“It tastes of the sea,” chef/partner Chris Audler says emphatically, a small lingering disbelief entering his voice. “I was shocked at how similar the taste of raw kelp was to a fresh oyster. I immediately thought, ‘What do we do down here with oysters? We fry them up and put them on a po’ boy.’ That’s really how this sandwich came to life.”
The kelp po’ boy is a hot seller at the newly reopened Seed––an entirely plant-based restaurant, appealing to vegans, certainly, but delighting meat lovers too. Seed originally opened in 2014 as one of the first vegan restaurants in New Orleans. In August 2019, the team behind the city’s beloved District Donut franchise was offered the option to buy it. Audler says they jumped at the chance, eager for the challenge of updating the plant-based menu. The new space opened in January, and offers breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner, a cocktail bar focused on vegan drinks, and that talked-about sandwich. “I think the fact that we fry the kelp helps to sell it,” Audler says with a laugh, “but it was really an instant favorite.”
The curiously crave-able sandwich starts with strips of frozen kelp Andler sources from Atlantic Sea Farms, a commercial seaweed farm up in Maine. “There’s an extra step you have to take in frying up kelp,” he says. “Kelp is full of minerals. It’s a high source of protein, and it cleans the water. It’s a sustainable, amazing plant. Because of the chewy, slippery consistency raw, though, you need to wet-wash it in something first. We are entirely plant-based at Seed, so we use a mix of water, mustard, and egg-free mayo. Then we dredge it in a cornmeal mixture with herbs and spices before frying—the same recipe I use on oysters.”
The hefty sandwich comes dressed with Audler’s signature “metchup”—a combination of eggless mayo and organic ketchup—as well as a handful of bread-and-butter pickle slices, also made in-house. The finished product must be smashed into submission before attempting a bite—as any good po’ boy should. There’s a moment of brine and the sea; an umami reminiscent of nori. The vinegary tang of Southern-style pickles added to a Thousand-Island-ish combo of mayo and ketchup sparks a certain Big-Mac nostalgia.
However, one ingredient stays iconic; Leidenheimer Baking Company delivers Seed’s French baguettes daily. “That’s the gold standard in po’ boy bread. They’ve been in business for more than 100 years,’ Audler says. “Some things, you just don’t mess with.”