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The History of the Po-Boy Sandwich

Last updated 3 years ago

Hoagies and heroes may dominate the East Coast, but Southern residents know and love the Po-Boy. To celebrate such a signature sandwich, learn more about this cultural cuisine phenomenon with this summarized history, and enjoy a delicious Po-Boy during your next catered meal.

  • A Fraternal Enterprise: The sandwich shop that would produce the first Po-Boy started as the Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand and Restaurant in 1922. Bennie and Clovis Martin were Raceland, Louisiana residents who moved to New Orleans to seek their fortunes. After working as streetcar operators in the mid-1910s, the brothers quit their conductor positions to open a coffee and food stand. They sold sandwiches, but the rounded French bread loaves used for their tasty originals lacked the distinctive shape of the modern Po-Boy loaf.
  • Economy Breeds Invention: After leaving the streetcar industry, the Martin brothers kept close ties to their former comrades-in-arms. This relationship would prove to be lifesaving after the 1929 streetcar strikes. Striving to feed the striking “poor boys” of their former streetcar division, the brothers devised new strategies to continue their generosity. Their answer was to bake long, wide sandwich loaves of crispy French bread. These extra-sized loaves could be efficiently cut into the foot-long sandwiches known as Po-Boys.  
  • The Po-Boys Make a Name for Themselves: As the depression worsened, the Martin brothers flourished. Demand for their filling, oversized sandwiches helped the business expand to incorporate more dining space and billiard tables. As the 1940s began, Clovis Martin had forged his own path. He managed the Martin and Son Poor Boy Bar and Restaurant chain until the 1950s. The brothers’ second location remained in business for two more decades.

Perhaps the best thing about Po-Boy sandwiches is the variety of delicious ingredients they can feature. Delectable ham, salami, and turkey Po-Boys are among the deli options available through Leibman’s Wine and Fine Foods. Call us at (281) 493-3663 for your next catered party or corporate event. We also have unique wine, cheese, and gift baskets.


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