OK, first we’ll deal with the elephant in the room: It ain’t pretty.
Streetcar Po’Boys is in a shopping center that can only be described as “has seen better days,” in a part of the city that’s mostly industrial. The center reportedly was the home of the late lamented Poppa Gar’s and maybe the restaurant is in the exact location (or maybe not, depending on who you talk to). If so, it’s changed hands a couple of times since then, and pretty much has an ’80s vibe of etched-glass room dividers and raucously colored carpeting in a big, open barn of a space. There’s table service, but food arrives in paper-lined baskets and beverages are served in old Caesars Palace plastic cups. The open kitchen is adjacent to one side of the dining room, which has both positive and negative points.
But, truth be told, we didn’t go there for the atmosphere; we went there for the food. And when it comes to food, Streetcar Po’Boys rocks.
Po’boys — the iconic New Orleans sandwiches served on french bread — are, as you might expect, the specialty of the house. The signature is the Streetcar ($12.95 for regular, which we had, or $14.95 for large), which combines the po’boy staples of oysters, shrimp and catfish. All of them are fried, of course (would you expect anything else?) and all were expertly prepared, crisp-crusted but perfectly cooked so that the briny flavor and almost creamy texture of the oysters shone through, while the shrimp were sweet and just firm enough, the catfish fine and flaky. You can, in the NOLA tradition, get your po’boy dressed or undressed and we went with the latter, which means lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and pickles. This was one satisfying sandwich.
But it had stiff competition from the Crescent City ($12.95), and frankly, I couldn’t tell you which was the winner. This is Streetcar’s version of a muffeletta, another iconic New Orleans sandwich served on a round roll with meats and olive salad. Great care had gone into its creation; the smoky ham had been hand-cut so it was thicker in some parts than others (that’s a good thing) and sauteed until it was carmelized on the edges (ditto). Then it was stacked with mortadella, salami and provolone, and the olive salad we’d wager was made in-house and that also contained capers, roasted red pepper, herbs and bits of vegetables including carrots. The herbs were deployed generously, as was the vinegar, and the result was a slightly crunchy, nicely piquant salad. It all was packed onto a 5-inch seeded roll, which was equal to the task of holding it together.
And speaking of piquant: That’s how we’d also describe the coleslaw that came with our sandwiches — creamy, with lots of red cabbage — with fries tossed with a mild Cajun seasoning.
But of course we weren’t done there, not with sides like hush puppies ($2.95), fried pickles ($1.95) and fried okra ($2.95) on the menu. The pickles, which were done in slices, were good, and the okra about average, but we were especially impressed by the hush puppies because we have so seldom encountered good ones over the years. These were so light as to be almost fluffy, with a nicely crisped exterior, but the best part was the respectable Cajun kick.
And, OK, beignets ($3.50). These were bigger and thicker than we’ve had at that Mecca of beignet-hood, Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, but not so much as to cross the line into doughnutdom, crisp and airy and delicate all at the same time.
Service throughout was extremely friendly and pleasant but a little on the slow side. But, as the child of the bayou who accompanied me pointed out, that’s the way things are in New Orleans, as in much of the South. Come to think of it, the whole place is pretty reflective of New Orleans, sort of off but in a good, funky way, gussied up with Mardi Gras beads and Mardi Gras colors to put on a festive face.
And if you know what it means to miss New Orleans, Streetcar Po’Boys is your kind of place.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.