Of course none of that matters if the food is not good.
We were standing in a crowded bar in Uptown New Orleans last week when the conversation turned, as it always does, to po boys. A few old favorites were volleyed about (Domilise’s, Bobby’s, Rampart Food Store) til one crusty old timer offered that Arabi Food Store was his favorite.Time to head downriver.
St Maurice Grocery founder Elliot Gaspard was robbed on a 9th Ward street corner by local brigand Ray Connor aka Ray Collins in 1963. Connor got a $1000 but he also got nabbed two days later by cops in Lafayette.
Gaspard wasn’t one to let a 9th Ward tough guy dissuade him from success, the entrepreneur plowed onward with his dreams and with his purchase of a Friscoville Avenue grocery from the heirs of Rosolino Papania in 1973 his vision was set to become reality.Thus Arabi Food Store was born. Over the past 45 years the hot food part of the operation slowly subsumed the grocery sales til nowadays where the concern is a full-bore cafe serving three squares a day between 6am and 6pm
But we’re only in it for the po boys.
The little cafe offers all the standards that New Orleanians have come to expect over the years but with memories of that savage cold front that just left the area we’re deeply interested in a fat roast beef po boy with plenty gravy to chase the winter blues away.Arabi Food Store roasts whole beef loins til they’re collapsing in on themselves. The cook then uses the renderings to make a gravy they drench the sandwiches with. Just a few grains of salt is needed to wake this po boy up but once it rouses from slumber it becomes quite the beastly sandwich.
Leidenheimer provides the bread for the storied restaurant. One end of our loaf has gone mysteriously stale but we power through as there is plenty gravy to make up for the setback.
Price is right at just over $7Arabi has become a home for orphans of New Orleans who take to the bars with cigarettes clenched between their teeth. There has been no wave of puritanism from local politicos. It’s doubtful you’ll get a snub-nosed .38 screwed into your ear as you make your way from your car to your front porch.
The streets are smooth, and the po boys are cheap. Could a new Bohemian utopia be in the making?
Little neighborhood cafes like Arabi Food Store used to be chockablock across the region but they’re slowly dwindling. As we prepare to leave, Max Landry is spinning a yarn to a table of workmen wearing paint-spackled Dickie work pants.We hope he’ll be doing the same thing decades hence.
Arabi Food Store received approbation in the form of several “Golden Poor Boy” awards from the Underground Gourmet aka Richard Collin, an old New Orleans newspaperman who was a noted trenchermen in our town’s golden era of the 70s
Arabi Food Store
650 Friscoville Ave
Arabi, LA 70032
Hours of operation
always call ahead