the 20s. Lettuce doesn't grow in the Deep South though most of the year because of the heat, so cabbage was used in its place in po'boys which antedate the arrival of iceberg by a very long time. Cabbage stores well so it was available year round. Even when iceberg became available, it was an expensive "import," especially during the Depression and World War II. New Orleans also had large Irish and German populations for whom cabbage was a staple. Cabbage was common on po'boys into the 50s in many neighborhoods in New Orleans, such as the Irish Channel, the Ninth Ward, and areas of the West Bank. The area around Mother's was warehouses and working docks into the 60's before being redeveloped. It was a workingman's bar and restaurant where few tourists would have ever gone. The use of cabbage probably survived to cater to their taste.
                When my family makes po'boys at home, we put out both shredded iceberg and shredded cabbage so people can choose. The cabbage gets a lot of takers. Now iceberg is the cheapest and most acceptable form of topping for po'boys so that's what you are most likely to find.
                In a sense, you might say that the "heirloom," "authentic" po'boy might really be dressed with cabbage.

                5 Replies
                1. re: MakingSense

                  Making, your historical facts are unimpeachable, but I beg to differ on the question of "authenticity"....a slippery (impossible?) concept when considering culture. The fact that only a handful of poboy joints use cabbage in 2007 means that poboy dressing has evolved....the vast majority are using shredded lettuce, which makes shredded lettuce the contemporary standard. While cabbage is demonstrably part of the tradition, I think that we can't say that lettuce is "inauthentic" or call cabbage more correct. Culture is the living, active, transmitted practices of people; when they change what they're doing, culture changes.

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    The original question was; "Is cole slaw a common Po Boy fixing?" The answer remains no.

                    According to Rima & Richard Collin, in their classic cookbook. "The New Orleans Cookbook : Creole, Cajun and Louisiana French Recipes Past and Present" p.135 Copyrigh (c) 1975

                    ROAST BEEF POOR BOY
                    “…Split it (the bread) in a half length-wise and spread a generous layer of mayonnaise on the bottom piece, Spread about 3/4 cup shredded lettuce over the mayonnaise, then put 4 to 6 very thin slices of meat on the shredded lettuce. Cover with 1/2 to 2/3 cup of the thick natural gravy and top with 3 thin slices of tomato…”

                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                      You're absolutely right, Celeste. Cabbage doesn't set the standard for "authenticity" since the po'boy has certainly evolved. My last sentence used the word "might" by which I meant that people shouldn't discard the idea of cabbage out of hand since it was possibly the original.
                      So many posts seemed so adamant about lettuce as opposed to cabbage when there is a real cultural and historic basis for using cabbage. Mother's has kept it alive as have some other restaurants and families.
                      I suppose we can always argue whether all evolution is for the better. There's a lot of stuff on menus in New Orleans now that bear no resemblance to classic Creole or Cajun food yet are presented as such. Some are excellent innovations for modern times and others are bastardizations to save money or please tourist palates. Too many things have disappeared altogether, especially from restaurants.
                      Using cabbage shouldn't be considered weird as some current diners might if they aren't aware of its historic use. I'm glad Popeye's is bringing it back. No, I don't think cole slaw was used but at least some people will give this idea a try.
                      I hope it catches on again because it tastes good.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        I love the sentiment in your analysis
                        .So much about understanding the food is understanding the history, which is a never ending process.

                    2. re: MakingSense

                      As luck would have it, I just had a California-style po'boy for lunch dressed with a cabbage slaw.

                      Advertised by Bakesale Betty as a Fried Chicken Sandwich, this CA po'boy had 2 fried breast pieces on a soft roll with a light slaw of cabbage, sliced hot peppers (Serrano or Jalapeno, I think), olive oil and a touch of vinegar.

                      Not the equal of a NO po'boy, but a very credible Left Coast variant. Betty of the blue hair also makes wonderful chewy, tender gingersnaps.

                    3. I thought your original post was on New Orleans poor boys. My bad.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: State St.

                        You right. I was just mentioning the cabbage dressing on a California take on po'boys (and not a common one)

                      2. Just my 2 cents: the typical "dressed" po-boy today is lettuce, tomato, my-naz, and pickles; BUT you haven't lived 'til you've had a cochon de lait po-boy from Walker's BBQ on Hayne Blvd,... which is dressed with wonderful cole slaw!

                        In my opinion, they've beat-out Drago's grilled oysters for the "best bite in New Orleans."

                        1. Ahhh Streetcar - gawd those were some of the best poboys around, as well as their other dishes. Lived here all my life and I never had cabbage on a poboy until I went to Mother's, then again at Grand Isle in the Warehouse District. So my answer is no, it's not common here to put cabbage or cole slaw on a poboy.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mrsfury

                            "Ahhh Streetcar - gawd those were some of the best poboys around..."

                            Yeah, bruh! Streetcar's Soft-Shell Crab Po-Boy's were Da Bomb--BOOM!!! The shrimp was mighty fine as well. There was always a cute girl with long, curly blonde hair working the counter there who always made sure to butter and toast the French Bread Old-School-like...yeah, you rite!

                            When I first moved to New Orleans and didn't know too many folks outside of work, I used to get off everday around 3, head home, shower, then drive over to Streetcar with the day's Times-Picayune, get my soft-shell or shrimp, then head out to the Lakefront with "Jazz from the Park" on 'OZ on the radio, and sit out and eat and read the paper and watch the sunset and then head home. Needless to say, Streetcar has a special place in my heart.

                            1. re: funkjester

                              Streetcar's Soft-Shell Crab was the 1st Po-Boy I had in New Orleans. I returned on my next trip for the shrimp? and got a Muffaletta to go for my plane ride home (best ever airplane meal)

                              I have never been clear what happened to Streetcar. I was last there in 1996 and sent a friend there 2 years later. She said it had been bought by Middle Eastern folk who where serving falafel along wit da po-boy's.

                            2. re: mrsfury

                              Chicken,Mesquite.Club. a religious experience.

                            3. It's shredded cabbage, and that is not the same thing as cole slaw. I think there's confusion in this thread with equating the two. No poboy ever had cole slaw on it, but the traditional way was to have shredded cabbage and mayonaise (MY nez) on it, NOT lettuce tomato and pickle.