Off the Wall: Now That's a Po-Boy

Categories: On the Menu

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Last week, Katharine Shilcutt wrote about her experience at Zimm's Little Deck. In it, she mentioned her fondness for Calliope's Po-Boy, and the commenters agreed.

TonyC had this to say: "I can't recommend Calliope's enough. A little bit of Louisiana right here in Houston."

I'm sold.

I was excited to be a Calliope's first-timer. It's one of those places you know will be good before stepping foot in the door. Sure enough, it was better than good, it was damn good. I ordered the small fried oyster po-boy. The picture above doesn't do this creation justice. Sometimes the best foods are the simplest ones.

The 8-inch sandwich was cut in half, with each portion containing three large, perfectly fried oysters. The po-boy was topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise, and held together by some of the freshest, most delicious French bread you can imagine. Each bite was bittersweet (figuratively speaking) -- so delicious, yet one step closer to finality.

Calliope's has inspired me to head over to Goode Company Seafood for one of their po-boy refresher courses. I smell a mean Food Fight brewing.

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Calliope's Po-Boy

2130 Jefferson St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Alain G. Harvey
Alain G. Harvey

Zimm’s Little Deck serves up seafood, sandwiches and gumbo in an atmosphere reflecting New Orleans charm.  With its French posters, flickering gas lights, bentwood chairs, outdoor fireplace and large outdoor pétanque court, Zimm’s Little Deck offers a friendly and casual vibe with down-home dishes. The Zimmerman clan refers to this venue a fancy ice house, for my wife Penny and I, Zimm’s Little Deck is much more than that.Based on popular Cajun cuisine from “po' boys” to “rich boys,” Zimm’s Little Deck serves up seafood, sandwiches and gumbo. But what else would you expect from a "fancy" icehouse complete with a broad selection of craft beers and "cheap, decent or good" wines. Sit inside with a group, or alone at the bar. Zimm’s Little Deck adds fun to the food with a pétanque court in front of the establishment. The vaulted ceilings and crown moldings brought an "old world" ambiance to the building. Outdoor patio seating and wide French doors means you can watch the world go by, or enjoy the game of pétanque as it is played.What is pétanque? It is similar in nature to Italian bocce or English lawn bowling where two teams compete against each other to roll a ball closest to the "goal" both through direct rolls and those that knock the ball of the opposing team away from their goal. Brothers Mark and Dan Zimmerman admit to learning to love this sport from a young age as they first learned how to play it while visiting family in France. Zimm’s Little Deck’s ambiance makes it a favorite venue for our French-speaking group, le RDV Français, which meets there on a regular basis.Chef Jeramie Robison draws on fresh Gulf seafood and his Louisiana roots (and some produce from his family farm) to create hearty gumbos, shrimp rémoulade and croque monsieur hushpuppies. But the stand-outs here are the fried oyster and shrimp poor boys and their “rich boy” cousins like the Long Island quack: duck thigh confit with arugula and seasonal fruit preserves stuffed into a crunchy baguette. Specialty drinks include hurricanes and gin fizzes, but there’s a decent wine list and plenty of craft beers on the bar list as well.Gulf oysters on the half shell are cold and briny and carefully opened, their only drawback being the cost at $17 per dozen, guaranteed to produce sticker shock among Houstonians and making a dozen on the half shell a major splurge. While the restaurant's small plates (items like Croque Monsieur balls and fried calamari) are great, the po’ boys are wanting. But there's no shortcoming here that couldn't be fixed with relative ease.Unique truly is the word to describe Zimm's Little Deck, from dining and drinking to entertainment. You can choose from icehouse/seafood bar to "home cooked" Cajun cuisine; visit with friends or dine alone there is something here for every taste and age.

Kevin C
Kevin C

My favorite poboy in Houston is the fried shrimp poboy from Beacoup Bar & Grill on OST / 288. Whoever is working the fryer back there is a god!

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

I don't think it's fair to say this city lacks a great po-boy, especially if you haven't had Goode Co. That is an outstanding po-boy (in my opinion).

SirRon
SirRon

I can agree with Kevin's statement above... I enjoy the seafood po-boys at Goode Co, BB's, and Seafood Shoppe.

Guest
Guest

Here's the thing with Calliope. I really want to like that place; the owners and staff are friendly and personable; the location is reasonably convenient and homey, and they serve up one of my favorite types of food. But:

1. I've never had a good sandwich there. I tried the oyster po-boy, and it was slimy and fishy. I tried the soft shell crab po-boy, and the portions were skimpy and mostly full of tomalley rather than recognizable crab meat. The shrimp wasn't deveined when I had it in a po boy.

2. The prices are absurd. Seafood costs money, I understand, but the idea of going to a po-boy shop and being unable to get out of there full and satisfied unless you spend $10-15 for a standard sized po-boy and a few bucks for a side or salad completely contrasts with the very name "po-boy." I feel like a "po-boy" after spending $20+ to get a mediocre meal there.

3. For whatever reason, food bloggers have a love affair with this place and rate it well past what it can deliver. I'd rather go to Mardi Gras, BB's, or even Rajun Cajun, and pay a decent amount of money for a solid po-boy, then spend a small fortune for a place that people who seem not to know any better treat as the best po boys in town. Getting super excited about a place that charges $12 for a po boy full of spoiled oysters only hurts your credibility.

Wynona23
Wynona23

pure silliness. and purely your personal experience, and I do mean personal: I've never had a bad sandwich there and I've been at least 10 times, and order differently quite often.

sandwiches are good, gumbo is good and having shrimp chips is cool. and the prices are in line with other places that sell similar stuff

Guest
Guest

Kevin, it's comments like Wynona's and Meriqueen's that explain my cranky tone. Between that and years of the Houston Press food bloggers, even without including you, publish rave after rave about Calliope's, I can't help but feel there's become a sort of hivemind surrounding this restaurant. Throw a rock and make a less than stellar comment about the food, and the bees come swarming.

Wynona and Meriqueen, a lot of people do like Calliope's sandwiches. I respect that. But almost half the commenters in this thread: myself, SirRon, Ruthie J M, and Matthew, have all had disappointing experiences with the food. The experiences all mention something in common: seafood that is either off or poorly prepared. So I think there is more to those comments than "outliers, or just lies." Kevin also conceded my point about the prices being higher than most other po boy shops. I think three visits with three different expensive sandwiches and three different experiences of poor quality seafood should be enough for me to form an opinion, regardless of what the hive thinks. I don't have anything against Calliope's, but I've been burned there enough that it's worth warning others who read those rave reviews that there are other opinions out there.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

Guest, for the record...I don't think you have a cranky tone at all. I appreciate your opinions, and more than that, I respect your opinions. I wouldn't be happy with a place either if I kept having a bad experience. Thank you for sharing!

SirRon
SirRon

Isn't your comment also based on personal experience? Purely? Therefore, isn't it also pure silliness?

My personal opinion is that the people that really love this place aren't there for good seafood (including the seafood po-boy). There isn't anything wrong with that and it doesn't make them people of impaired judgment *sneezeGentiancough*. I eat at Taco Cabana from time to time. I just don't proclaim it to be the best Mexican food joint in the city. The author of this post might, however *smirk*

SirRon
SirRon

@Meri It appears that you may be equating not having a bad meal with best dish in the city. So maybe what I'm saying is that it is not, in fact, a fact that they are the best po-boys in Houston. Something actually exists between fact and lies. We get it here everyday. That's why I read.

Ruthie J M
Ruthie J M

The gumbo there is awful. Legitimately awful.

I'd also like to supplant that Houston does not have a great po' boy. We've got some decent/passable ones (Calliope, BB's). But not a great one. At all.

Meriqueen
Meriqueen

the fact that so many have not had a bad meal there, and consider calliope's one of the city's best po-boys, would support that the bad experiences are outliers, or just lies.

SirRon
SirRon

It's good to find out I'm not crazy. Anywho...

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

First, thank you for reading and giving such a thorough response. I appreciate that.

I agree with a few of your points and take issue with some others. 1. Saying the prices are absurd is overstating it a bit. I agree they are are tad bit high, and I probably should have included that in my write-up. An 8inch fried oyster po-boy at Callioppe's is 9.75. Rajun Cajun's, for example, is 8.49. Are the prices a bit higher? Yes. Absurd...no.

2. I wrote about one experience, which was good. I'll go again, and if I find they are having some inconsistencies with their product, I'll write about it. I never stated this was the best po boys in town though.

pearl leather bracelet
pearl leather bracelet

Be sure to try the gumbo. It's also one of the only places in Houston I've found with fried greent tomatos! My favorite.

Gentian
Gentian

did your bread turn into a messy glop? I'll bet it didn't....

idjit
idjit

Mardi Gras Grille, 1200 Durham. Oyster Po'boy. It ain't Mother's on Poydras, but it's good for where you at.

Geri Harris
Geri Harris

I adore Calliope's! Fresh crisp seafood. Good, crunchy bread and toppings that don't overwhelm the seafood. I'm going tonight!

GD
GD

Schillaci's in the Woodlands opened up a couple of months ago and definitely worth the trek up there. They are located in Market Center.

dick swisher
dick swisher

Has anyone tried the fried oyster tacos at Berryhill? I know that at least the Heights location features them as an off-the-menu item. I like the idea, but expecting over-sauced sogginess.

Ed Strayer
Ed Strayer

BBs Cajun Cafe has pretty good Po-boys....

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

Now that's a damn good point...love BB's. Ed, try the bread pudding. Awesome!

Old Salty
Old Salty

When you go to Goode Co. try the mesquite grilled poboys. They are far superior to any fried one!

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Mesquite grilled, eh? I've only had the fried shrimp and oyster ones there. I may have to try this...

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

The best po-boy is any one from Good Co. Those are outstanding.

SirRon and Matthew, where are the specifics with your complaints? What didn't you like about the sandwich? Was it just the seafood portion or the entire product?

Matthew
Matthew

i went probably over a year ago. don't remember too many specifics (i think it was a shrimp po'boy), other than thinking it was a good sandwich, but that the ones i've had at goode co. seafood were better. if i remember correctly, i got fries on the side and they were poorly done freezer bag fries, which always throws my overall meal satisfaction down a notch.

SirRon
SirRon

Kevin, I'm not trying to be a d!ck, but was I not clear? If I were to be *more* clear, I'd really sound like a d!ck. Like more than normal. It's a real catch 22.

Here's something... I spent almost all my growing up years in the New Orleans area. I've got that on the resume for what it's worth. However, Houston has pretty good seafood too. Good enough seafood that people should be able to tell the difference. It is possible that the two times I was at Calliope's they served me crappy, unfresh seafood, but for everyone else they serve quality stuff. I'll give them that.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

Often times, commentors complain when the writer of a piece is not detailed enough with information.

I'm what you would call "turning the tables" on you. Saying "it's the worst shrimp/oyster po-boy in recent memory" tells me nothing. Be a dick, speak your mind...deal in specifics.

SirRon
SirRon

I'm only confused b/c I think I already did. However, I don't have a problem with your opinion. That should have been kinda clear too. Thanks for the explanation of "turning the tables" though.

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

I haven't been but have heard good things about Denton's. If they are still open...

Margeaux
Margeaux

If by Denton's you mean Danton's, they are the best at all things NOLA. And yes, they are open

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I was born in Houston in the 60's. To me, the best Houston po-boys are Italian, not these new-fangled New Orleans style models. That means Antone's, or the late, lamented Andros, or Zinnante's.

Gentian
Gentian

the two are night and day, and the there's nothing new-fangled about the new orleans po-boys. and of course... the places you mention are italian imitators, not italian.

Matthew
Matthew

i wasn't a big fan either. my new orleans native friend wasn't impressed.

SirRon
SirRon

I had the worst oyster po-boy in recent memory from Calliope's (oyster po-boys being my litmus test for po-boys). Since judging a place based on one visit isn't fair, I went back and had one of the worst shrimp po-boys in recent memory.

Is the place hit and miss or do most people have really low standards for fried seafood here? We live near the Gulf. Surely most people know what the good stuff should taste like, right?

Bruce R
Bruce R

Yes, people have low standards for seafood here. Evidence for that is the popularity of the chain called The Fish Place.

Pidgieoops
Pidgieoops

The Fish Place: the selfsame place that just closed on westheimer and fountainview?

Try the tiny Fish Market on Fountainview, btwn Westheimer and Richmond. It's a hole-in-the-wall that the Press hasn't discovered yet, tho many $$$ neighborhood folks have. Fresh daily seafood from the Gulf run by tiny Viets.

Ruthie J M
Ruthie J M

I've been three times... All were just OK. Each time my fried shrimp, oysters, or softshell crab were overly fishy tasting. Bread was good, though. I used to *love* the po' boys at Jazzie Cafe on 19th, but it shut down unexpectedly last year and is now Gatlin's. Since then I haven't found a po' boy in Houston that I'd seek out -- but have not tried Goode Co as Kevin suggests below. All-time favorite is Johnny's in New Orleans =) Mmmm!!

Cagan74
Cagan74

robb was right about jazzie cafe: not so good. but they were nice folks.

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