Regrets … I have a few. Like that time I was too hung over at Geoff Coffey‘s Nawlins bachelor bacchanal to partake in the Acme wake-up call. The Acme is a legendary oyster house in the French Quarter, known above all for its oyster po’ boys. What is a po’ boy, you ask? The “poor boy,” or po’ boy for short, is a traditional Louisiana sandwich served on a French roll or baguette. The usual ingredients are shredded lettuce, thinly sliced tomatoes, and some sort of meat, often fried shrimp or oysters. The derivation of the term is disputed. One theory holds that the name po’ boy comes from a 1929 streetcar strike, when a streetcar conductor-turned-restaurateur fed his former colleagues—called “poor boys”—free sandwiches from his shop.
The oyster po’ boy is also known variously as an oyster loaf or “Peace Maker.” Men carousing about town have traditionally brought home a Peace Maker to their wives at the end of a late night. If you read Calvin Trillin, you will be convinced that few foods on this earth rival a good oyster loaf—whether it’s used as a peace offering or not—and few places are more skilled in its preparation than the Acme Oyster House.
Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Trillin, and each mention of the Acme sends me wistfully back to that head-splitting morning when I was capable of ordering nothing more than a Bloody Mary. (At least I was in good company: my friend Warpo, who wore a lime-green leisure suit for 72 straight hours that weekend, also ordered an unaccompanied Bloody.) It was a weak showing for sure. I suppose one day I’ll be back to taste what I missed. In the meantime, I’ll make do with my own creation (Seattle, it should be admitted, shares almost nothing with the free-wheeling Big Easy except good seafood), using freshly foraged oysters from my backyard.
Oyster Po’ Boy
Dip oysters in egg, then batter with a mixture of mostly cornmeal, a little flour, and spices. The “shake and bake” method of battering is easiest, which is to say: do it in a plastic baggie to get all those flaps and folds evenly battered. Fry in oil and/or butter and remove to paper towels. Spread mayo, tartar, remoulade (or any combination thereof) on a French roll or baguette and pile with shredded lettuce, thinly sliced tomatoes, and the fried oysters. Drizzle with hot sauce. Pickles, onions, and whatever other condiments you prefer are optional. Serve with French fries and a suitable hair-of-the-dog beverage. (The one above was my lunch yesterday; no hair of the dog necessary, thank you.)