Southern feel

Po' Boys & Pickles gets it just right
By BRIAN DUFF  |  February 24, 2010

STRONG + CRUNCHY The blackened fish sandwich at Po’ Boys & Pickles.

As sandwich shops continue to proliferate during this down economy, the new Po' Boys & Pickles offers a formula for short-term buzz, and perhaps long-term loyalty: have a clear and distinctive vision and stick to it. In recent weeks, every time I mentioned Po' Boys someone piped up to say they have been wanting to try that place. And everyone liked it once they got there. Po' Boys gets the details of a New Orleans sandwich shop right, without an off-putting authenticity obsession.

You won't hear the sleepy tones of a Louisiana accent at Po' Boys, but the vibe is appropriately relaxed. The young proprietor moved to New Orleans after the hurricane, and while he did not stay more than a year or two, he clearly paid attention. There are few explicit nods to the Maine palate on the menu, though things have been tamed just a hair in terms of spiciness and depth of flavor.

This was clearest in the gumbo — a good stew filled with Maine shrimp, chicken, and sausage, but just a touch too mild. The broth's bite came more from pepper than from chili heat. Gumbo thickened with roux can achieve a dark-deep flavor that was not quite there at Po' Boys — they might be adding a bit of cornstarch. But there was no quibbling with the terrific biscuit — a seductive-looking square of pastry that was moist, buttery, flakey, and light.

The sandwich that gave the shop its name is piled high with pulled beef that had been slow-roasted until it was completely tender. There was just a hint of gravy but plenty of mild, creamy horseradish mayo. The all-important French rolls, slightly toasted, are soft but offer a good chew. The pulled pork had many of the tender virtues of the roast beef. There was still plenty of fat in the pork — just how I like it, though it's a matter of taste, as some folks like to render a bit more fat out with a longer cook — and the barbecue sauce was a great version of the thin vinegar-based Southern style that true connoisseurs prefer.

The best sandwich might have been the blackened fish. It had several big moist pieces of pollock, a fish whose strong flavor was balanced by a seared seasoning with plenty of cayenne, paprika, and pepper, topped by a crunchy slaw. The seafood on sandwiches with fried shrimp and fried oysters was expertly fried, though the breading-on-bread combination can get a little heavy. A creole sausage sandwich was surprisingly mild. The four thick patties tucked into the roll would have looked at home on a breakfast plate. The muffaletta sandwich offered a great salty combination of cured meats under a sharp olive relish, and came on the French roll rather than the round of Italian bread that gives the sandwich its name.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Foods,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   COPING WITH ADULTHOOD  |  August 07, 2014
    The neighborhood’s newish Central Provisions is grown up. But it also embodies our ambivalence about adulthood, and our persistent hope that a few more drinks will help us cope with it.
  •   PATHS TO GREATNESS  |  July 31, 2014
    India, like the American university, is mostly in the news these days for its bloated and ineffective administration and an epidemic of underprosecuted sexual assault. But let’s not give up on either—India or college—as a source of wisdom and repository of culture.
  •   THE QUAY TO GOOD LIVING  |  July 11, 2014
    Though they offer an appealing moral clarity, in practice zero tolerance policies have ruined any number of urban schools, fragile marriages, and card-marred soccer games. Zero tolerance almost ruined Portland a few years back, too.
  •   BITING INTO THE FANTASY  |  July 10, 2014
    Is it a sign of the shallowness of our national culture that we have spent half a decade excited by the idea of food served from trucks? Sure. But is it a symptom of some deeper condition? I suspect so. This summer offers a chance to investigate thanks to the arrival of a critical mass of food trucks around Portland, along with the film Chef, about a restaurant chef who starts a food truck.  
  •   A RAIL-CAR PALACE IN BIDDEFORD  |  June 11, 2014
    The barrel roofed train-car looks incredibly good given it’s nearly a century old.

 See all articles by: BRIAN DUFF