During the past few years as we’ve been surveying the po boy landscape of New Orleans one oddity emerged: fried chicken is not a common filling in our city’s milestone sandwich.
On a recent ramble through Central City, we took note of a new tenant in the old Podner’s Barbecue space. The building that once housed New Orleans oldest smoked meat concern (est. 1956-laid to rest by Katrina in 2005) has been transformed into Heard Dat Kitchen, a tiny (seats four) restaurant putting out barbecued rib platters, stewed chicken plates, fried chicken wings, Ya-Ka-Mein and gumbo.
We immediately whipped over in our old Econoline van and began taking photos in anticipation of perhaps scoring a long sought after fried chicken po boy.
A man in a chef outfit stepped out of a side-door, approached us, and introduced himself as the owner Chef Jeff Heard.
Heard is an old-school New Orleans restaurant veteran having made his bones working for John Besh as well as the W Hotel. If those aren’t two of the top proving grounds for restaurant talent in our town we’d love to hear what is.
We retire to the tiny kitchen inside the building and begin talking shop while his wife bustles about, and his son (a 10-year worker at Houston’s) prepares that blarney stone of New Orleans food: the fried chicken po boy.
Chef Jeff explains that he learned to cook at the elbow of his mother: Audrey Mae. The chef grew up in a house filled with brothers and to make sure he got fed he hung out in the kitchen to stake his claim to all the great dishes that his mama was preparing to keep her family well-nourished.
Heard Dat is a scratch restaurant working the low and slow style to coax the maximum flavor out of all the foods. The recipes being used all come out of Audrey Mae’s kitchen. Is there a better template for deliciousness? All the great cooks I’ve known were simply trying as hard as they could to duplicate their mama’s or grandmama’s foods.
And that po boy?
Two tremendous white meat chicken cutlets have been dredged then fried til crisp in good, clear oil. Dressed at Heard Dat means lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Perhaps pickles are on offer but none was found on this sandwich.
It felt good to walk into the old Podner’s Barbecue, and it felt even better finding a family-run kitchen in Central City dedicated to feeding the community big fat po boys and Creole hotplates for a pittance (my po boy clocked in at under $9 and was big enough to feed two lumberjacks coming off a 14 hour workday)
What is New Orleans next great dining neighborhood? Central City gets my vote.
Heard Dat Kitchen
2520 Felicity Street
New Orleans, LA
Telephone (504) 510-4248