Foodies, sandwich aficionados, and lovers of off-the-beaten-path food options, come closer; I've got a New Orleans secret to share with you. It's an increasingly poorly-kept secret, sure, but it still hasn't made most of the guidebooks and most locals are too protective to tell you about it. I'm breaking the code of silence. Verti Marte.
You'll find it just kitty-corner from the infamous Lalaurie Mansion.
It's a grocery store. Barely. It kind of defines hole-in-the-wall, really. It's tiny and cramped, and usually full of locals. Walk in, shuffle sideways past the racks of chips and Hostess Cakes, and make your way to the back, where an enormous menu of po-boys greets you on the back wall. Wait a minute or two, and someone will step onto a box behind the giant counter and greet you.
Make your order. The menu is overwhelming, I understand. Start with the basics (you can come back for more). Try the oyster po-boy, or maybe the shrimp or catfish. If you're really hungry, get an "All That Jazz" -- grilled ham, turkey, shrimp, swiss and American cheese, grilled mushrooms, and the house specialty "wow sauce."
Not a seafood fan? Try the roast beef po-boy. Vegetarian? Try the green giant (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers). Technically speaking, and by the standards of any other American city's portions, two people can split one full-sized po-boy sandwich.
But don't do it. Get your own. Trust me.
The counter person will ask you if you want it dressed. The correct answer is "yes." (That means lettuce, tomato, mayo, etc.) Then they'll get your name and disappear for a bit. Use this time to go find a drink (a Barq's root beer is a favorite local choice) and a bag of chips.
Get the locally-made Zapp's chips -- they're in a weird spot all the way in the front, kind of around the side of the register -- don't give up and get some other brand, just ask the counter person to point you there.
Eventually (it might take a few minutes), they'll call your name. Go back and grab your sandwich and ticket, and take them, along with your chips and soda, to the registers at the front. Pay (cash only), get your bag, and then hightail it back to your hotel, or if that's too far, to a bench at the French Market or in Jackson Square.
Are you ready? Because you're about to eat one of the best sandwiches you've ever imagined, let alone tasted.
Don't fall for the tourist traps -- head to Verti Marte. It doesn't get much more authentic than this.
1201 Royal St. / (504) 525-4767