Holly Sheppard and Savannah Jordan met a dozen years ago while studying at the Culinary Institute of America, and even though they've since worked at an impressive array of NYC restaurants (Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, Fat Radish, Eugene & Co), the two women recently realized that what they really wanted to do was "just make some great fucking sandwiches" together. Sheppard already had a storefront on Gates Avenue in Bed Stuy for her catering company, Fig and Pig, and was ensconced in the community, so rather than start from scratch somewhere else, the two of them converted the space into this inviting counter-service spot, Po' Mi.
The idea here is simple: since Po Boys and Bánh Mì are two of the planet's best kind of sandwiches, and are culinarily related, at Po' Mi you can have your fried shrimp, pork butt, fried chicken, short rib, or your crispy tofu prepared in either way.
The Po' Style Short Rib comes slathered in debris gravy and bama sauce, then topped with lettuce, tomato and pickles; for the Mi Style sandwich the beef is seasoned with lemongrass and Szechuan spices, and served with cucumber, cilantro, and sambal aioli. The bread, a custom-baked loaf they commissioned from Neri's in Astoria, is the same for both.
Sheppard and Jordan aren't making any authenticity claims here (though the former does have deep familial ties to New Orleans). The goal here at Po' Mi is to make delicious sandwiches, and based on the two oversized beauties I wolfed down yesterday—a Po' Style Creole Seasoned Fried Shrimp, and a Mi Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken—so far they are succeeding.
There are other options here as well. Salad fans can skip the carbs altogether and choose from five different bowls, with any of the above protein bases added on top. A short list of interesting sides—Mac & Cheese, Kung Pao Cauliflower, Red Beans and Rice, Cucumber Salad—are also available. And the desserts are excellent, both the bag of homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies stuffed with mascarpone, and the wonderfully sweet Salted Caramel Pudding with whipped cream on top.
The room itself is mostly kitchen (Fig and Pig Catering is still in active operation), though there's seating for about 12 in the sunny dining area up front. The walls are pressed tin on one side, raw brick on the other, and the most dominant bit of decor, a neon "P," was a gift given to Jordan's mom back in 1990 upon her retirement from the Paramount Theater.
Both Sheppard and Jordan are active volunteers in Bed Stuy at the church across the street. When I was there earlier this week, neighbors and school kids kept popping by to chat or say hello, making Po'Mi an even more pleasant place to be.
Po' Mi is located at 561 Gates Avenue just east of Tompkins Avenue and is now open on Sunday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Closed Tuesday. (718-872-6773; po-mi.com)