The flavor of New Orleans and the Louisiana Gulf Coast is being served up at a traditional Po’ boy eatery that is becoming a culinary destination, on West Bay Drive in Largo, for lovers of Cajun-style cuisine from all over the Tampa Bay area.
“While we attract many locals, including the Largo Police who have been very loyal to us and eat here several times a week, our fame has grown to all over the Tampa area thanks to the internet and word-of-mouth,” said Michael Brandt, who opened Gulf Coast Po’ Boys three years ago, with partner Anthony Jack in a little storefront at 312 West Bay Drive between Missouri Avenue and Clearwater-Largo Road.
Mike Baker, who recently stopped into the eatery for his favorite grilled shrimp Po’ boy on a hoagie roll, said he is willing to travel from Tampa to Largo to grab some of the best Cajun food available in the bay area. “Their food is great,” he said.
Brandt grew up in New Orleans, learning secret recipes of some fine Cajun cooks. He went on to work with top Cajun chef Abe de la Houssaye, preparing traditional dishes in several New York City fine dining restaurants. Some of Brandt’s favorite recollections are cooking special dishes for cast parties of the NBC TV show “Saturday Night Live.”
Meanwhile, Jack moved from Trinidad to New York City to work in the catering business, where he learned to cook several type dishes.
How Gulf Coast Po' Boys Landed in Largo
Brandt said when he and Jack decided to open their own place they first considered going out west, and then to upstate New York, before finding their Largo location on Craigslist.
The Largo location stood out for several reasons. First, they could acquire it without going into debt and it was a good location on a main road in the Sunshine State. Second, if anything, its location is true to the Po' boy tradition. Traveling through Louisiana, you can find freshly prepared meals at little food stands, called Po' boys, set up at service stations, hardware shops and convenience stores, Brandt explained. Their small Largo storefront is true to that tradition, but they added a patio with outdoor seating.
“We opened the same year as the Gulf oil spill and when the bottom fell out of the economy, so it’s been tough, but we are still here thanks to our loyal friends and word-of-mouth,” Brandt said.
All their dishes “are freshly prepared meals on a bun.” There are no tuna or egg salad sandwiches with mayo on the menu. Each dish, whether it is shrimp, chicken or fish, has its own spices and flavored powder, never called breading.
They serve up baskets of slow roasted, Cajun-spiced Crescent City roasted pork on a big hoagie roll, with savory red beans and rice and classic Cajun vinaigrette cole slaw. Their menu features fried, blackened or grilled chicken, shrimp or fish, as well with fried oysters, all prepared in with their own flavorful spices and dressings. True Cajun lovers can’t stop eating their Cajun andouille, a specially spiced sausage, served with Louisiana-style mustard.
Jack said their ingredients are very fresh to preserve the Cajun tradition and keep food costs down. The biggest misconception is that Cajun food is spicy, when it can be prepared just as spicy and flavorful as you like, he said.
He said they have seen food costs skyrocket in three years, with items such as beef tripling in price, so controlling food costs in this economy is key to survival.
Starting next month they will bring back their popular gumbo.
“We just want people to come by and have a good meal and then we know they will be back,” he added.
Jack said they know people are dining out less, so they try to keep their prices very reasonable, with most plates either $8.95 or $9.95. Many people stop in to pick up something to take home for dinner; it is most gratifying when they learn someone came to Largo especially to pick up a dish, he added.
If You Go
Gulf Coast Po’ Boys is open Monday from 11 am to 3 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday 11 am to 6 p.m. The duo also caters parties.
For more information visit: www.gulfcoastpoboys.com or call 727-584-3800.