Po’boy of the Northern World

Last week I had a great lunch at The Fish Friar, which is located in the Courier Building or specifically at 239 E. Genesee St., Syracuse. The mid-Friday meal consisted of their spicy boy po’boy with crispy shrimp, a side of fries and a beer.

It hit the spot and hit it well. (Or should I say the lunch outing went swimmingly?)

The Fish Friar. (Photo: C. Malone)

The Fish Friar originally opened in the Village of Solvay, on Milton Ave. Unfortunately, it didn’t get the traction it desired. They reopened in the Downtown Syracuse location earlier this year and have continued to look ahead. They’ve upped their tactics and their promise for a not-your-typical-fish-fry restaurant, quality of seafood and presentation. They also don’t lack in service.

Spicy Boy po’boy with crispy shrimp at The Fish Friar. (Photo: C. Malone)

Following suit with the rest of Syracuse establishments such as Empire Brewing Company, Creole Soul Cafe, Darwin and others, they offer po’boys sandwiches. Unfortunately, these Louisiana staple sammies don’t measure up in the literal sense.

If a restaurant is going to boast a po’boy on the menu, they should be held to a certain standard. Why? In central New York, I’m probably not going to find a po’boy that’s the length of my forearm.

(Cue: Mob of locally devoted rioters carrying pitchforks and torches.)

Don’t get me wrong, Empire’s consistent andouille po’boy along with Creole’s and Darwins’ varieties are always sure to please. However, there aren’t any 15- or 20-inch French bread loaf monsters stuffed to the gills with meat or seafood on top of the standard fillings.

In 2013, a nine-day trip to New Orleans was nothing short of a food frenzy. My cousin (John) and his now husband (Chris) took my other cousin (Candace) and I on a non-stop tour of food, beverage and southern culture.

Parkway Bakery. (Photo: C. Malone)

One of the places we stopped at was the Parkway Bakery, at 538 Hagan Ave., New Orleans. We indulged in three po’boys filled with shrimp, catfish and roast beef. Yes, they were delicious and definitely shareable. They’re also pictured above.

(The rest of my New Orleans meals can be seen at the provided link in this sentence.)

Not only is a po’boy or “poor boy” an interesting sandwich, but the history should be considered. There are a bunch of websites boasting the history, so here is one of them. This isn’t my story to tell.

The sandwich has been adapted and tweaked. The Fish Friar, for example, uses a New England roll rather than the standard French bread, which gives a nod to the northeast region where the restaurant gets its fish from.

Traditions are bound to change. Songs and movies are bound to be remade (unfortunately in many occasions). As we grow older, as we move, get married, have kids — the factors go on — we have to adapt to changes and make do with what falls into our hands.

Parkway Bakery po’boys. (Photo: C. Malone)

The Fish Friar’s rendition put instilled faith in to me. The moment was a like a hand lightly flipping its fingers against the back of my head. Don’t be such a snob, they told me. Shh, it’s okay.

Why? Welcome to the U-S-of-A: The country where our portions are as big as our egos (this includes our current and recent past leaders).

Yes, we need to hold our restaurants to high standards. Comparing one meal to another similar goes without saying. The same goes for any niche in Syracuse and central New York. Sacrificing quantity for quality, especially in terms of food, is not such a bad thing.

The exception are frittatas — the bigger they are, the better.

Food is an experience, and these outings should always be in good company.

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