A Historic Los Angeles Eatery: Philippe, The Original

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, so I am sure many Americans are looking forward to football, funny commercials, and good food.  Honestly, I am not into the big game, and every news outlet has already spoiled most of the anticipated commercials by airing them already, but pictures of mouth-watering super bowl recipes on Pinterest had me reaching for my crock-pot this morning.  So what’s cooking?  One of my favorites since my college days at LSU.   French Dip Sandwiches courtesy of the recipe from Simply Scratch.

Philippe, The Original:  Home of the French Dip Sandwich

Philippe, The Original: Home of the French Dip Sandwich

I fell in love with the French roll dipped in the juices of the roast – au jus back in the early 90′s at Brew-Bacher’s Grill on Nicholson Drive in Baton Rouge.  Since this delicious sandwich has been a favorite of mine for 20 years, I made it a priority to visit the home of the French Dip Sandwich this past summer when I was in Los Angeles.  Philippe, The Original is a historic landmark and is one of the oldest and best-known restaurants in Southern California.

In 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, (who claimed to have created the “French Dipped Sandwich.”) established. Philippe’s.  One day in 1918, while making a sandwich, Philippe accidentally dropped the sliced french roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. One of the customers who was a policeman said he wanted the sandwich and returned the next day with some buddies asking for more dipped sandwiches. The “French Dipped Sandwich” was born.  No one knows if the famous sandwich got its name because of  Philippe’s French heritage, the French roll or because the officer’s name was French.  Although the answer is lost to history, one fact is undisputed; the French Dip Sandwich did not come from France, it was created in Los Angeles at Philippe’s.

When my son and I walked into Philippe’s, there was a nostalgic feeling.  The restaurant remains in a time warp with the original communal tables and stools, sawdust on the floors and a hand-painted menu board.  We were a little confused when we entered the restaurant because it was so crowded and lines weaved between the tables.  We jumped in the middle line (it was moving the fastest because it split into two at the pillar) in front of the long deli-display counter where one of the “carvers” waited to take our order.  Philippe’s is cash only, so the lines moved fairly quickly.  One money exchange tip, so you don’t look like a first timer is don’t hand your money to the carver. Place your money on the small tray, and the carver will take it to the cashier and return your change.  Never touching your cash is a nod to the early idea of food sanitation.

The crowd waiting to place their order - June 23, 3013

The crowd waiting to place their order – June 23, 2013

The crowd waiting to place their order back in the day.  Photo Credit:  Philippe's FB page.

The mass group of people is waiting to place their order back in the day. Photo Credit: Philippe’s FB page.

Once we had our sandwiches on our trays, we took a seat at one of the crowded communal tables next to a row of telephone booths and watched little kids run back in forth to play and pretend they were taking an important phone call in the early 1900s.  As we savored every bite of our French Dipped Sandwiches, we also noticed an old scale.  Apparently, for the price of a dime customers can weigh in- before and after a meal.

Philippe's French Dip Sandwich

Philippe’s French Dip Sandwich

Kids playing in the line of historic phone booths.

Kids are playing in the line of old phone booths.

I love a story, and I am always telling my son that everything and everyone has their own, which is why I love history.  Eating at Philippe, The Original allowed us to connect with the past of one of LA’s oldest restaurants by enjoying a sandwich with its own story.  It is kind of cool to think that we took a seat over the same sawdust-covered floors and savored over juicy roast beef on a french roll just like patrons for the last hundred years did before us.

We have enjoyed a few other American originals like Buffalo Wings at the Anchor Bar and a Hotdog from Nathan’s at Coney Island.

Home of Buffalo Wings

Home of Buffalo Wings

Nathan's in Coney Island:  Home of the Hot Dog

Nathan’s in Coney Island: Home of the Hot Dog

Where have you traveled to eat an “original”?

Speak Your Mind