Po-Boys in the French Quarter
No, not the French Quarter in New Orleans; the French Quarter Bar & Grill in Pompano Beach. I stopped in there recently to sample their version of the iconic Crescent City sandwich, and here's what I came away with.
French Quarter opened in December, offering N'awlins-style cuisine at cheap, bar food prices. The place has a decent bar, too, with lots of beers on draft, including Abita Amber and Purple Haze, two of Louisiana's finest. We sat in the spacious outdoor patio next to the bar and listened to live music, which the place hosts most nights.
I wanted to sample FQ's po-boy, but I also wanted to try their oysters on the shell. So instead of getting my usual favorite (and oyster po-boy, duh) I got a catfish po and a half-dozen black and blue oysters consisting of bivalves loaded with blue cheese and Cajun spices and then broiled.
The oysters appeared first. These were big guys, not the tiny Gulf oysters we sometimes get around here. It was hard to taste them underneath the gobs of blue cheese, but from the soupy, hot liquor that pooled in the bottom of the shells I'd say they were fresh. In fact, that liquor -- a mixture of cheese, oyster juices, and Cajun spices -- was the best part.
Soon after I polished the oysters off, my catfish po-boy arrived. It was huge, at least a foot long and nearly half as wide. Instead of filling the sandwich with a thick piece of fried catfish, FQ cuts its fish into thin strips, breads them in corn meal, and fries them until the edges curl up like a pork rind. It's a weird style, and to be honest wasn't my favorite preparation ever. I prefer the juiciness of a thick piece of catfish any day. Functionally, the small pieces also were an issue. They cooled off fairly quickly and tended to tumble out of the sandwich easier. Not to mention the corn meal coating could've been crisper. I prefer a flour coating to the graininess of corn meal.
Not to completely knock the po-boy, but the bread also wasn't right. New Orleans po-boys are typically made with bread supplied by G.H. Leidenheimer Baking Co., a hundred-year-old institution in the city. The bread is flaky and airy, which gives po-boys that great crunch. I don't expect FQ to truck in Leidenheimer's bread daily (even though you can; in fact longtime Oakland Park bar Alligator Alley did just that), but the dense French baguette it used wasn't even close to authentic. Authenticity aside, it was just too thick and chewy. A po-boy needs a light piece of bread so you can taste what's inside.
I suppose those are a lot of gripes, but there's still something to be said for French Quarter. I like the atmosphere -- it conjures the Big Easy nicely, especially with a cold Abita Amber in hand. The live music nightly is a nice touch too. We listened to acoustic jams as we ate our food, and it was a pretty nice time all told.
But the po-boy needs work before it can stand up with anything in the French Quarter. The real one, that is.
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