Sunday, June 17, 2012

Parasol's vs Tracey's, A Comparison - New Orleans

It’s June 2012, and we’re coming up on two years since that monumental shift in the world of New Orleans po-boys. Hyperbolic description aside, there was a small uproar when the Carreras were forced out of Parasol’s to be replaced by new tenants from Clearwater, Florida. Thankfully, the Parasol’s roast beef po-boy survived and was reborn in the kitchen of Tracey’s, a bar just down the block from Parasol’s.

Back in January of 2011, I stopped by Tracey’s on an icy day was relieved to find nothing much had changed. The roast beef po-boys were still as messy and delicious as ever, but in the following months, I had a nagging feeling that the new Parasol’s tenants, Johnny and Thea Hogan, were getting the raw deal. They could have been blissfully unaware of the animosity facing them when they moved in, and who knows, they might make a good poboy? My curiosity about the new owners grew even more with a favorable report from Blackened Out. Eventually, I had had enough; I was in New Orleans for a long weekend, I had an open Saturday morning, and it seemed like the perfect time to compare the two roast beef titans.

Walking up the steps to the Parasol’s dining room, I expected time to be standing still. Inside, things were much the same, but there was a different air to Parasol’s. The bar was now fully segregated from the dining room and getting a drink required using “the famous cocktail window”. Aesthetic differences noted, ordering from the kitchen window was a familiar feeling and one roast beef po-boy ordered, it was now a waiting game.

Minutes later my order was ready and a regular, dressed roast beef poboy arrived at my table.
Even without the tomatoes, this roast beef poboy was still dressed to the nines.
Taking a bite from this poboy revealed a pronounced beef flavor with a subtle pepperiness and an herby tail.
As much as I welcomed the well-rounded beefy flavor, I was disappointed in the dryness of the beef and the lack of sufficient gravy to mask it.
However, these shortfalls were partly remedied by liberal application of salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Finishing up po-boy number one, there was no question in my mind that this was an above average po-boy and while it may not rule the roost in Nola, it would dominate what Jackson has to offer me at home.  Interestingly, while I was finishing up, I overheard a person, who I could only assume was the owner, talking up the po-boys and smoked sausage at Parasol’s to some visitors from Seattle. She was quick to point out that the old Parasol’s or Tracey’s boils their beef while all of their beef is roasted. While she may have a point about Tracey’s methods, I think that is an instance where the ends justify the means.

Not wasting any time, I made my way down the block to see how the Tracey’s roast beef would stack up in comparison to the current Parasol’s offering.
At first glance, something seemed off about this Tracey’s po-boy. I don’t think the bread was different, but it seemed like things were more subdued, a little too neat.
Thankfully, with the first bite, things were back to normal as the fillings flowed out in a river of beef gravy and mayonnaise.
Although there was plenty of beef flavor in this po-boy, there is little doubt in my mind that the meat is secondary to the stellar combination of Tracey’s gravy and mayo. Each bite of gravy, beef, and mayo is made all the better with the briny punctuation of a pickle slice.

Two po-boys down, the clouds began to lift and a conclusion seemed to appear. Parasols, the new incarnation owned by the Hogans, utilize a more refined and balanced approach to the roast beef po-boy.  The result is a peppery, herby roast beef that only seems to lack to proper amount of gravy to counter the unfortunate subtle dryness of the beef.  On the other hand, Tracey’s has a much more unorthodox method of attack. Boiling the beef, and then roasting the beef in gravy made from the broth and kitchen bouquet seems like a recipe for disaster but the results are superb. It’s a messy, beefy, and simply wonderful po-boy that truly is not for the weak of heart. Frankly, you can’t go truly wrong with either, but, in the end, I have to give the nod to Tracey’s.

Parasol’s Address & Information
Parasol's Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tracey’s Address & Information
Tracey's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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