Food Field Trip: Do you know what it means to miss...
Parkway Bakery and Tavern Shrimp Po Boy
...New Orleans? The spirit and culture of the city--its people, its food, its music--are infectious. Allow me to relay but one story.
On my last day in the city yesterday, I happened to step into Marlin William’s cab outside of the New Orleans convention center. Marlin is a large, gregarious, cheerful man with a low booming voice who drives a very clean and well air-conditioned (a rarity!) cab. He was only supposed to drive me back to the hotel, but asked if he could also take me to the airport later that day. While it seemed a tad odd, I eagerly agreed to the plan after he promised a stop at his favorite po-boy shop, Parkway Bakery and Tavern. While I had originally suggested we swing by Domilise’s (since I've actually never tried it in the half-dozen times I've been to New Orleans), Marlin claimed Parkway's po-boy would be superior, and backed up his claim by offering to buy my lunch if I was not satisfied. This money-back-guarantee, coupled with the fact he took no money from me for the fare to the hotel (trusting – yes some people still do that -- that we would settle up once I got to the airport) sounded like a sure bet. So just as we had planned, he came back to the hotel a half hour later, cheerfully loaded my bags, and off we went.
Marlin not only introduced me to Parkway, but he called my order in ahead of time and insisted on going inside and getting it for me –hallmark New Orleans service. Marlin explained that the secret to a good po boy is its freshness, and he told me that at Parkway Bakery, all ingredients are delivered, made, and prepared daily – no pre-fab sandwiches here. And Marlin’s charms were evident when I got to the airport and unwrapped my lunch, complete with the extra pickles I requested. This $12 foot-long behemoth was overflowing with what must have been 30 freshly fried, plump, tender, and slightly spiced shrimp sandwiched in between crusty French bed, dressed with the classic lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise. My heart soared and stomach sang as I made quick work of this indulgent lunch, glancing up to see other airport passengers staring longingly at my po boy.
Marlin was born and raised in the city, which he has only left briefly (for Texas) when Katrina struck, and he knows what it means to miss New Orleans--he returned to his home city as soon as he was able. Marlin is happy; he loves what he does and clearly adores introducing visitors to his city. A former New Orleans bus driver, Marlin now moonlights as a tourguide. While my convention schedule did not allow for a tour, I am thinking of taking Marlin up on that option on my next visit. Marlin does not have a blog or a website or a twitter handle (he is far to busy showing visitors the true NOLA), but he does have a phone number. I am sharing it here, because if you want to experience the true face of New Orleans, give him a call: (504) 344 5300. Whether it is for an airport pick-up complete with a po boy en route or a local's city tour, I have no doubt that you will quickly catch the infectious spirit of New Orleans.