Sleepy's Roast Beef Po-Boy: How Does One Eat This Great Sandwich?
Photos by John Kiely This sandwich is difficult, but it is awesome.
Main Street near the South Loop looked as rundown as the nearby Astrodome, until Reliant Stadium was built. The street's pavement was refurbished, new businesses went in, and the fast-food joints have nearly all been remodeled.
Recently, even the semi-abandoned shopping center at Buffalo Speedway (which is packed with the cars of Carrington's Sports Bar patrons every weekend night) got a facelift and a pave job. A small restaurant space, which once housed the first hamburger outpost of Ricky Craig's Hubcap Grille and its worthy successor, The Hamburger Kid, got a steady new tenant--Sleepy's Po-Boy. It advertises the Hot Roast Beef on the window, so I guessed that's what they are famous for.
Sleepy's has to be one of the most sparsely-decorated restaurants in the city, with only five tables in a space large enough for twenty. The New Orleans Saints memorabilia on the wall tells you where the owners came from. I ordered the hot roast beef po-boy, for $7.99, from a very friendly cashier.
Several customers were already waiting for their orders, and many more came in as I waited -- for a long time -- as the pace at Sleepy's is decidedly New Orleans, which is fine, because that's my pace at lunch.
The roast beef po-boy was definitely worth the wait. It was big enough to be a meal, which was the original idea of what a po-boy should be -- a cheap way for busy workers to eat lunch on the job -- and it smelled as delicious as it looked, with the crusty soft bread, roast beef with gravy, lettuce, pickles, and a white sauce. Parsley was sprinkled on top of the sandwich.
Eating it was a different story. The roast beef was tender and prime, and the smooth brown gravy was so good that I would be more than happy to do shots of it, even chase whiskey with it. However, the gravy was also the perfect lubricant, allowing various po-boy ingredients to slide out of the sandwich on numerous occasions. After using up the six napkins I was given, I began to suspect -- having never had a hot roast beef po-boy before -- that I was doing it wrong.
Knife and Fork, Perhaps
I know that po-boys were invented to be eaten on the go, but is there an exception for this Hot Roast Beef Po-boy? Am I supposed to eat it with silverware? Perhaps I should take my cue from the new mayor of New York, who recently ate a piece of pizza with a knife and fork. Maybe this sandwich is the reason that Sleepy's has so few tables, and does a steady take-away business: No one wants to be seen eating it!
Sleepy's is a small piece of New Orleans, next door to Carrington's.
I love this Roast Beef po-boy, but Sleepy's has other kinds, of course. The owners were wise enough to become a satellite restaurant of Carrington's next door, and stay open from breakfast until 2 in the morning. Sleepy's will remain, where hamburger masters could not, and I'm coming back, for carry-out I'm sure.