Tuesday, November 16, 2010

He Does It Again

Chef Mark Falgoust of Grand Isle owns Po-Boy Fest. His Shrimp Caminada took down Best in Show last year, and he avoided the sophomore slump by earning two awards this year: Best Specialty Seafood with his Smoked Fish Po-Boy and Best in Pork with his Boucherie Po-Boy (pictured). Chef Mark told us that he spent the last two weeks curing meats for this cornucopia of pork, which mimicked the perennial favorite banh mi that were noticeably absent from this year's festival. The Boucherie Po-Boy featured pork pate, bologna, head cheese, and baked ham (all made in house) with cucumber, pickled red onion, and cracklins drizzled with Steen's cane syrup.

That's pork 5 ways on one sandwich. It's a porkapalooza between bread. The Pork Bomb.com Po-Boy. If ever there were a worthy adversary to the pig, it is Mark Falgoust. Cracklins and cane syrup should replace popcorn at the movie theatre. Someone get Adolfo on the phone.

Now, we might as well address the elephant in the room - or perhaps, more appropriately, the 40,000 people in the street. I love eating po-boys, drinking beer on a fall Sunday afternoon, and leisurely strolling down Oak Street. Unfortunately, it's kind of tough to do all those things at Po-Boy Fest. At times it felt as if Oak Street had transformed itself into the Superdome walkways during halftime, with people slowly moving in a continuous herd which at any second could suck in those innocently standing on the fringe. I think that the line for GW Fins' Fried Lobster Po-Boy was as long as every wait for the Plaza level women's restrooms... combined.

But to be honest, I don't know if Palmer Park would have been any better. This year's Po-Boy Fest took up over 7 blocks of Oak Street plus many of the side streets. That is a lot of area, probably more than the empty green space at the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne. And I tend to side with the merchants of Oak Street who lay claim to starting the festival and its original purpose of drawing attention to their businesses via the Main Street Program. But then again, there are people who go to Po-Boy Fest but never eat a po-boy because the lines are 30 minutes long and half the vendors are sold out by 5:00. I was shocked at the number of people there at 11:30 this year.

Perhaps it's time to make Po-Boy Fest a two day affair with the goal of spreading out the crowds. Plus, the vendors would probably sell more po-boys and the resident businesses more merchandise.

Does anyone else out there have a solution? How was your experience at this year's Po-Boy Fest?


Superdeformed said...

The problem with Oak Street is that it's kind of in the middle of a residential area. Maybe having it a 2 or 3 day thing will help.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I said the same thing!!! Have it both Saturday & Sunday!! Most peopel wont go both days.

Rene said...

Well said Peter.

Let me throw some gasoline here. I am not a branding expert. But it is pretty clear that one of the goals of Po Boy Fest is to draw attention to Oak St. and the great merchants which line it.

The majority of people I've talked to have all left saying the same things, "Too crowded", "No parking", "Long lines/wait for a po boy", "not worth the hassle." Or some combination of all the above.

Seems unfortunately the Po Boy Fest unfairly tarnishes the reputation of Oak St as a neat area to shop, eat, and play in New Orleans.

Compare Po boy Fest to Jazz Fest. At Jazz Fest, lets say there are 50K people on the grounds at any one time. Of that amount, assume 20% are looking for food/drinks at any one time. That is 10K people (which is generous) looking for food/drinks at close to 70 booths.

Po Boy Fest lets say you have 20K people. I'd say 90% are looking for food (as it is the main attraction) and maybe 10% watching bands.

You can do the math. Bottom line, there are too many people waiting for po boys at the same exact time. I second Peter's suggestion that it needs to be spread over a larger time frame.

jshushan said...

I spent 45 minutes from 11:45 to 12:30 trying to park. I gave up and left. The food is always good, but it's gotten so bad I don't think I'll be going back unless it's changed substantially.


NOJuju said...

2 days, definitely 2 days. I adore the Poy Boy Fest and don't want to stop coming just because everyone and the their mama loves it too. This year was so crowded that I felt homicidal.

I also agree that it should be kept on Oak St, despite the fact that Palmer Park is just a sneeze away from my house. At the rate that the attendance for Po Boy Fest is growing, it seems it would serve the merchants better to have everyone actually able to experience their shops and storefronts, rather than be jammed up against them in desperation.

Kevin said...

I sympathize with the Oak Street merchants who helped set this up and reap the benefits, but they're going to end up ruining it for themselves unless they come up with a solution.

People are going to get very frustrated fighting with parking (or being crammed on a streetcar), then packed in with thousands of others to wait on line for food that may or may not be there when they reach the vendor. I have a coworker who waited 40 minutes in a packed crowd for a po-boy, and another who never even got one.

There are occupancy limits for restaurants and bars due to safety. The size of the crowd on Oak Street isn't just unpleasant; it doesn't feel safe.

I didn't go this year because I was sick of the crowds, and I've talked to people who say they won't go next year. Making it a two-day event might help, but that might have its drawbacks, too - I can imagine the residents around Oak Street might bristle at having their neighborhood invaded from Friday to Monday.

Not sure what the answer is.

Rene said...

At least we know the crowds didn't turn out to see the two jerks from Blackened Out judge po boys. so you cant blame us.

Kevin, this seems like one of those Damn if You Do/Catch 22s. The only solution may be to charge admission.

Shedd said...

2 Days would be a start. I wanted to go this year, but was out of town so I couldn't make it until the late afternoon. And I wanted to introduce some friends who were flying in to New Orleans in a unique way. Instead we realized it was pointless trying to fight the crowds, closed tents and long lines and ended up going somewhere else for dinner. It's an awesome festival, but it's reached a point where reworking it in some way is absolutely necessary. Though I hate the admission idea. The point is the food and charging people to simply pay for food just seems silly. I know some people treat jazz fest that way, but that's not the drive of that festival.

Anonymous said...

As a neighbor in the area, I said last year that they should make it last two days. They obviously have the crowds to support it.

Palmer Park would not have been any better. It may have also been more dangerous because you would have had pedestrians constantly crossing one of the busiest intersections in the city.

Also, they need to have some better planning. Many of the drink vendors stopped selling water/soda after 12:30. When I asked if I could buy a plain coke, the vendor told me no because he was saving them for mixed drinks. Apparently the festival hadn't ordered enough soda/water but ordered plenty of liquor. Next time I'm bringing my own water bottle.

Anonymous said...

2 days (and on the weekend of the Saints by)
also, open up the side streets. extended the food tents and merchants. i.e. it really needs to be spread out along Oak.

Clay said...

We went late (4) and it wasn't bad, crowd-wise. Unfortunately, 1/2 the vendors were out of food.

One vendor that DID come prepared was Grand Isle. That Boucherie poboy is just to die for. The purple truck's horseradish roast beef with pickled onions was also good.

Rene said...


After listening to complaints and debriefing the organizers of Po Boy Fest have decided to fix the problems associated with the event by sticking their heads in the sand.