We were on a 500 po boys scouting run when we spotted the brand new Ray’s On The Avenue. Despite only opening in 2016, Ray’s is already world famous, or so proclaims a giant sign painted onto the side of the old brick building where the restaurant resides in the former Walker’s Downtown Grill.
Ray’s On The Avenue is a mom and pop soul food joint run by Ray Holmes and his wife Tam, a pleasant woman who runs the counter while tending after the needs of her patrons. During our visit most of the diners greeted her by name when they entered the small restaurant.
Walking in on a recent afternoon, Keith Sweat is on the hi fi. Surely a good sign. The room is spotless, and set up a bit like a lounge with chocolate and vanilla leather chairs countering a handful of restaurant style tables. 50 people would completely fill the restaurant.
Ray’s is not hurting for regulars as a steady stream of eaters slowly filled the room during lunch rush. We were the only ones eating po boys as the rest of the crowd were soon hovering over big plates of fried catfish, smothered cabbage, yams, fried pork chops, and chicken wings.
In a nod to a New Orleans that is slowly vanishing $5 will get you a daily meat and two. $2 out of pocket and you may avail yourself of Ray’s breakfast special.
Our Treme Brass Po Boy ($10) is a bit of exotica in the canon: grilled Turkey luncheon meat cradles a handful of tiny blackened shrimp that is blanketed in an alchemy of remoulade sauce. The sandwich is dressed with tomatoes and lettuce. The cook’s hand is far too light with the blackening for our tastes as we like our seasoned shrimp covered with a thick, brawny hide of intense cayenne and black pepper. These shrimps are mild and bear little resemblance to the ones you find in Acadiana.
A large portion of Ore-Ida-style french fries accompanies the sandwich.
The crowd consists of well-dressed business men and women from the neighborhood on their work lunches. Two gentlemen in suits next to our table are cutting up with one man stating his preference for tall tables as he likes to be “in the man position,” a statement that elicits gales of laughter from his companion.
A small Stagg drum kit sits near our table, and a p.a system is stacked up in the corner. We imagine Ray’s can get pretty loose at night when the players take the room over for live concerts.
We wouldn’t rush back to Ray’s On The Avenue for their Treme Brass Po Boy but we’ll definitely visit again if for no other reason than to tackle the Soul Platter, a behemoth that features fried chicken wings, fried shrimp, fried fish, hushpuppies and french fries for $15.
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Ray’s On The Avenue
714 N. Claiborne Ave
New Orleans, LA 70116