If there was a Michelin-style rating for po-boy shops in New Orleans, Parkway Bakery & Tavern would garner a three-napkin “worth a special journey” designation. Scores of locals and visitors make their way to this neighborhood restaurant and bar for its straightforward approach to the city’s most revered sandwich.
It’s not a complicated sandwich to begin with, but Parkway lavishes attention on each element. The perfect bread (made by local bakery Leidenheimer’s). Shredded roast beef swimming in a savory gravy and flowing like a Malibu landslide off of its bread foundation. Plump, well-seasoned, crackly-fried shrimp. Grilled links of spicy, grease-slicked pork sausage. Seasoned, dense meatballs the size of a grade schooler’s fist. Po-boy shops tend have a specialty, like the roast beef at Parasol’s or Tracey’s or the barbecued shrimp at Liuzza’s by the Track. Parkway is the place to go to experience the full range of New Orleans’ staple po-boys because they’re all very good examples of the genre. (Unfortunately, fried oysters have been off of the menu since prices spiked after the 2010 BP oil spill, but Parkway general manager Justin Kennedy says oysters will make a comeback when the restaurant’s planned kitchen expansion is completed within the next year.)
Parkway is the rare “locals” restaurant that strikes a perfect balance between being great neighborhood joint and a destination for the herds of visitors who have done their research to find it. Current owner Jay Nix bought and resurrected the downtrodden po-boy shop and former bakery in 2003, and resuscitated the building again after it drowned during the levee failures. It’s a comfortable, clean space broken into several indoor/outdoor dining areas that illustrate how the restaurant has grown from a small neighborhood po-boy shop for a quick bite and a cold Abita at the bar to the kind of booming place that visiting presidents bring their families to for a photo op lunch. (President Barack Obama visited Parkway in 2010.)
Parkway handles its crowds efficiently, although they often stop taking phone orders during the lunch rush. The kitchen expansion in the works should extend their capacity and shorten the wait times. Plenty of long tables on the covered porch and uncovered patio make Parkway ideal for big groups and families, but the low-key scene in the bar offers a better glimpse of New Orleans humanity.
The restaurant is a car or cab ride out of the French Quarter. Adept travelers can take the Canal (red) streetcar line to Jefferson Davis and walk to Parkway in under 10 minutes.
Great po-boys, a loyal local following and a classic, only-in-New-Orleans atmosphere are just a few of the ingredients that make Parkway Bakery & Tavern one of the city's top po-boy shops.