Philippe’s: French Dip Sandwiches and Sawdust Covered Floors

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Philippe's is an iconic century-old Chinatown sandwich destination.

Philippe’s dates to 1908, when original owner Philippe Mathieu set up shop downtown. Along with nearby Cole’s P.E. Buffet, Philippe’s is credited with inventing the French dip sandwich. Even if Cole’s came first, Philippe’s is superior on every level, from the sandwiches to the décor, so our choice for dinner was easy.

Restaurant Los Angeles

Free-form lines emanate from the counter, which can make ordering a challenge. Somehow, getting food is a fairly quick process.

Restaurant Los Angeles

Is that a telephone booth? I didn’t know they existed anymore. These days, a phone booth sighting is about as common as a talking marlin. So is sawdust on the floors, another bygone touch.

Eggs Los Angeles

You know a place is old-school when they keep jars of pickled eggs on the counter. Since they’re such a novelty, I had to order an egg for olde time’s sake. Notice the spelling. O-L-D-E. That’s how they spelled the word when pickled eggs were still fashionable.

Pie Los Angeles

Philippe’s doesn’t skimp on salesmanship. Who can resist a display case full of pies when ordering?

There are beef, pork, lamb, ham and oven-roasted turkey versions of Philippe’s French dip sandwich, “served on a freshly baked French roll & either single-dipped or double-dipped in au jus.” A double-dipping would make the roll too soggy. As it is, a single-dipping soaks the bread pretty good. No matter the filling, by all means add a pickled egg ($0.70).

Sandwich Los Angeles

Lamb French dip ($6.25) overflowed with chunks of juicy sheep meat.

Sandwich Los Angeles

The beef French dip ($5.15) was a bit less dynamic, holding thin slices that were a tad dry.

Mustard Los Angeles

Each table holds a jar of Philippe’s signature spicy mustard, whose smell is powerful enough to sear nostrils.

Side Dishes Los Angeles

Philippe’s offers high-level versions of potato salad and macaroni salad ($1 apiece).

Side Dish Los Angeles

The cole slaw ($1) was simple, but well-prepared.

Desserts Los Angeles

We each ordered desserts. Clockwise from top left: coconut cream pie ($2.90), blueberry pie ($2.90), vanilla cheesecake ($2.30) and baked apple ($1.90). Blueberry pie featured a flaky crust and sweet berries. I never got a bite of the coconut cream pie or cheesecake, so they must have been good.

Baked apple was my boneheaded selection, available October thru June, and soaked in cinnamon and sugar, so actually tasted good, but since everybody else ordered pie or cheesecake, I clearly fell short.

I forgot to get a cup of Apffels Coffee, only nine cents, but I left with few regrets. It had been a couple years since my last visit to Philippe’s. After being reminded of the restaurant’s charming décor, astounding value and tasty French dip sandwiches, I’ll be back before Philippe’s hits the century mark next year.

Philippe’s: French Dip Sandwiches and Sawdust Covered Floors


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Absolutely the best sandwich in L.A. — and there’s not a close second. The review said the meat was a little dry. Ask them to “double dip” the sandwich, that moistens it up and adds to the flavor. And if you like cheesecake, Philippe’s has the cheesecake by which all cheesecakes should be measured.

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