The French dip sandwich is so simple — bread and meat. No caramlized onions, no mayo, no tomatoes or lettuce. With such a simple sandwich, people are making a fuss about who made it first. But who made it first? Cole’s or Philippe’s? That is the debate. Well, we do know that the French dip, or the beef dip started in Los Angeles. Here is the story about Phillipe’s. Philippe The Original opened in 1908. In 1918, Philippe Mathieu accidentally dropped the beef sandwich in the roasting pan filled with au jus. The patron who ordered it, a policeman, took it anyways, and returned the next day with more people. We don’t know if the name originated from the officer, whose name was French, or the fact that they used French bread. Either way, the French Dip was born, and the rest is history.
It’s cool to have such a historical restaurant in Los Angeles. Stepping inside the place, you get a sense of that history. The floors are scattered with wood chips — A hamster cage comes to mind. Lines stretch to the back of the restaurant, mingling amongst the diners. You order your food, pay with cash, and they give you your food. It’s simple, though in my opinion, a very inefficient process. At the end of it all, you get your food, and you find a seat. Simple.
I opted for the original beef sandwich and lamb. The sandwiches are very simple and delicious. The beef is by far my favorite. Though the lamb was juicy and flavorful, I could not get over the gamey flavor. I like lamb, but theirs was much too gamey. The beef had a nice rich flavor and wasn’t dry. It was just a nice beefy sandwich, and not too salty. The bread soaked in the pan drippings, it was gushing with juice.
Philippe’s is also known for their mustard — Hot Mustard. You should use this condiment sparingly. It’s not that its spicy, but more of a wasabi/horse radish burn. You can easily singe off nose hairs with this stuff. With each taste, you feel a tingling sensation, and your world turns upside town. You can easily eat too much of it and want to pull your hair out. Once the feeling goes away, you are at ease. Then, you go back at it with the sauce. It is punishing, but so addicting. It goes very well with the meat, but use only a little — it can overpower the taste of whatever you put it on.
Washing it down with their drinks was perfect — 80 cents lemonade, 70 cents iced tea. They even have teas, coffee, and other drinks for just a few cents. They try to keep the low prices like they did in the olden days.
In today’s fast paced lifestyles and technology, it was nice to step into something a little slower. Yes, the lines are long, and they do move slow at times, but that is half the point. Eating virtually the same thing they ate almost 100 years ago is very special to me. Los Angeles is a young city compared to the nation. There aren’t many historical eateries that are still in tact. Philippe’s is one of them, and will be around for quite some time, forever even. Next stop — Cole’s.