Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cooper's Po-Boy Express

S. Gessner @ W. Airport - MOVED

The latest mobile unit to roll to a stop on the southwest side is a streetcar - a New Orleans po-boy cart. Clang, clang, ding ding, woot, woot -I have no idea what sound a New Orleans streetcar makes but what a great visual tip-off to the goodies that await at the window. When I first saw this I couldn't believe my eyes and was sure they must just be parked here because the owner lived nearby. But no, they're here to stay, although hours are somewhat limited. We have places to get tortas galore, banh mi shops too numerous to count, but when it comes to other types of sandwiches we've been severely lacking here on the southwest side for anything other than chains. Could it really be that now we have a purveyor of some of the best sandwiches on the planet, New Orleans po-boys, and just 5 minutes from my driveway?

I couldn't wait to try it out but I had to. There are no hours (or menu) posted on the cart and the website is not much help but at last I caught them open. They just got their permit the end of March and started operations around the middle of April but some equipment problems have arisen, notably that I know of an inadequate ventilation fan to handle the smoke generated by using the grill. Roy Cooper supervises the frying and grilling, an ever-beaming Patricia Harris greets the customers and keeps an eye on the whole operation. I think these people are as excited and happy to be offering their foods as I am to have them.

The menu is small, 8 types of po-boys, hot sausage or smoked sausage, hamburger, roast beef, turkey or ham ranging from $5.99 to $7.99 for a half sandwich and from $9.99 to $11.99 for a whole, a choice of toppings, fries, chips, beverages. The hot sausage is Danton's, the smoked sausage is D & D's, both products from Bogalusa now carried by Fiesta stores. I tried the Danton's hot sausage first, an all-beef pan sausage liberally laced with cayenne. The sandwich, a half is 8 inches, contained 3 patties, grilled, with shredded lettuce, tomato, pickle and gobs of mayonnaise, the latter an essential part of a New Orleans po-boy to me, and was really good. The bread is a really important factor, of course; many places here in Houston that claim to offer New Orleans po-boys get the bread all wrong but this one is pretty close, very similar to the bread used by Antone's, although it could benefit from a little more crustiness.

When I was called to the window to pick mine up I got a big face full of the exhaust fan problem - I was hit in the face with a blast of smoke that knocked me back; inside it was smokier than the pit room at City Market in Luling and I didn't see how they were going to cope with that for several hours. I think this problem has been taken care of; for the sake of the crew, hopefully so.

I wouldn't be surprised if most people name a catfish, shrimp or oyster po-boy as their favorite but my favorite New Orleans po-boys are the roast beef with gravy and debris and the hamburger po-boy and I went with the roast beef on my second visit although I had second thoughts while standing around smelling the fish frying. This wasn't quite as good as the hot sausage; as I suspected, there wasn't much gravy on this po-boy. Per city of Houston regulations, a mobile vendor cannot provide an eating area nearby so almost all business is grab and go and too much gravy would turn that bun into a soggy mess very quickly. I could accept that limitation but I was disappointed in the lack of any debris - the meat had not cooked enough to begin to fall apart. Still, the flavors were all there. Also there was a slice of cheese, a surprise to me since I didn't even realize that was available. I prefer no cheese on a roast beef po-boy with gravy and I'll have them leave that off next time.

I look forward to trying all the other varieties here. They're open only Thursday, Friday and Saturday from around 11am to 8pm.

Cooper's Po-Boy Express


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice and honest review. We are working on all of the issues you listed (the reason you have not seen us recently) and the gray, smile. It was my pleasure to meet you and look forward to seeing you again. At least the next time I see you I'll know who you are, smile. We are planning our Grand Opening on June 18th at Marion Park (S Gessner). Hope to see you there!
Thanks again!
Priscilla C Harris

Anonymous said...

I saw, I ate, I loved it!