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Friday, September 29, 2023

Life + Arts

Real po-boys come to town

What’s in a name? That’s the question Shakespeare famously pondered before rambling about a rose and its smell. When it comes to authentic New Orleans-style po-boys, it all starts with the name.

Calliope’s Po-Boy, located a short drive from campus at 2130 Jefferson St., takes its moniker from Calliope Street and the adjacent neighborhood in the heart of New Orleans. Owner Lisa Carnley chose the name because it’s as much a part of her native New Orleans as Bourbon Street or the French Quarter.

Calliope’s is also disproving the old adage that location is everything – when it comes to food, quality beats out prime neighborhoods any day.

For readers not familiar with a ‘traditional’ New Orleans po-boy, Calliope’s is as good as it gets this side of the Texas-Louisiana border. Their two most popular sandwiches, the double-fried shrimp and the roast beef with gravy, are what most connoisseurs of this New Orleans classic opt for, but Calliope’s has something for everyone.

Fried crawfish, soft shell crab, oyster and authentic Louisiana hot sausage, are just a few of the various ingredients available for your sandwich experience. Even those who can’t decide can always get two different ingredients in the half-and-half at no extra charge.

All of their po-boys come on French bread, another secret that sets them apart. While most places in Houston serve their version of the sandwich on a baguette or bollio roll, Carnley once again chooses to ‘keep it real’ and serve her’s on fresh French bread.

‘It took us about two or three weeks to get it done right, and once we did, I got locked in with the bakery and I won’t tell anyone where I get it from,’ Carnley said. ‘The bread definitely makes a difference.’

That part of the po-boy equation cannot be understated. Some readers may wonder why bread plays such a major part when it’s there just to hold the meat. However there’s more to it than that – French bread is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, while other bread types tend to be tough, making it a struggle to eat the sandwich.

Carnley says that having the French bread allows Calliope’s to pass the test of discerning residents and transplants of the Crescent City.

‘When we first opened, customers would come in here and say ‘we don’t think you’re a real po-boy shop, let me see your bread’ and we’d pull out the bread and they’d say ‘let me have one of those,” Carnley said.

Now don’t let all this bread talk make you think that what’s inside doesn’t count. Nestled inside are generous portions of whatever item you choose, another aspect that sets them apart.

Calliope’s also has a variety of distinctive sides, from shrimp chips to the honey-glazed sweet potato fries, which are just as interesting and delicious as they sound. It’s a simple combination, crispy sweet potato french fries drizzled with honey, yet one that provides a perfect balance to the sandwich.

Also available is something you wouldn’t expect from a po-boy shop, but rather from the neighboring Asian restaurants in the area: fried rice. Carnley, who is of Vietnamese heritage, included her own twist on the traditional dish and offers it with pork, ham, chicken or shrimp. And just in case you didn’t get enough gravy with your sandwich, there’s always the french fries smothered with melted cheese and roast beef gravy.

Even with the close proximity to UH, Carnley says that the majority of Cougars stopping by are staff and not students. As if the quality and portion sizes weren’t enough to entice students to make a po-boy run in between classes, the fact that she offers a student discount is reason alone to give Calliope’s a try.

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