It appears a new contender has come to battle in the arena of Poboy Wars. This has caused a fervor among the fans and diehards of tradition and Poboy loyalty in Southwest Louisiana.
Coolers Icehouse, originally known for its long standing college bar status on Ryan Street in close proximity to McNeese State University, was recently forced to close a chapter in its storybook. In a final social media post in October, 2020, Coolers announced that the damage sustained from Hurricanes Laura and Delta was beyond repair but vowed to return better than ever.
After years of demolition, design and building, Coolers Icehouse reopened to the public in February, 2023, with a couple of new features: a simple and small kitchen and a menu. Likely by pure design, the popularity of their flagship poboy, Papa’s Special, has sparked public debate over which favorite poboy reigns supreme. And the venue is drawing a crowd.
As I was packing up for the day on a Friday afternoon, it seemed the perfect opportunity to kick off the weekend with a couple of friends to check out what this poboy was all about.
The spacious covered front patio offers a few tables and plenty of room to sip a beverage with a view of the Ryan Street rush hour traffic. Stepping out of the afternoon heat into the chilled confines to grab a cold beer from the bar, I recognized a few familiar faces as we congregated at a suitable high top table.
Welcoming our group and introducing herself, Corren offered additional menus and refills to start off the night. With a long week behind us and food on our minds, and a time crunch as Coolers geared up for a private event, we wasted no time in dropping our orders.
Sharing with the table, we dug into the Brisket Cheesy Bread. With its tender slow-smoked brisket, jalapeños and house-made queso for dipping, this was a great appetizer for sharing.
But I was there for the Papa’s Special and opted for the full experience, a large Papa’s “all the way” — dressed, gravied and jalapeñoed. (I added a Meat Lovers Supreme pizza to take home.)
After only a few short minutes, the anticipation paid off. Placed before me was a large poboy in a basket that could barely hold the sandwich. There was a fresh baked roll, gently toasted, loaded with layers of roast beef, ham and turkey, and slices of American, Swiss and provolone cheese melt under the heat of the au jus.
All eyes were on me as I strategically picked up one half. With the jalapeño mayo and savory juices dripping through my fingers to the basket below with each bite, there was no sense in putting this down just to start over. I powered through, and enjoyed each bite. I moved on to the second half to what I could or couldn’t finish. There’s a lot more to this Papa’s than you’d think.
The decked-out thin crust pizza, with fresh veggies and an assortment of pepperoni, bacon, sausage and mozzarella, provided meals for the next two days.
I always enjoy sharing these experiences with my wife. She gladly agreed to meet me at Coolers one evening before heading home. Without regret or remorse, I would have ordered that same poboy and felt fully content. However, we agreed to explore other aspects of the menu. Shyla suggested starting off with an order of egg rolls. As we were unsure of which version to try, the Boudin or the Southwest version, Corren suggested a half and half mix of the two. Both were a hit, with little more than crumbs left on the platter.
Now, it was time for Shyla to experience a Coolers Icehouse poboy for herself. She decided on the Italian Meatball.
Placed before my wife in all its glory was a toasted split loaf, dwarfed by the large (understated) meatballs, drenched in a zesty Italian marinara sauce, sprinkled with fresh mozzarella. We shared this Poboy. I warn everyone, the possibility of finishing this with dignity is pretty slim.
We thoroughly enjoyed the new Coolers Icehouse. It’s a fun, smoke-free, 18 and older environment with a quirky bar, great service, live entertainment, daily drink specials and poboys that will have you sparking debates with family and friends.
So, if you’ve read all the way through this hoping for my take on who has the best poboy, you’ll just have to decide for yourself.