A long, long time ago, some friend of mine told me of Cole’s (click this link only if you want to see how awesomely bad my writing was in 2008). At the time, they were having a 100th anniversary/reopening party and dishing out French Dips for 100 cents. They also claimed to be the “originator of the French Dip,” which is no small claim. Shortly after, however, I learned that this claim might not be true. As is often the case with something wildly successful, more than one entity claims to be first (ever see The Social Network?). It seemed that Philippe the Original felt they were the…achem…original and I was inclined to decide for myself.
It may have taken me a while to make it there, but it was unquestionably necessary. I rapidly deduced that Philippe’s had been around just as long as Cole’s, but like the rest of the world could not figure out which sandwich came first. I can, however, tell you that both places have an old-timey feel with Philippe’s adding sawdust to the floor to drive the point home. Philippe’s also had two delicious-looking options that were not at Cole’s when I went. The first was lamb and the second was blue cheese. I combined these two for my sandwich and watched as the woman behind the counter combined the pre-sorted ingredients and dipped my sandwich in meat juice.
Yeah, you read that right. At both Cole’s and Philippe’s, the dipping is done behind the scenes as opposed to by the eater. It’s a special touch and one I certainly appreciate. Something I also appreciated was the sandwich itself. There was no concern about getting something too dry, and the flavor combination of lamb and blue cheese was truly fantastic.
While the passage of time and difference of sandwich choices make it difficult to form any sort of concrete opinion about whether Cole’s or Philippe’s is better, I can definitely say that I am glad to have eaten both. I may never understand why the French Dip originated in LA or how it got its name, but I am glad that it exists and is alive and kicking after more than 100 years.