14 April 2008

LA Fast Food Tour: Philippe The Original

Philippe's, Home of the French Dip Sandwich. It's unique in Los Angeles, a place where patrons share tables with strangers and make use of any available seat. In business for over 90 years, it clings to its original ambiance with sawdust on the floor, servers that keep the food line moving, and vintage photos and newspaper clippings that proclaim:

"...one of the best food bargains in town." The New York Times Magazine, MacDonald Harris, March 1990

"...the best french dip we've ever had." The Food Paper, Fall 1991

"Best reason to go downtown" "...a landmark among landmarks." Los Angeles Magazine, The Best of L.A., November 1990

In addition to Philippe's specialty -- beef, ham, pork and lamb french dip sandwiches, -- the menu includes several other sandwiches; soup and stews; salads; and more esoteric items such as pickled beets and pickled pigs feet, and hard boiled eggs. You can buy a jar of their special hot mustard to carry Philippe's home with you. They even have a wine list. [What kind of wine goes with pickled pigs feet?] And there's one other trademark item on Philippe's menu: a 10-cent cup of coffee.

Check out Philippe's website for a look back at Philippe's history through vintage photos, including the train that jumped the track and nearly took a shortcut through the restaurant's front door. Quoting from the website:

Philippe The Original is one of the oldest and best known restaurants in Southern California. Philippe's was established in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, who claimed the distinction of having created the "French Dipped Sandwich." One day in 1918, while making a sandwich, Mathieu inadvertently dropped the sliced french roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. The patron, a policeman, said he would take the sandwich anyway and returned the next day with some friends asking for more dipped sandwiches. And so was born the "French Dipped Sandwich," so called either because of Mathieu's French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on or because the officer's name was French. The answer is lost to history.

Philippe's is located a block from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and from Olvera Street. Here are Mapquest directions from the Marriott. It will take about 20 minutes to go to Philippe's from the Marriott in non-rush hour traffic.

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