The po'boy was born of tough times. Specifically, a contentious streetcar strike in which organized labor set fire to the first streetcar that rolled with a scab conductor. A former streetcar worker-turned-food-stand operator pledged to serve the unpaid strikers—the poor boys—cheap protein on French bread loaves.
The standout sandwich at the new Zipper food plaza's Bywater Grocery is for even po'er boys. Bywater's "Original" ($5.50-$8) takes a custom French loaf by Alessio—it has a few sesame seeds for texture and crushes flat, the way a po'boy should—and tops it with french fries and mayonnaise.
At first, a mayonnaise and french fry sandwich struck me as some sort of statement about rural Southern poverty. But, hot damn, it's good. That loaf has a nice snap, and the simple toppings—pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and crunchy fries—fill it out nicely. I actually liked this 'wich better than the roast beef, which along with fried oysters is one of the traditional offerings on the menu. That sandwich ($9-$12) has stewy beef in a subtly sweet brown gravy.
Bywater's menu also includes two Creole rice dishes, but the jambalaya ($8) with chicken and andouille sausage was nothing to get excited about. The bread pudding ($4), on the other hand, is worth picking up from anywhere at the Zipper. It's served in a slab that'll easily serve two, with a crispy exterior, a warm and soft interior and a smoky sweet bourbon sauce. It's a bargain—provided you can handle any more carbs after that french fry and mayonnaise sandwich.
Order this: The Original ($5.50) and bread pudding ($4).
EAT: Bywater Grocery, 2713 NE Sandy Blvd., 971-220-2162, bywatergrocery.com. 11 am-8 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-9 pm Friday and Saturday.