Friday, October 9, 2009

Good Food

My new friend Michael opened a little joint in downtown Largo. The sign says, “Gulf Coast Po' Boys - Good Food.” His food is good. Real good. You gotta respect honesty in advertising - or just in naming your business. GCPB Good Food sells (mostly) po’ boys, which – for food heathens like I used to be – is a Louisiana way of saying “hero sandwich” or “grinder” or “sub.” Except in Louisiana they load ‘em up with grilled or fried shrimp or andouille sausage or “dirty” roast beef or fried oysters. Well, hold off on the oysters, ‘cause GC Good Food doesn’t do oysters, at least not yet.

“So, Michael, when you gonna do oyster po’ boys?” I ask, early in our budding relationship.

“Soon as I’m sure my customers aren’t gonna leave ‘em in a hot car in the sun,” he says, “Maybe in the fall.” (This is Florida. “Hot car” means egg-fry hot. Ptomaine hot. Fall starts in December.) I can’t wait for fall. He needs to do gumbo and jambalaya. That’s coming, too, he says.

Gulf Coast Po' Boy Good Food (boy, that's a mouthful, but so are the sandwiches) is a bright and airy hole in the wall, with outside tables and umbrellas, a great place to watch people go by. The sort of place where the food is cooked in front of you and you bus your own dishes. Except Michael won’t let you bus. He runs in and out. I think he’s checking to make sure you’re loving his cooking. The first time Judy and I eat there, we leave a couple, three bucks as a tip and head out. (The good food is a bargain. Both of us can eat well on fifteen bucks. I gotta talk to Michael about a beer license….) So I’m fiddling with my car keys when Michael runs up waving my money. “No tips! We don’t do that here. We’d rather you spend your money on lunch the next time you come.” I just stand there like a goofus with my jaw hanging open.

GCPB Good Food means shrimp that's floured up and fried on the spot. It takes a few minutes for the po' boys 'cause Michael toasts the rolls on a slow grill and, besides, you can't grill the andouille too fast or you'll miss that sweet spot where the juices still run but the sugars have caramelized just right. I'm not sure what he calls that mayonnaise-y sauce, but it lands midway between a mild aioli and a raging rouille. It's going to be heaven itself on that oyster po' boy come fall.

I go to GCPB Good Food as much to hear Michael talk as for the po’ boys. He purrs out the softest Louisiana drawl you can imagine. No noticeable hint of Cajun or Creole patois, but just that smoky liquid smoothness that so comforts the ear. “Where you from?” I ask recently, even though the food and the drawl already provide the answer.

New York,” he says. “City.”

Not wanting to be politically incorrect or anything, I slip back into my patented jaw-dropping, goofus pose.

“I lived in New Orleans till I was 15,” he continued, so I was able to close my mouth. It turns out he’s been cooking at some hot shot Louisiana kitchens in NYC for a bunch of years. He named a place on Lexington and another down near the Village, which only made me feel a little parochial. New Orleans has apparently come to New York in a big way since I last ate in the city, and that sounds like reason enough to go back. Except Michael has brought the simplest, happiest stuff to Largo.


1 comment:

  1. OK, so I forgot to give an address. Here it is:

    Gulf Coast Po' Boys
    LARGO FLORIDA, 33770
    Phone: 727-584-3800
    Open M-F 11 - 8; Sat. 12 - 8