Man Food: The Oyster Po' Boy at Po Boy's in Newton
At the newly-opened Po Boy’s in Newton, the cramped space boasts a little nod to the South. The walls are busily decorated with posters from New Orleans, and almost half of the real estate in the place (which is no larger than a studio apartment) is covered up with a big menu board and multiple TVs.
The menu is extensive, with traditional breakfast fare and a yet-to-be released ice cream list, but the attraction is the namesake po’ boy sandwich, and rightfully so. There’s a selection of the popular Southern sandwich in traditional varieties like Cajun shrimp and fried oysters, plus rotating selections with less-than-traditional fillings like steak tips and Buffalo chicken.
The oyster po’ boy feels a tad overpriced at $12.95 (including onion rings), and it’s on the smaller spectrum of what I’ve received upon visits to New Orleans. But this ain’t NOLA, it’s Newton, and I’ve come to realize there is a place for a well-prepared meal, even if it’s not by-the-book traditional. Here, the po’ boys are served on Ciabatta bread, sort of a third cousin in relation to the normal French bread that the optimal sandwich should be placed upon. But the Ciabatta is pleasantly fresh and crispy, if not a tad on the dense side. A spicy mayo-based po boy sauce that the owner tells me “has to marinate for four days” mostly dominates the flavor profile. It’s a seemingly a simple combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, and cayenne.
Although I couldn’t detect any long-term benefits in the form of marinating that added to the overall enjoyment, the sauce fit the bill. Out-of-season tomato and romaine lettuce (as opposed to the usual iceberg) taste fresh and lighten up the overall heaviness of the meal. The oysters, shipped fresh every couple of days straight from the South, are scantily applied and peppery, not offering much in the brine department. They are over-battered and just-barely seasoned. The accompanying onion rings, however, are a treat. Lightly battered and also heavy on the black pepper, they are not greasy—a major plus.
A charming owner and a fresh-tasting menu is appealing, and the po’ boys are pleasant and satisfying in the most primitive of ways. Those looking for true authenticity may balk at this version of a very classic sandwich, but for those not seeking an optimal po’ boy, it may be worth a look. Tame your expectations and you’ll enjoy.
Po Boy’s, 67 Crafts St., Newton.