The linoleum isn’t worn, the framed photographs of New Orleans aren’t faded, and there’s no trombone or trumpet player getting folks dancing and leading them out into the street for an impromptu second line parade. But Po’Boys & Pickles serves up the real stuff nonetheless and it’s all so good.

Gumbo ($5.25) — the word is Cajun French for okra — is on the thin side, but this roux-thickened stew is crammed with chicken and thin slices of andouille, spicy sausage from Comeaux’s in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Maine shrimp dropped in at the last minute add a northern touch to this inventive and lively Cajun recipe of New Orleans, the melting pot of world culture before the phrase was born.

Owner Peter Zinn lived in New Orleans after Katrina for over a year. According to manager Brian Gastin, Zinn’s gumbo is his own “New Orleans style” version. “Making gumbo is kind of like the way we make lobster stew up here. It’s one of those things that everyone grew up on, and everyone has their own,” Gastin said. The cooked rice is added last, keeping the grains firm and mild.

There’s an utterly tender and buttery biscuit alongside that’s not easy to forget.

A pound of butter goes into every batch of around 20 biscuits, Gastin said. “Your butter’s got to be the right temperature,” he said. After you blend it into the flour, and get the pieces of butter to the right size, you add heavy cream and, “Let it just come together.” Zinn does the baking but everyone on the kitchen staff makes the biscuits.

Gastin, by the way, is of Irish and Lebanese origin despite his nearly French name. He researched Cajun cuisine to land this job just two weeks after Po’Boys & Pickles opened last January. “I’ve been cooking for almost 15 years and there isn’t anything I won’t eat,” he said. He has a degree from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and credited his father with inspiring his career. “My father is a fantastic cook. Dad always was home when I grew up and he always cooked, tabouleh and grape leaves and much more.”


Fried oyster salad ($8.50) is a surefire solution to the perpetual hunger for fried oysters. Set on top of a salad of pickled green beans, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes and mesclun in a mustardy vinaigrette with dollops of remoulade, the oysters are juicy and perfect, encapsulated in thin, golden crunch.

They come in a po’boy too, of course ($6.50 small, $11 large), tossed in Cajun spice, made with paprika, cayenne, oregano, salt, dehydrated onion and garlic, if you want.

“You get your typical Mainer, they look around and we suggest the pulled pork, that’s the training wheels around here,” Gastin said ($5.75 small, $10.25 large). In a long crisp white roll, fine-grained and tangy pork touched with red wine vinegar is enriched by the mayonnaise from a topping of coleslaw. Thin-sliced dill pickles make a perfect alternate mouthful.

Happy Hour feeds more hankering for New Orleans with boudin balls, another sausage from Comeaux’s fixed up with some of that pulled pork and heavy cream, rolled in crushed crackers and deep fried ($3.75 from 4 to 6), a dish that “almost touches the hearts” of true Cajun aficionados who drop by. The praline bacon, “Our homage to praline,” you can order anytime.

Mann Vintner Cabernet Sauvignon is one of a few wines. The beer selection is growing. Pork Slap Pale Ale and Dixie Beer, with Geary’s Pale Ale ($3) on tap are three choices. Abita beer, from Purple Haze, a wheat and raspberry beer the business’s site recommends with or for dessert, to Turbo Dog, which Gastin calls a lighter version of Guinness, and Jockamo IPA.

Beer would be excellent with Zapp’s Potato Chips, the official potato chip of the south. “It’s a lot thicker, crunchier. You’ve got to chew these.” Flavors include Hotter’n Hot Jalapeno, Cajun Dill and Voodoo Gumbo. Beer would be refreshing with wings, too, like ones made with a citrus glaze, Cajun spices and honey


But customers who prefer something cold and sweet can order milkshakes made with vanilla ice cream, 2-percent milk, and house flavorings. The Key lime milkshake is flavored with reduced lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and some crumbled graham cracker crumbs. “It goes nice with our spicy foods,” Gastin said.

Updates on Facebook promote specials like soft-shell crab po’boys. Facebook might be the source of news to come about an application for an outdoor beer permit, and an expansion from the three picnic tables outside now, as well as a crayfish boil next spring.

Meanwhile, there are macaroons. “That is one of Pete’s special little tricks. I know he starts with unsweetened coconut.” They have a following.

Sticky toffee pudding ($3.50) should be ordered only if you understand that you will be eating every last scrap. The big, brown rectangle in a white, oblong plastic bowl is all sugary and buttery tenderness and not Cajun in the least, but I guarantee you won’t care.


N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of “Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s website,


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