Grilled Cajun Chicken Po-boys with Comeback Sauce

Cultural Classics

The po-boy is another southern classic food icon born out of generosity and comes from New Orleans. There are so many wonderful foods from all over the south, many from here in Mobile but of late, I have been obsessed with the foods from the Big Easy. This one however, blends a trio of things I like from the south: Grilled chicken marinaded in Cajun spices, Mobile’s Comeback Sauce and New Orleans Po-boys.

Martin Bros in the French Quarter, 1920's
streetcar burning on Canal St, 1929
First, a little history of the poor boy sandwich for those interested. Bennie and Clovis Martin left their Raceland, Louisiana, home in the Acadiana region in the mid-1910s for New Orleans.
Both worked as streetcar conductors until they opened Martin Brothers' Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market in 1922. In early July, 1929, transit strikes throughout the nation provoked emotional displays of public support, and the 1929 strike ranks among the nation's most violent. New Orleans was no exception when on July 5th, career criminals hired and brought in from New York by the streetcar company attempted to start back the run, brickbats and jeering crowds stopped them. The transit system came to a halt and was shut down for two weeks. During the strike, the Martin boys promised “Our meal is free to any members of Division 194. We are with you till hell freezes, and when it does, we will furnish blankets to keep you warm." They made sandwiches from loaves of special made French bread and handed them out. "We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, 'Here comes another poor boy.'" - Bennie Martin

photo of Martin's po-boy, 1932
Nowadays, po-boys are loaded with endless variety of fillings like shrimp, oyster, catfish, crawfish, alligator, soft-shell crabs, as well as spicy French fries, hot roast beef and gravy, grilled onions and veggies, ham and cheese - just to name a few. The one I make today is as satisfying as any and is a great way to enjoy this tasty grilled chicken wrapped in a loaf of history.

Comeback Sauce is very popular around the south and is credited to The Rotisserie, a Greek restaurant that was located in Jackson, Ms. Now everyone has their own version including folks around Mobile Bay. We use it on just about everything, especially seafood. It is good as a condiment this way too in dressing the chicken po-boys with a delectable creamy sauce. Try it, once you do, you'll come back....... Enjoy!

Grilled Cajun Chicken Po-boys with Comeback Sauce
makes 4 sandwiches

for the po-boys:
Po-boy loaves or French bread
Comeback Sauce
Grilled Cajun Chicken
Slices of swiss or muenster cheese
Lettuce leaves
Tomato slices
Thin slices of sweet onion
Pickles of choice

Mobile's Comeback Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup chili sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon grated onion
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
Tabasco to taste
Combine all ingredients in a container, seal and refrigerate until needed. This is better if made a day ahead.
Note: You can replace the anchovy paste with a paste of, in order of quantity, pressed garlic, black pepper, salt, dry mustard, paprika and olive oil for a varying flavor.

Grilled Cajun Chicken
3 large boneless chicken breast, each cut horizontally into three thin slices.

for the marinade:
1 small white onion, chopped
2 bay leaves, torn
3 garlic toes, minced
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1 celery rib, chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in glass bowl and cook in the microwave for 1 minute on full power to quickly intensify marinade. Add 2 or 3 ice cubes to cool and to add water. Stir to melt ice. Pour into a sealable bag. Add the chicken, seal removing all the air and distribute marinade evenly among the chicken piece. Refrigerate about 2 hours ( you can marinate whole chicken breast up to 4 hours).

for the spice mop:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
dash of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/3 cup water

Place all ingredients for the spice mop in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside about 2 tablespoons of sauce in a small container.

Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade.

Prepare grill. Set gas grill between 375 - 400 degrees F or have charcoals on barbecue grill for medium-high heat. Oil grates. Place chicken pieces directly over heat source and immediately mop generously with the spice sauce. Grill for about 5 minutes and turn chicken over mopping a second time. Cook another two minutes or until chicken juices run clear. Remove to a warm plate and sprinkle with the reserved two tablespoons of the spice mop. Cover with foil and keep warm but not in a hot oven.

Prepare po-boys by spreading the bread with a thin coat of butter. Place on the hot grill to toast and remove when light brown.

When ready to serve, cut the chicken into strips. Slather the bottom of the bread liberally with the Comeback Sauce. Pile chicken on the bottom bun generously. Lay on slices of cheese, run under the broiler if desired, add lettuce leaves, pickles, tomato slices and sweet onion slices if desired. Fold and enjoy...


  1. Loving the history and photos :) Thanks for sharing the directions and ingredients!

  2. Thank you for the history and pictures. Always love learning the history of food. The comeback sauce is awesome, thanks for sharing.
    have a great week!

  3. Delicious! Just the way po-boy should be, stuffed and messy!!! Love this sauce!

  4. Drick, I found that history to be very interesting. I did not know all that. As always, your recipes are da bomb! I actually have a file for fellow foodie’s recipes and yours are always in the mix! But I don’t know if anything will beat that creamy seafood dish.

  5. I just love recipes with stories and histories!! This is about the best post I have read all day!

  6. What a great story! And your poy-boy is perfect...fantastic post! And love the sauce as well as the marinade, excellence! :)

  7. I am having so much fun reading your blog these days. I just love the history lessons. The photo of the Martin's sandwich just - well, brings an awe of how rich our history of caring is.

    Great post. :)

  8. That was so much fun to read. I have always wondered at the different names for sub-like sandwiches. I am really liking the sound of the come back sauce. It would sure have me coming back for more!!

    We seem to be settling in pretty well. I have figured out where 'most everything is and the kids are starting to make friends. School starts soon, so that will definitely help everyone...including me! Thanks for your kind words and support.

  9. Love the history and this sandwich is out of this world. Kudos to you Drick!!!!!!

  10. I love a po-boy sandwich! Yum, yum. My favorite is fried oysters but I'm willing to give this grilled chicken a try, too. The best part of any po-boy...the comeback sauce!!

  11. nice job on this everyone would love to have this on their table especially me love your cajun food!

  12. What an awesome poboy! Love the sauce, and will definitely be trying it and this wonderful grilled chicken. You can grill meat better than anyone I've ever known! Love that spice mop, too!

  13. What a wonderful sandwich. Thank you for sharing the history too. I enjoy reading stories about food. I don't think it's a surprise there :)


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