Where Y’Eat: Tracking a Heroic Hot Sausage Po-Boy Down Elysian Fields

Oct 3, 2019

In ancient times, heroes spent the afterlife in Elysian Fields. Here in New Orleans, Elysian Fields Avenue is the connection for a heroic hot sausage po-boy that lives on.

This tale begins at Gene’s Po-boys. In business for 50-plus years, the Pepto-pink, 24-hour po-boy shop on Elysian Fields and St. Claude was known for hot sausage po-boys with melted American cheese. It closed this summer, the latest in a series of changes in this part of town, which no longer has Gene's but does have a Starbucks.

Turns out that Sammy’s Food Service & Deli, just up Elysian Fields in Gentilly, had long supplied the hot sausage patties that gave Gene’s po-boy its kick. Of course, Sammy’s serves its own version of the sandwich.

So, here it is, the slim patties, a blend of pork and beef, with the same crumbly texture under a griddle-crisp exterior, trussed with gooey yellow cheese. Bite in, and once again the spicy juice merges with the mayo and seeps into the airy pockets of the malty, toasty New Orleans French bread.

Of course there’s a back story. Sammy’s was once a butcher shop called Shambra’s Food Service, started by the son of Sicilian immigrants. The next generation turned it into a deli, but kept family recipes in rotation, and kept supplying some of the butcher shop’s customers.

While we’re talking hot sausage po-boys, I’ll mention a great one at Zimmer's Seafood, made on bread from John Gendusa Bakery right next door, and Melba's, a 24-hour fix not far from the old Gene's. And at Li'l Dizzy's Cafe in Treme there are hot sausage links, not patties, for a different take.

There are more famous po-boys in New Orleans than the hot sausage. Oyster po-boys are epic, roast beef po-boys are iconic. But for those who long for a highly specific hot sausage po-boy, these days the love affair endures on Elysian Fields.