by Ana Pizzolio

A loaf of french bread split open, filled with meat and dressed properly is not just a sandwich; the famous New Orleans Po’Boy is a piece of Louisiana’s history.

The Oak Street Po’boy Festival celebrates the richness of Po’boy sandwiches with lots of music, arts and innovative takes on the traditional food. With more than 30 vendors and 50 different variety of the sandwich, the 10th annual Po’boy Fest happened on Sunday, Oct. 23 at the New Orleans’ Carrollton neighborhood.

There are countless legends as to the origin of the Po’boy, but it is believed that the sandwich popularization happened amid the streetcar workers strike of July of 1929. According to the research of University of New Orleans History Professor Michael Mizell-Nelson, the Po’boy was created then by former streetcar operators Bennie and Clovis Martin. To support their fellow coworkers, Martin brothers began making these sandwiches to feed then during the strike.

Originally called “Poor Boys,” the sandwiches consisted mainly of meat and bread. The bread is one of the things that makes a Po’boy special. These sandwiches are usually made on either a six-inch or a footlong crisp French bread and, at the time of its popularization, the more common fillings were comprised of roast beef and fried seafood. Because of the cheap cost of its production, this combination allowed the working class to have a great meal for a great price.

With time, variations of the Po’boy began to appear and the dish became popular among both locals and tourists. Today, local restaurants in the state offer Po’boys filled with pretty much every kind of meat, from pulled barbecue pork to soft shell crab and fried chicken. Although each local has a different opinion about the best place to get a Po’boy, all of us agree that every tourist needs to grab a bite of a Po’boy to have a complete experience of South Louisiana’s cuisine.

If you aren’t hungry yet, wait until you see the tasty Po’boys we found at the festival in the slideshow above.