RECIPE | Celebrate Norfolk Harborfest with an Oyster Po’ Boy Picnic

Fried Oyster Po’ Boy photo: 

By Patrick Evans-Hylton 

Although the 45th Annual Norfolk Harborfest: Music, Food & Maritime Festival has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, the iconic festival will live in spirit this year through a series of digital content throughout the June 11-13 weekend. For more on Norfolk Festevents, visit 

Celebrate the rich history of region by enjoying a picnic, perhaps at one of the Festevents venues: Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk or Ocean View Beach Park in Norfolk’s Ocean View neighborhood. 

Our perfect picnic menu includes: crackers, grapes, and Virginia cheese (from Virginia Cheese Company in Norfolk,; our Fried Oyster Po’Boy Sandwich with Collard and Cabbage Slaw and Homemade Tartar Sauce (recipe below); and a sweet treat from Cafe Stella in Norfolk, 

Keep in mind that Town Point Park and Ocean View Beach Park, as well as most public parks, do not allow alcohol, so check the rules before you head out. Enjoy your picnic with my Luscious Lemonade (recipe below), iced tea, or other favorite non-adult beverage. 

Here are some  other picnic tips and tricks to keep in mind:

+ Keep the picnic simple and uncomplicated. Don’t plan an overambitious menu; you should enjoy the event as much as your guests. 

+ Plan how much food you’ll need ahead of time to avoid having to repack a lot of leftovers. 

+ Keep hot food hot and cool food cool; don’t take a chance with food-borne illnesses and invest in a cooler for each to keep your dishes at the proper temperature until you are ready to eat.

+ Don’t forget everything you will need for the picnic: plates, bowls, cups, flatware, napkins, wet wipes and a garbage bag to tidy up after your meal. Scope out your location ahead to time to see if you might need a blanket, chairs, or a small table.

+ Other basic needs: bug spray, sunglasses, and sun screen.



With Collard and Cabbage Slaw

and Homemade Tartar Sauce

Oysters are found all along coastal Virginia, including seaside marshes and inlets, and the creeks and tributaries that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. In this popular sandwich, fresh oysters are dredged in a bit of flour and cornmeal and fried, then served Low Country-style in a baguette stuffed with a slaw of collards and cabbage and dressed with a creamy, tart tartar sauce.

This recipe comes from my book, “Dishing Up Virginia,” available wherever books are sold.

Sauce Ingredients

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped bread and butter pickles 

1-1/2 teaspoons 

1/2 minced sweet onion, such as Vidalia

1-1/2 teaspoons 

1/2 fresh lemon juice (half a lemon)

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch garlic powder

Freshly ground black pepper

Red pepper flakes

Slaw Ingredients

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small head green cabbage, shredded

6 collard greens, stemmed and thinly sliced

1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated 

1/2 small onion, coarsely grated

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped 

Oysters Ingredients 

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

24 large Virginia oysters, shucked

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2-3 tablespoons butter 

Large French baguette, halved and toasted


Make the sauce. Mix the mayonnaise, pickles, onion, lemon juice, salt, and a pinch of the garlic powder, black pepper, and pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Make the slaw. Whisk the vinegar, sugar, oil, salt, celery seed, mustard, and black pepper together in a large bowl. Add the cabbage, collard greens, carrot, onion, and parsley, and toss to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Re-toss the slaw before serving.

Make the oysters. Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, black pepper, and cayenne together in a shallow pan. Dredge the oysters, one at a time, in the mixture and place them on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet to rest for 5 minutes before cooking.

Heat oil and butter in a skillet on high heat until very hot, then add the oysters, allowing separation between each so they brown and do not steam. Saute for about 30 seconds, turn, and sauté for an additional 30 seconds or more until coating is golden brown.  Remove oysters to a paper towel-lined plate to drain slightly and cool. 

Assemble the sandwich. Spoon the slaw into the baguette and top with the oysters. Put the tartar sauce in a small container to add later to prevent sandwiches from becoming soggy.  Slice the baguette into four sandwiches, and  wrap in wax paper and put in a cooler with the tartar sauce and  ice packs for transport to the picnic.

Note. There is usually some left over, although not much, so yes, both the tartar sauce and slaw would refrigerate for 3-4 days for another use. 

Makes 4 sandwiches


With Spiking Options

A delicious, refreshing drink perfect for a picnic that can also be spiked if you are staying close to home. The key is to use quality ingredients and thoroughly chill the lemonade before enjoying.

This recipe, titled “Teetotaler Lemonade”  comes from my book, “Virginia Distilled: Four Centuries of Drinking in the Old Dominion.” The book will be released in Autumn, 2021; for more information including recipes visit 


Honey Syrup Ingredients

1 cup honey

1 cup water

Lemonade Ingredients

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2-3 cups cold water

Lemon wedges

Mint sprigs

Rum, vodka or whiskey optional


Make the honey syrup. In a small saucepan add honey and water and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce to a simmer and stir frequently until honey has dissolved. Remove from stove and cool. Add to a sealable glass jar and refrigerate until use, up to 1 month.

Make the lemonade. In a large pitcher, add the simple syrup, lemon juice and two cups of cold water and stir. Taste; add up to one more cup of water if you wish, but know that the added ice will also dilute the beverage. Refrigerate 45 minutes until chilled. Serve with ice, garnished with a lemon slice and sprig of mint.

Make it not so innocent. If you are enjoying your picnic in your backyard or at the home of family or friends, you can spike your lemonade by add ing1 to 2 ounces of Virginia rum, vodka, or whiskey to the iced glass before pouring in the lemonade. Once lemonade is added, stir and garnish.

To transport: pour chilled lemonade in an insulated thermos container.

Note: consider making a few trays of ice cubes from prepared lemonade and pack in the cooler so your drink does not become diluted. 

Makes 4-6 servings


Patrick Evans-Hylton is Norfolk Festevents’ culinary advisor, a Johnson & Wales-trained chef and an award-winning food journalist covering tasty trends since 1995 in print, broadcast and electronic media. He is publisher of 

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