6215 Wilson St
Harahan, LA 70123
Napoleon's Rating: ***/*****
Koz's might feel familiar to some locals, even if that feel doesn't quite look just right. That's because Koz's continues the story of a long-time Gentilly po-boy joint, the Bakery, which never reopened after Hurricane Katrina. But the same menu and many of the same people associated with the Bakery are now found under the roof of these two related restaurants, which first appeared in Harahan not long after Katrina and later expanded to Lakeview.
Clean, open, casual, a little loud and always friendly, each location has the fundamentals of a respectable po-boy joint down pat.
Both Koz's sites are counter-service joints that turn out meals quickly though efficiency doesn't get in the way of quality. I always feel well looked-after at these restaurants.
Koz's is a place for sides, not appetizers, and the side of choice is usually fries or onion rings. The kitchen will rev things up with chili cheese fries, which is so large and filling an undertaking it needs to be split or considered a meal in its own right. The baked macaroni is old school and good. The gumbo is not remarkable but for some a cup of it is the necessary prelude to any Koz's po-boy.
Koz's handles all the usual po-boys well, but also adds a few of its own entries to the roster. First and most importantly is the BBQ ham. This is the essential Koz's po-boy. It's like a ham version of New Orleans-style roast beef debris, with the meat broken down into bits and slivers bathed in a thin pork gravy. Ladled into a po-boy loaf it hits all the right buttons - smoky, meaty, salty and slightly sweet.
Another unusual choice is called the "Chamber of Horror," which basically combines half the kitchen's ingredients in one loaf. There's turkey, ham and roast beef, but also a couple different cheeses, mustard and even Italian salad dressing. It's a bit of a mess and probably not for everyone.
The bread itself is a little softer than the crackling-crisp loaves used around town, and this gives these po-boys another. The whole loaf po-boy has been a long-time specialty here. These are works of art and great bargains too. They can feed at least three people (four if you're watching it, two if you really want to feast).
The muffuletta here is solid. The meats are cut thin, stacked thick and covered with a very good, chunky olive salad. In addition to sandwiches, there's a list of plate lunches and similar daily specials. It's hard to come here without ordering a po-boy, but the chicken fried steak with its thick, brown gravy is a good change of pace any day while Friday's shrimp Creole special is a satisfying old-fashioned version.
Bread pudding, of course, is the top dessert item, made with the kitchen's leftover loaves. The peach cobbler makes a nice change of pace.
Self-serve fountain drinks are the name of the game.
Koz's is a good bargain. It's getting harder to find a big po-boy for less than $10 but this place still keeps most of its versions under that threshold. The foot-long seafood po-boys creep over that line but they're well worth it. The whole loaf po-boys, as noted, are great bargains if shared among a few people who agree on the sandwich. Most of the daily specials and dinners land under $8. Two people can do some serious damage here for $25 or $30.
Anyone who fears that perhaps the po-boy will fall from prominence in New Orleans in the face of national chain sub shops and such can take heart after a visit to Koz's. Here are a pair of family-run restaurants carrying on not only the traditions of New Orleans favorite sandwiches but making sure that some of the quirks of a beloved place from the old days persist. Koz's serves classic po-boys in classic settings and shows how both can be replicated and expanded by people who care about these things.