Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mother's: Is It Worth It?

Each day a line snakes out of the side door of Mother's. It stretches halfway down the block oftentimes blocking the entrance to a parking lot. Conventioneers line up outside, their necks weighted down by lanyards festooned with name tags like some sort of corporate Mardi Gras bead. Once inside another line begins anew, taking you through the restaurant its walls lined with photos of whats her faces and has beens. The line is daunting, a commitment one may not want to undertake within the space-time continuum of a workday.

But go early enough and there is no line. The tourists have not yet finished their Haunted History tour and the salesman from Dubuque are still learning about the opportunity profit of the new SLA-1089 floor sweeper. Yesterday, I zipped in with Betty Crocker before the maddening crowds. In no time, we had ordered and were seated. After a few moments of catching up, out came two po boys, one loaded with grilled shrimp, the other the world famous, by Mother's own admission, Ferdi Special. Along for the ride was a cup of well- seasoned gumbo chunky with sausage and chicken and thickened with file.

The Ferdi combines ham and roast beef, debris, gravy, and dresses it for success. The bottom half of the bread sits in a shallow pool of jus providing a contrast to the crusty top half. The thickly sliced ham and distressed roast beef are united by the pickle and sharp mustard. Cabbage, in lieu of lettuce, is used to provide textural crunch, reminding us all that cabbage should be put on more po boys. Despite all of its fame, notoriety, lines, and television appearances, the Ferdi Special remains a damn fine po boy.

I expected not to like Mother's. It has gotten a rap, deservedly or not, from locals as a place to shy away from. We whisper to our visiting friends, "Listen avoid Mother's for a real po boy, go to _____." But if I was staying in the Hotel Zone and happened to grab lunch at Mother's, I would be fairly impressed with my meal. Maybe that is why there is always a line.

Mother's: Is It Worth It? Yes.
401 Poydras St.


Anonymous said...

This is a very good review. I really get annoyed with people who dog on mothers. Its a good po-boy on good bread. The debris is classic and delicious. Probably not worth the wait when the crowds roll in but no po-boy would be worth THAT wait. To those who judge negatively because its successful, I say stay poor form

Anonymous said...

dunno where y'all are comin from on this one... the "debris" and "gravy" has been been nothing but water when i had it last (a couple years back). it was pathetic.

gotta say i agree w/ Brett Anderson on this one:

"Mother's roast beef po-boy exhibits few of the qualities that make sandwich great"

"...the debris I was served on three recent visits looked and tasted more like boiled beef subjected to a blender. It was beef mush of only slightly firmer consistency than the French bread that the beef’s oily liquid — I can’t stoop to calling it gravy – reduced to dough."

i couldnt in good conscious take a guest there, and i surely could never stand in line for it myself. certainly not worth it.

Rene said...

Anon #2,

This has been a point of contention throughout the whole series. Namely, that my opinion isn't supported by what other people perceive to be the status of the place in question. The main idea behind this series was to actually go eat at these places no one every really eats at and to judge the food, ambiance, and experience as objectively as possible. I am not saying you are incorrect for not liking Mother's; but what I am saying is all of these places have gotten one meal. YEsterday that meal at Mother's happened to be very good.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but reviewing Mother's is like going to NYC and doing a review of the Russian Tea Room or Carnegie's Deli. Good or bad, your review is not going to change locals' or tourists' minds about it. Everyone has been (or will be) there at least once. So, it sounds like you had a yummy lunch, but, dude, everything slathered with gravy is good. You may want to avoid the richest, saltiest item on every menu. It would have been more interesting if you tried something not smothered in gravy. Your review would have probably been a lot different.

Mother's Restaurant said...

Thank you for the objective review.

We believe that we serve good food, as we have done since 1938. As our popularity grew, and lines formed, we noticed a shift in the perception of locals. Generally speaking, people who complain about the line transfer those feelings to the food---despite having not eaten here in a long time.

If they did, they might rediscover that we put a lot of love on 'da plate. Hence, our popularity.

One remark in the comments section requires clarification: Mother's uses au jus from natural juices that result from roasting the beef, plus house made beef stock, in the debris on the Ferdi. It is not a thickened gravy, and it is definitely not salty (per another comment).

That's the way it has been done for nearly 75 years---and a point of distinction (and confusion) from other roast beef po' boys locally.

We appreciate both styles; our version is driven by Mother's long culinary history.

We extend an olive branch to those who have not eaten here recently. It's generally easy to get in before and after lunch, and one can practically walk in most of the time at dinner. Ask any manager for a repeat customer card. After it is punched, we'll trade it up for a VIP card. Skip the line outside.

Locals: parking in the adjacent lot is free every night and weekend, with validation, while you dine.

Mother's Restaurant

Walt Smith said...

Went to NOLA for the first time in July. Hotter than...lots of other places. Anyway, we heard about Mother's from a parking attendant at our hotel, and he said to "go early and make up your mind quickly". We had the best po-boy, gumbo, debris & bread pudding - first debris I had ever tasted - and left full, filled with joy, like we just ate dinner at mom's...I mean Mother's :)

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