POSTED Mon. Nov 6, 2017
Yes, We Are Celebrating a Sandwich: The Oak Street Po-Boy Festival

It’s not a sub, it’s a not a hoagie, and it’s not just any sandwich. In a special category of its own, the po-boy is a king, a staple, a legend, and a unique Louisiana creation with colorful history behind it, dating back to the 1920s.

For those reasons alone it deserves a festival. Not that New Orleans is shy on celebration and the staggering number of the food-centric festivals it throws annually. But one of the most popular festivals in New Orleans, at least among the one-day ones, is still the annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival.

It its 11th year this year, it will be held on Sunday, November 12, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., on the commercial strip of Oak Street in the Carrolton area. The festival will stretch for seven blocks of Oak Street between South Carrollton Avenue and the Mississippi River, toward the River Road (8100-8800 blocks). Stages for live music will be set up on side streets to avoid the Oak Street foot-traffic congestion of the past years. The Saints game will be broadcast at the football zone set up at Oak and Eagle streets, and the Where Y’Arts Market returns this year.

Along the business corridor of Oak Streets and the side streets, businesses will open their doors to festival-goers. Coffee shops, specialty retail stores, and larger venues like Jacques-Imo’s restaurant and the Maple Leaf Bar will all be open for shopping, dining and eating.

The shopping district of Oak Street has deep roots in the neighborhood. The strip was a once-thriving commercial hub when Carrollton was a separate city (it was annexed by New Orleans in 1874). In the recent years, Oak Street has been resurfaced and its sidewalks were improved. These infrastructural improvements meant that more businesses could set up tables outside, and the area has been enjoying increased foot traffic.

Expect dozens of traditional variations of the classic sandwich, with oyster, shrimp, catfish, and roast beef. There will be plenty of creative concoctions for the adventurous taste buds too, with game, elevated touches, and Asian and Caribbean flavors.

New this year: You’ll have to purchase a $5 wristband to buy food from the vendors at the festival (but not beverages). Wristbands can be purchased in advance at participating food vendors’ restaurants or during the festival.

Why the change? “The food wristbands help the Po-Boy Fest stay admission-free, support our musicians and restaurants, and raise money for Son of a Saint,” explains Min Yang, Co-President of the Oak Street Merchants Residents and Property Owners Group (OSMRPO), the festival’s organizer. So, please show your love by buying food from the vendors and drinks from any of the bars that are part of the festival.

The festival is rain or shine, pedestrian- and bike-friendly, and pets are welcome. Parking options will be limited, so consider biking or taking the St. Charles Avenue streetcar (get off at the Oak Street stop).

Until 2016, the festival was held in mid-November, but was moved to October last year to enjoy the milder temps. Last year, “Po-Boys & Pints” combo feature was also introduced, to showcase the local breweries and their products.

And, each year, there’s a competition for “Best of” in six categories: seafood, oyster, shrimp, sausage, pork, and beef. Last year, more than 50 po-boy variations were presented by 40 vendors. Past winners Blue Oak BBQ and Ajun Cajun won in beef and seafood categories, respectively (Blue Oak for its pastrami brisket po-boy; Ajun Cajun for the soft-shell crab one). Red Fish Grill won in two categories, for the barbecue oyster, and shrimp and pimento cheese po-boys. Bratz Y’all also won twice, for its Nuernberger sausage and pork schnitzel po-boys. We can’t wait to see who wins this year!

Image courtesy of Oak Street Po-Boy Festival on Facebook.

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    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

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    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

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    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

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    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

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    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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