Back in 2005, three months after Hurricane Katrina, I found myself in New Orleans, fumbling through shifts in restaurant kitchens and reporting on the tentative first steps in rebuilding the city’s dining scene. For relief from the sad emptiness of the French Quarter, where I was working, I would drive west to Jefferson Parish to have a po’boy, or two, at Crabby Jack’s, a counter-service lunch joint owned by chef Jack Leonardi. Elbow to elbow with locals tired and hungry from hauling storm debris, I ate crusty, airy loaves piled with plump fried oysters (pictured), flaky catfish, or tender roast beef. I made my way through Leonardi’s more unconventional creations, too: the slow-roasted duck po’boy, dripping with rich gravy; the fried green tomato po’boy topped with a creamy, spicy shrimp remoulade; the one with tangy barbecued brisket. They were all deliriously good. Every ardent po’boy fan has their favorite shop. For me, Crabby Jack’s was, and is, peerless. It’s never hurt that it’s located right in front of New Orleans’ big fish wholesaler, the Louisiana Seafood Exchange. “They just walk the seafood over,” says Leonardi. “If I don’t like it, I walk it right back.” Since you can’t get there without getting in a car, lots of the city’s visitors have never been. But I always splurge for a rental car in New Orleans, if only so I can hit Crabby Jack’s. Many trips back and many po’boys later, I find the food just as wonderful as it was when I needed it more.
428 Jefferson Highway
New Orleans, Louisiana 70121_