With more than 40,000 people expected to queue up for New Orleans’ legendary sandwich, I headed to the Po-boy Preservation Festival nice and early. The festival is held Uptown on Oak Street by the Oak Street Association. Oak Street is a small commercial area that has been on the up. The streets received a facelift over the last year – they were all repaved, and the intersections decorated with brick – and the Po-boy Preservation Festival has grown exponentially.

In years past, festival-goers have been crowded into a few blocks off South Carrolton, but this year the festivities stretched all the way down Oak Street to River Road and the parish line. Even at 10:45, though, there were already lines for sandwiches.

First up was Dante’s Kitchen which was serving a confit pork Cuban po-boy with black pepper bourbon mustard.

The sandwich, which was flattened with aluminum-covered bricks Cuban-style, had a nice amount of meat, a spicy tang from the mustard, and even a little crunch from cucumbers. Very nice.

Right next door Boucherie was running their outfit out of a big purple truck.

I tried their 12-hour roast beef po-boy with pickled red onions and horseradish cream. It was an amazing sandwich; a slight twist on classic roast beef flavor with the sour bite of the onions and the sour cream. My vote for the People’s Award.

Round 1 finished, I went to make friends and do some po-boy peeping.  Kimmy and Mike (with dog King) picked up a garlic shrimp po-boy from Barcelona Tapas.

Amy and Julia went through the Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse line to get a prime beef debris po-boy.

And Anne and Vanessa waited in what appeared to be the longest line at the fest – the GW Fins booth which had a fried Maine lobster tossed in Crystal hot sauce po-boy.

For Round 2, I went to Pascal’s Manale for a BBQ shrimp po-boy. This is not BBQ as many would think of it – there is no BBQ sauce involved. The shrimp are cooked in a butter-based sauce heavy on the pepper. (Check out Chef Henry with his adaptation based on Pascal’s Manale.) When ordered in a restaurant, the shrimp are served in a dish, and the goal is to soak your French bread in the sauce as you eat through the shrimp.

Today, Pascal’s Manale fashioned a French bread sleeve and filled it with the shrimp and sauce. Amazing invention – it should really be an appetizer on their menu.

I also had to check out the Maine lobster po-boy. The line was long, but the wait gave me some digestion downtime. The lobster was lightly battered, fried, and then covered with Crystal hot sauce, which is slightly tamer than Tabasco but just as tasty.

And for dessert, a fried bread pudding po-boy from Ye Olde College Inn.  This “po-boy”  sold out last year before 1pm, and it was going fast this year, too.

I initially doubted whether this could be considered a po-boy, but upon closer inspection it became clear that they were indeed slicing it in half and putting the sauce in between the two pieces of bread pudding.

I guess I initially expected a piece of French bread stuffed with fried bread pudding. Either way it was a great way to finish.

Five po-boys in two and a half hours was enough for me. By 1:30 the streets were packed and very difficult to navigate, especially outside of the Maple Leaf and Jaques-Imo’s.

Parking spots were difficult to come by, and many were parking on the gravel by the train tracks on the levee. WWOZ reported that cars on the levee were being towed, so it seems that the Oak Street Association is still going through some logistical growing pains with this festival; it’s clear, however, that a po-boy festival is a massive local draw and a great idea.