We’re margin walkers always prowling around the fringes of New Orleans trying to find po boy shops that are barely known or on the radar of only the most ardent eaters.So we drove past Nikki Food Store in the Upper 9th Ward a couple hundred times before ducking inside. It’s well-marked and on a busy street (St Claude) so we had little interest.
Probably for the best.
Nikki’s has a laundry list of po boys on offer: hot sausage, turkey, pork chops, roast beef and that hoary old favorite, fried shrimp.
We take a long look at the cook, assess that she could possibly be Vietnamese, and go with the shrimp. New Orleans is home to thousands of southeast Asians and their roots in the local seafood industry is well-documented. In Orleans and St Bernard Parish, if you want the best, cheapest shrimps get thee to the nearest Vietnamese-run seafood market and your efforts will be handsomely rewarded.
But we struck out at Nikki Food Store.
The po boy arrives with barely a skift of shrimps stuffed inside. Perhaps a dozen small ones anchor down the good quality-Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery-loaf. They’re approaching freezer burn level of freshness. We chat with the sweetheart counter girl for a bit and she explains that a po boy shop has been operating out of this building for over 50 years. We hope that prior operators were more dedicated than Nikki, wherever she may be.
Unlike tacos where you can order 4-5 to get an accurate lay of the land of a restaurant’s output, po boys are an “all-in” proposition. Even one with paltry fillings will sate the appetite of the hungriest dockhand. Perhaps Nikki’s luncheon meat or roast beef is the finest in the city but we’ll never know. One visit was plenty.
Yet we remain steadfast.
Next stop: Hi Tide Bar and Grill for their crab cake po boy.
3900 St Claude Ave
New Orleans, LA
Hours of operation