The garlic oyster po-boy at Liuzza’s in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood is the answer to everything.
This is not a fancy sandwich, and this is not a fancy place. The room looks every bit like it was designed in the 1940s, which it was. And the po-boy is really just an excellent version of an excellent sandwich served capably in many places both fine and not so fine in that city by the bend in the Mississippi.
But this one is loaded with garlic.
Oysters and garlic go together like caviar and vodka, like rice and beans, like a cool, overcast day in Mid-City and a walk through the St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, where the tombs, some larger than the nearby apartments, grip concrete paths in this city of the dead.
They got James Gallier, the architect who helped develop the city’s style, and EJ Bellocq, the photographer who chronicled the working women of the Storyville District in the early 1900s. And there’s Dooky Chase, who had lain alone since 2016 until his wife Leah joined him earlier this year.
They would have understood about this sandwich.
It’s the oysters and the garlic, sure, and the perfect baguette and the way the oyster grease laced with garlic just sort of permeates, but it’s also eating it at a table in the window of Liuzza’s after walking over from the apartment, and maybe you’ve got tickets to the Saints game tomorrow in your pocket, and sitting across the table from you is the lady whose pale, blue eyes have always reminded you of the fragile Louisiana sky.
It’s also the gumbo, because Liuzza’s has the best in town. But everybody has gumbo. And nobody has a sandwich like this.
The garlic oyster po-boy is singular, like the city in which it’s made. It’s the kind of sandwich that makes you shake your head in wonder while you eat it. It’s the kind of sandwich that, once you’ve had it, you almost wish you hadn’t just so you could experience it anew once again. It’s the kind of sandwich that’s gone before you even know it, but you still think about it for days afterward, wondering when you’ll once again get your hands on one of those sandwiches.
The sandwich poses many questions, yes. And it answers only with itself, which is more than enough.