While I was down in Los Angeles for the PopSugar Tech Party, I couldn't pass up a trip to Phillipe the Original, the downtown LA institution that invented the French Dip. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Phillipe's (as it's known to locals) offers everything you'd want from a historic restaurant, including old-timey signage, 10-cent coffee, and a sandwich whose construction has been honed over decades to perfection.
Typically, a French Dip sandwich involves hot roast beef served on a French roll with a side of au jus, a gravy whose name amusingly translates to "with juice." But don't expect a dipping bowl at Philippe's; what makes its legendary version oh-so-tasty is that the au jus is built right into the bun. For a firsthand account of my Philippe's adventure,
Originally, Philippe's served three kinds of French Dip: beef, lamb, and pork; in the 1980s, the restaurant added turkey to appease the health conscious. The first time I went to Philippe's, I tried the turkey, but I felt like I was missing out, so this time I got the pork sandwich, "double dipped," with both sides of the roll gently submerged in juice.
The Philippe French Dip is divine in its simplicity. In the words of general manager Richard Binder: "It's no secret. It's meat. It's bread." Of course, it's also the au jus, of which Philippe's makes three enormous batches a day. Each batch of stock uses 50 pounds of bones and a potpourri of veggies, plus drippings from the pans that roast nearly 1,000 pounds of meat every day.
Philippe's high volume and time-intensive preparation makes its sandwiches difficult to re-create at home. The pork is so tenderly roasted that it gives just right when you bite into it, and the juice — rich with hours of flavor — provides a yummy transition between the soft, warm roll and the meat. I'm sure cheese would be good too, but I just flavored mine with a bit of Philippe's hot housemade brown mustard. Remarkably, despite being incredibly moist, the Phillipe's French Dip isn't messy, because the ingredients cooperate with each other so well. Neat, simple, and delicious.
Have you been? Tell us about your Phillipe's adventure in the comments!