I’ve loved French Dip sandwiches since I was a kid, so when I was in Los Angeles, I knew I had to visit the home of the original French Dip. There was only one problem: Two different Los Angeles restaurants, Cole’s and Philippe’s, both claim to have invented the French Dip, way back in 1908.
In case you’re wondering what a French Dip sandwich is, it’s an LA original, traditionally made with roast beef on a French roll dipped in the beef drippings from the pan (the “au jus”) and served with a spicy mustard. (See how to make one yourself here.)
Luckily, the two restaurants aren’t far from each other, so I got to visit both.
Philippe’s is an old deli-style restaurant in Chinatown, with long tables and wood shavings on the floor. It was started by a Frenchman, Philippe, whose family still runs the place today. They claim that the sandwich was invented when Philippe was making a sandwich for a police officer. The bread fell into the pan drippings and the rushed police officer said he’d just take the sandwich as it was. He returned again the next day asking Frenchie to dip his sandwich et voila! The French Dip was created.
Cole’s, on the other hand, is an old-fashioned bar and restaurant that’s been authentically restored to its original glory. Cole’s version of events involves a customer with bad gums who dipped his bread in the “au jus” to soften the bread. Cole’s even has a plaque out front from the city of LA declaring them the creators of the French Dip.
I sampled both sandwiches, they were different and delicious. I don’t really care who invented it. They’re both worth a visit.
What: Philippe’s and Cole’s
Why Go: For the original French Dip, no matter which one you choose.
Where: Philippe’s is located at 1001 N. Alameda Street in LA’s Chinatown. Cole’s is located at 118 E. 6th Street in Downtown Los Angeles.
When: Visit Philippe’s any time from 6am to 10pm daily. Cole’s is open 11am to 10pm Sunday through Wednesday, 11am to 11pm Thursday, and 11am to 1am Friday at Saturday.
Fun Facts: For beverages, Philippe’s is still selling a cup of coffee for 45 cents! If you’re headed to Cole’s, they make a great Old Fashioned to go with your sandwich.
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