Main Street near the South Loop looked as rundown as the nearby Astrodome, until Reliant Stadium was built. The street's pavement was refurbished, new businesses went in, and the fast-food joints have nearly all been remodeled.
Recently, even the semi-abandoned shopping center at Buffalo Speedway (which is packed with the cars of Carrington's Sports Bar patrons every weekend night) got a facelift and a pave job. A small restaurant space, which once housed the first hamburger outpost of Ricky Craig's Hubcap Grille and its worthy successor, The Hamburger Kid, got a steady new tenant--Sleepy's Po-Boy. It advertises the Hot Roast Beef on the window, so I guessed that's what they are famous for.
Sleepy's has to be one of the most sparsely-decorated restaurants in the city, with only five tables in a space large enough for twenty. The New Orleans Saints memorabilia on the wall tells you where the owners came from. I ordered the hot roast beef po-boy, for $7.99, from a very friendly cashier.
Several customers were already waiting for their orders, and many more came in as I waited -- for a long time -- as the pace at Sleepy's is decidedly New Orleans, which is fine, because that's my pace at lunch.
The roast beef po-boy was definitely worth the wait. It was big enough to be a meal, which was the original idea of what a po-boy should be -- a cheap way for busy workers to eat lunch on the job -- and it smelled as delicious as it looked, with the crusty soft bread, roast beef with gravy, lettuce, pickles, and a white sauce. Parsley was sprinkled on top of the sandwich.
Eating it was a different story. The roast beef was tender and prime, and the smooth brown gravy was so good that I would be more than happy to do shots of it, even chase whiskey with it. However, the gravy was also the perfect lubricant, allowing various po-boy ingredients to slide out of the sandwich on numerous occasions. After using up the six napkins I was given, I began to suspect -- having never had a hot roast beef po-boy before -- that I was doing it wrong.
Knife and Fork, Perhaps
I know that po-boys were invented to be eaten on the go, but is there an exception for this Hot Roast Beef Po-boy? Am I supposed to eat it with silverware? Perhaps I should take my cue from the new mayor of New York, who recently ate a piece of pizza with a knife and fork. Maybe this sandwich is the reason that Sleepy's has so few tables, and does a steady take-away business: No one wants to be seen eating it!
I love this Roast Beef po-boy, but Sleepy's has other kinds, of course. The owners were wise enough to become a satellite restaurant of Carrington's next door, and stay open from breakfast until 2 in the morning. Sleepy's will remain, where hamburger masters could not, and I'm coming back, for carry-out I'm sure.