Chris G. | Feb 22, 200304:36 PM     3

Although still lamenting the demise of the eastern location of Uncle Darrow's, I decided to try Toye's Cajun-Creole Po Boys, the restaurant that replaced it in the same building. The new owners have spruced up the joint a bit, painting the concrete floor and fixing up the tables and chairs, but it still has much of the same vibe as when Uncle Darrow's occupied the place.

The cajun-inspired menu doesn't differ too much from Darrow's, but there are several notable exceptions. First, there are several beef and pork items on the menu such as roast beef po' boys (the signage on the roof proclaims "world famous roast beef"), pork andouille sausage (instead of the turkey andouille that Darrow's served), and hamburgers. The prices are also notably lower - the average price of a po' boy is $5.25 (for a 6-inch version, 12-inch sandwiches are available for an average $9.00 price), and a "small" gumbo is also $5.25. A few daily specials were also posted, which included boiled crawfish and a pulled pork sandwich. In addition to the "world famous roast beef" sign on the roof, the menu boasts "L.A.'s best po boys," a bold claim indeed considering Toye's replaced Uncle Darrow's and UD's still is operating their Marina Del Rey location across town.

I perused the menu but had my mind made up as far as what to order before I exited my car - a shrimp po' boy fully dressed and a bowl of gumbo. My gumbo and sandwich were ready in less than five minutes - much quicker than I used to get my orders from Darrow's. Like Darrow's, my sandwich was made fresh to order, and the gumbo was simply ladled into a bowl.

The portion of gumbo is very generous for $5.25. It's served in a plastic bowl that's the size of an average cereal bowl - much larger than the small cup that Darrow's served as a small portion. My gumbo was laden with an ample helping of (in order of abundance) andouille sausage, shrimp, crab (in the shell) and chicken (including bones). The reddish-brown stock/roux is ladled over a scoop of rice, which soaks up the stock nicely. The stock was bursting with the flavors of various spices, most notably cayenne pepper, but a little thin and soupy. Still it is a very satisfying gumbo, although the gumbo at Stevie's is still my favorite. I compares very favorably to the gumbo Darrow's serves, although I give Toye's a few extra marks for the authentic pork flavor of the andouille and the generous helping. Plus, I had none of that MSG "dry mouth" I sometimes get from eating gumbo (like at the Gumbo Pot).

My first impression of the shrimp po' boy was not as good. Unlike the Darrow's po' boy, which is carefully wrapped in butcher paper and sliced in half to proudly display its contents, Toye's po' boy was wrapped up like a pair of socks that a kid is giving his dad for Christmas. After unraveling the paper, I was underwhelmed to see nothing but bun (where's the beef - uh, shrimp?). Prying the bun open, I saw six medium-sized shrimp coated in cornmeal, some white-colored chunks of iceberg lettuce, three pickles, some mayo, and one tiny slice of tomato. While it didn't look as good as Darrow's po' boy, it did look authentic, similar to the po' boys I've enjoyed at Johnny's in New Orleans. I noticed that you could also order your po' boy dressed with butter and hot sauce - a nice N'awlins touch.

While the sandwich didn't look too impressive, it tasted very good. The bread was perfect - a nice crispy, flaky crust outside and light and airy inside. To me, nothing ruins a po' boy more than overly chewy bread, and Toye's roll was authentic and perfect. The shrimp was fresh and firm with a nice crunch as you bit into them. The lettuce didn't do much for me, but it was nicely crispy. Doused with a few shots of Red Rooster hot sauce, the sandwich was very tasty and very authentic, although I have to say it comes a close second to the po' boys at Darrow's. The 6-inch sandwich isn't quite as big as the po' boy at Darrow's either, so you should probably order the large if you want to make a meal of it. To me, the difference is in the details - Darrow's uses better lettuce, the cornmeal has that something extra (curry?) in the flavor dept., and the overall package is more lovingly prepared and better presented.

Toye's is an acceptable replacement for Darrow's, and adds an extra choice for good cajun-creole food here in L.A. since Darrow's still exists on the westside. The staff are very friendly and proud of their food, and I wish them good luck in their venture.

Toye's Cajun-Creole Po Boys
5301 W. Venice Blvd. (1-1/2 blocks west of La Brea)

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