It might not be a Cajun restaurant, but Duval's in downtown Sarasota has made the po'boy its signature sandwich.
What's the dish
Sometimes you like a sandwich so much that you buy the restaurant. At least that's what happened to Jim Abrams.
Abrams, a former energy executive, walked into Duval's more than a decade ago and he tried the shrimp po'boy sandwich and suddenly, he was in the restaurant business. Eleven years later, his son Sean continues the mission of feeding crowds on Sarasota's Main Street. And the one thing tying everything together is the po'boy on the menu.
“It’s our staple sandwich,” says Kelly Dungan, marketing director for Duval’s. “We have people who come in specifically for that po’ boy. It’s the talk of the town sometimes.”
Tastes and textures
You can get the po'boy with your choice of oysters, shrimp or chicken, and all three are served on a baguette with napa cabbage, tomato and chipotle remoulade.
The shrimp, chicken and oysters are breaded and fried, but Dungan says you could order them grilled if you wanted.
"It's a classic southern-style sandwich," says Dungan. "The baguette is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
"The chipotle remoulade gives it a bit of a spicy kick. But not too much. You get the crispy shrimp and the crunch of the cabbage, so you have a nice balance of textures and flavors."
Choose your own adventure
The shrimp is the original and the most frequently ordered of the po'boys, but Dungan says Duval's branched out to give customers a chance to try different types of flavors.
Sometimes, she says, people even order off the menu and ask for a scallop po'boy, and the chef is happy to accommodate.
Oysters may not be a typical sandwich item, but Dungan says that the menu choice gives an entry point to eaters who may not want to slurp them raw from the shell.
"It's a little bit less intimidating to try an oyster that way," she says. "A po'boy is an easy, friendly dish. Giving the option of having a fried oyster on there gives you something familiar with something maybe a little bit new and different."
This sandwich is thick and surely not everyone can get their mouth around it. Do people eat it with a fork and knife?
"Some people take the top of the bread off and just use the bottom of the bread," says Dungan. "There's definitely people who use the fork and knife. And then there's people who just kind of sandwich it into their face and get in there."
Just a taste
You don't have to go for the whole sandwich if you're not hungry for it; Duval's also offers the po'boy as part of a soup-and-sandwich combo. You can get a half-sandwich and combine it with a soup or a cup of New England Clam Chowder for $12.75, and for an additional $5, you can upgrade from the chowder to the Lobster Bisque.
"It's also on our happy hour menu," says Dungan. "We like to serve it in as many ways as we can think of."
Dungan says she would normally recommend pairing a local beer with the po'boy, but if a customer wants to try something unique, she'd steer them toward the bacon bourbon Old Fashioned cocktail.
"That's probably our most well-known cocktail," she says. "It has candied pepper bacon."
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