1992 Warrensville Center Rd
Cleveland, OH 44121-2635
By Scarlet Pumpernickel
The Once and Future Sandwich. That’s what I like to call the sandwich I’m currently dreaming of, even if connecting the sandwich to the legend of King Arthur is a little difficult. Battiste is definitely the Merlin of this story, because he is going to make the sandwich much like the great wizard made Arthur into a king. Also, he experiences time backwards. After that, things become murky. Since I, somewhat sinisterly, plan on consuming the sandwich, am I Morgause?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I can tell you about the king, I must tell you about his knights, Battiste and Dupree’s Shrimp Po’Boys, and their heroic exploits. At $10.50, it might seem a little pricey, but the sandwich is huge:two halves, each more than 6 inches long and 4 wide, come loaded with shrimp fried to perfection with a Cajun breading spicy enough to make sure you know it’s there. Lettuce adds a nice freshness to balance the fried shrimp, with a Remoulade and slices of cheese giving a dash of creaminess to the sandwich. But the bread is what sets this sandwich ahead of other Po’ Boys I’ve had. Good French bread, it is soft and airy on the inside with just the right stiffness to the crust. Perhaps the best way to understand this sandwich is to read the stories and legends surrounding it.
First, the legend of Lady Scarlet Pumpernickel: when her first Shrimp Po’boy was put in front of her, she was convinced it was more than she could eat that evening. She resolved to eat half of it and save the rest for later. But lo – inconstant women! After eating half of her sandwich, she was indeed full, but she simply could not stop eating the sandwich. She stuffed the whole thing into her body that very night. A few days later, she began thinking about reviewing the restaurant during her lunch break at work. As she sat there thinking about the sandwich, she realized that she really longed for one. She longed for it so much that if the place had been open, she would have abandoned work right then to get one.* Women place passion before honor.
Second, the tale of Strumpet Frank Fu and Pauper Frank Duong: That night, on the way home from work Sir Scarlet ordered two sandwiches to go, one for herself and one for her roommate, Frank Fu. As they were eating them, Frank Duong came over to hang out. Frank Fu begged him to try a bite. At first, he refused because he had already eaten dinner, but after he finally caved and took a bite, he had to admit it was a delicious sandwich. He then ate half her sandwich. Sometimes, strumpets get played.
Third, the tragedy of Fool Frank Lucas: Earlier this week, Sir Scarlet’s good friend Fool Frank Lucas, who she had recently introduced to Battiste and Dupree, messaged her to ask what the number for the restaurant was. He admitted that he was going to get two sandwiches, one for tonight and one for the next day. Later that afternoon he had changed his online status to reflect the fact that he can’t stop thinking about the Po’boy he was going to have for dinner. When Sir Scarlet messaged him about it, he said that if the restaurant was open, he would leave work right then to go get the sandwiches. Fools always follow their nipple rings.
Finally, the temptation of Sheriff Frank Li: Frank Li was traveling to Philadelphiashire to visit a good friend. She had promised him an amazing Po’boy sandwich and had ordered one the night before. However, on the short hour and a half flight, she sat in her seat, thinking about the sandwich tucked away safely in her carry-on luggage. Even though she had eaten breakfast and wasn’t hungry, she couldn’t stop thinking about the sandwich. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore; she got her suitcase out and released the sandwich from its earthly confines. She ate it, and had to pretend she didn’t have time to get the sandwich before she left Cleveland. Never trust women around food.
The wizard behind these amazing sandwiches is Clarence Ennis Battiste. Jr. Owner, head chef, waiter, and bartender of Battiste and Dupree, Junior is what makes Battiste and Dupree so special. It’s not just because he is an excellent chef, whose food is on every level (flavor, complexity, presentation) amazing, but because he genuinely loves his food, his restaurant, and his customers. He takes orders himself, and if you ask him for recommendations, he will take the time to find the right dish for you. When I brought my brother, Squire Frank Pumpernickel there, Junior had somehow sized up what my brother was looking for and more or less told him what to order. My bother didn’t regret for a second going with Junior’s recommendation, even though halfway through his meal his nose was dripping and he was sweating from the heat (exactly how Junior said he would).
So what then is the king of sandwiches that I have been dreaming of, and which Junior has promised that his alchemy can create? It’s a Po’boy made with oysters. I used to eat them all the time when I lived down south, and I am convinced that an oyster Po’boy made by Junior could be the best sandwich I’ve ever had. The only issue is that it’s not on the menu. Fresh Gulf oysters are not really available in Cleveland. So I hatched a plan and got Junior to sign on. Next time I visit my family down south, I’m going to bring back fresh oysters, packed in ice for the 8 hour trip, straight to Battiste and Dupree. Then Junior will make me my Once and Future Sandwich, I will consume it, and, I hope, I will be sated. Then again, I’m not sure Morgause and her son Mordread were ever satisfied, even with Arthur’s destruction.
*In some older versions of this story, Scarlet does abandon her work rather than just thinking about it.