A mouthful of Mardi Gras: four Toronto versions of the po’ boy sandwich
By Jon Sufrin
Fuel House's shrimp'wich (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)
Fat Tuesday (otherwise known as Mardi Gras) is today, and what better way to mark the occasion than with a hefty, overindulgent, trashy-good Southern sandwich known as the po’ boy? While an authentic New Orleans po’ boy is hard to find in Toronto, various takes on the sandwich are popping up on menus across the city. Herewith, four po’ boy-esque creations from around the GTA.
At John & Sons, the popular new midtown oyster house, the lunchtime po’ boy comes with three fat, pre-shucked oysters from Fanny Bay. The crustaceans are covered in panko, then deep-fried and stuffed into a hot dog bun from Fred’s Breads. Inside, they’re joined with a cabbage and poblano coleslaw and a spicy chipotle aïoli. Come dinnertime, the po’ boy is replaced with “po’ boy sliders,” which are a less desirable choice: the oysters are cut down in size so that they fit onto the miniscule slider buns.
$14. John & Sons Oyster House, 1 Balmoral Ave., 416-515-0551
In the Southern U.S., meat-based po’ boys are often just as popular as seafood ones. Etobicoke’s Billy Jack’s Po’ Boys, possibly the only restaurant in the GTA to specialize in the delicacy, offers a few meat options. For the pulled pork po’ boy, chef and owner Billy Jack rubs pork shoulder with cayenne pepper, mustard, garlic powder, cumin and other spices, then roasts it for 13 to 16 hours. It’s lightly doused with an apple cider vinegar and Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce, and it comes on a ciabatta bun from Ace Bakery with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.
$10. Billy Jack’s Po’ Boys Cajun Restaurant, 3369 Bloor St. W., 647-352-3369
This End Up, the new-ish Dundas West sandwich bar, originally offered an oyster po’ boy on its menu, but it was too expensive to overflow the sandwich as it’s done in New Orleans. So co-owner and chef Adam Urquhart switched to a fish po’ boy, which is filled with basa fillet from a nearby fishmonger. The fish is breaded with cornmeal, then fried and placed into a bun from Golden Wheat bakery. Joining the fish is shredded iceberg lettuce, pickles, Mayan sweet onions, a house-made ketchup (spiked with smoked paprika) and a lemon-tarragon mayo. For something to wash it down, This End Up’s cocktail list is commendable.
$14. This End Up, 1454 Dundas St. W., 647-347-8700
Located across the street from hoity-toity Acadia, Fuel House is a miniscule resto-bar that makes some of the best sandwiches in the city. It offers two takes on the po’ boy: the calamari po’ boy and the shrimp’wich (pictured at top), the latter of which is the better option. A bun from OMG Baked Goodness — slathered with a homemade dill/caper tartar sauce — is jammed with deep-fried shrimp along with a red cabbage and fennel slaw for tang. The hand-cut French fries, topped with smoked salt, make a good accompaniment.
$12. Fuel House, 53 Clinton St., 416-846-4217