Po-boys were originally made by the Martin Brothers, Bennie and Clovis, who moved to New Orleans from Raceland in the mid-1910s. Both brothers worked as Streetcar Conductors until the early 1920s, when they opened Martin Brothers Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market.
Coffee stands have a long history in the French Market, beginning with free women of color. The Martin Brothers inclusion of a restaurant drew in their fellow street car workers and union members. However, when the carmen went on strike in 1929, Bennie and Clovis pledged to give the Carmen free meals until the strike was resolved. In order to fulfill their pledge, the brothers developed a unique creation that came to be known as the “poor boy” originally. They worked with the bakery that supplied their french bread to create a loaf that had a standard width from end-to-end, eliminating the “nose” or narrow ends that created waste. The crispy bread was the perfect vessel for a large sandwich to feed the hungry strikers. When a striker came buy to get a sandwich, they would call out, “here comes another poor boy,” as the striker approached. That’s how this New Orleans classic became known as the “poor boy” and was abridged to “po-boy”. The “po-boy” lives on at restaurants throughout the Metro New Orleans area.