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7 Catt 4: In re Willie’s Po’Boy

2012 March 28

JEREMY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. CATTLEYA, J., delivered a separate concurrence.

In the opening to King Creole, the King sings soulfully of the “sweet meat” of the bayou crawfish. “He’s gonna [sic] look good in your frying pan,” he chants. “If you fry him crisp or you boil him right, he’ll be sweeter than sugar when you take a bite,” he belts out. While we often opt for the boiled variety—with its eminently slurpable, heady ambrosia—today we opted for the frying variety—battered and deep-fried, that is, high atop a po’boy.

We granted cartiorari on the question of Willie’s Po’Boy’s (“WPB”) crawfish po’boy. When I approached the mobile gastronomic enterprise (“MGE”) for oral argument, I was struck by the long line that stretched nearly a quarter of a block along the sidewalk. Ever mindful of the TaKorean effect (i.e., the consequences of hype), I read this as a good sign and waited with great eagerness for a po’boy I could call my own.

Willie’s Po’Boy

WPB makes several variants on the classic po’boy. In the past, we have applauded MGEs who stick to limited, focused menus. We do so again today. Of the several varieties—oyster, shrimp, shrimp and oyster, catfish, etc.—we opted for crawfish. Like the catfish, the crawfish po’boy does not appear on WPB’s online menu but came recommended as crawfish were then in season. While the crawfish was excellent, in the end, we affirm in part and remand in part on the question of the bread.

Under our analysis, we must first address whether WPB’s crawfish po’boy constitutes “street food.” See In re Eat Wonky, 2 Catt. 5 (2011) (“[S]treet food is “the kind[] of food[] that can be cooked in front of you and [is] mean to be eaten with your hands, without forks, while standing up.”).  A po’boy is a sandwich. We have twice held that a sandwich is per se street food. In re Rolling Ficelle, 6 Catt. 3 (2012); In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012). Therefore, “a presumption arises that the case should be affirmed,” and “the burden of proof lies entirely with the Supreme Cart to prove that the case should be remanded to [WPB] for revision.” Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2.

As we often do, we consider each aspect of the crawfish po’boy separately. See In re TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4 (2011).

Crawfish Po’Boy

The crawfish was superb. It was indeed “sweeter than sugar,” as Elvis promised, and perfectly cooked. Most importantly, perhaps, it tasted fresh. The batter, too, was crisp, flavorful, and well seasoned, but without overpowering the crawfish.

While simple, the dressing—remoulade, lettuce, pickle, tomato—added a welcome brightness.

Finally, we arrive at the bread. WPB gets its bread from Leidenheimer Baking Company, a century-old New Orleans establishment. You could tell the bread was once a very good bread. And while I applaud WPB’s importation, and its dedication to authenticity, in the end, the bread was, unfortunately, a wee bit stale.

Overall, the po’boy was, I thought, quite good. Given our presumption in favor of affirming proper “street food,” we must, I feel, affirm. But there remains the issue of the stale bread, and here arises the question of severability. May the court sever the crawfish and dressing from the bread, affirming the former and remanding the latter? We find that, at least in this case, we can. Therefore, we affirm the crawfish and the dressing and remand the bread to WPB for revision, and it is so ordered.

Now if only I had had an ice-cold Dr. Nut to wash my po’boy down with, perhaps I could have prevented my pyloric valve from slamming shut so suddenly.

AFFIRMED in part and REMANDED in part to Willie’s Po’Boy for revision.

CATTLEYA, J., concurring.

My brother reaches a fair conclusion. WPB’s crawfish was well executed, but the bread fell short.

I want to stress how well WPB battered and deep-fried the crawfish. WPB first dipped the crawfish in buttermilk and then delicately applied a cornmeal batter. Since WPB did not pre-fry the crawfish but rather fried it to order, I was met with crispy, not soggy, seafood bites. And despite the inevitable grease stains on my takeaway paper bag, my po’boy did not feel overly greasy.

Even though I visited WPB on a different day than my brother, my bread too was stale. It would have been much better a day or two before, and unfortunately the light toasting could not hide the dryness.

At $9, the crawfish po’boy seemed on the pricey end. However, considering that Pearl Dive Oyster Palace*–a newcomer on Washingtonian‘s 100 Best Restaurants 2012 list– charges $13 for a similar po’boy plus fries, WPB’s po’boy is reasonably priced.

*I recognize that this brick-and-mortar restaurant is outside the Cart’s jurisdiction. My reference to the restaurant should not be construed as a review of its po’boy. Rather, I only offer it as a price comparison. Furthermore, I recognize that my brother introduced the pricing of a brick-and-mortar restaurant in another review of a costly seafood sandwich. See In re Red Hook Lobster Pound, 2 Catt. 1 (2011). At the time, I called this evidence “irrelevant.” See Red Hook Lobster Pound, 2 Catt. 1 (Cattleya, J., concurring). I retract that statement now, as the pricing of a similar foodstuff as offered by a brick-and-mortar restaurant can inform us about the reasonableness of a food truck’s pricing.

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