Friday, November 19, 2004
dinner from philippe's.
all photos by eddie david
what time is it? man, am i ever stuffed. we were just going to go to the chinatown farmer's market today, but it looked rather sparse (a little cold, a little dark), so we made a quick detour to the edge of chinatown and stopped at philippe the original, home of the french dip sandwich.
philippe's, established in 1908, is a no nonsense bit of culinary history that sits just down the street from the main post office and union station. the claim is that the first french dip sandwich was made here in 1918, a creation of the original owner, philippe mathieu, who was making a sandwich for a police officer, and accidentally dropped half of a french roll into the roasting pan dripping. the officer loved his sandwich so much, he came back the next day with friends and requested a "dipped" sandwich. thus, the "french dip" sandwich was born--so named because the owner was french, he used a french roll, and oh ho! the police officer was officer french.
whether or not this story is true, philippe's makes a darn fine sandwich, and makes a lot of them. you order at a long counter where you step up to one of the hard working serving ladies and place your order. you have a choice of beef, ham, turkey, pork, or lamb, which is thinly sliced and heaped onto a crusty french roll that is dipped in the roasting meat juices. i always ask for my sandwiches to be "double-dipped" (i forget if you have to specify getting a single dip) so that both halves of the roll are dipped in the rich dripping (various cheeses can be added for an extra charge). you wait for your order as the women prepare your sandwich in front of you (sort of--the counter is a glass display case filled with cold salads, pies, pickles, and pickled pig's feet, so you don't really see what's going on), place your money on the little plastic tray provided (leave a tip in the tray for the nice ladies), then sit down at one of the long communal tables in the dining area on the sawdust covered main floor, or if head on up to an upstairs dining room. besides the french dip, there's chili, stew or soup available, a tasty coleslaw, green, potato or macaroni salad, and various desserts. i like their apple pie or their ice cream which is made locally by balian, but during the winter months they also have baked apples which are so popular they are always sold out. i have never actually seen nor had one in my many years of going there (albeit it always at dinner time or later--philippe's is open for breakfast and lunch as well). they also makes their own mustard for the 'wiches which is so spicy hot it might strip paint, but definitely will clear your sinuses. this is a must mustard.
there's sodas, teas, and lemonade to drink, as well as a cup of decent coffee that is only 9 cents--a dime with tax. the price of coffee was 5 cents up until 1977, when it finally was raised to the current 10 cents. there's also beer on tap, and supposedly a decent selection of wine which you order by number. i always get the lemonade even though it probably comes from a mix. it tastes like a cross between and mix and the real stuff, which it might well be.
no matter, philippe's is the real thing all the way--a great piece of los angeles' past that thrives today, filled with reasonably priced tasty food, and very fine folk. i hope it stays around forever.
philippe the original
1001 n. alameda street
los angeles 90012