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May 13, 2007 12:58 PM

Are there any really great French Dips anymore???

I am longing for a truly fabulous French/Beef dip sandwich and have had a really hard time tracking one down. I don't like it with grilled onions or cheese, I want just tender meat and a rich but not insanely salty broth to dip it in....if there are great fries involved I'd be willing to drive just about anywhere. (I've done Philippe's a bunch so anything other than that)

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  1. Bandera in West LA has an outstanding French dip, I think it is the best in Los Angeles. They make it with their prime rib. Try it and you will be hooked. Houston's is good too, but have always noticed the Bandera FD meat is more tender and bread is softer

    11 Replies
    1. re: Ernie

      Bandera does have an exellent prime rib dip. The only thing I will say is that Houston's is equally good to me, as bread softness isn't an issue since I am dipping it into the au jus, thereby taking care of any bread hardness factor.

      1. re: tony michaels

        I'll third Houston's--with the caveat that it AIN'T CHEAP. but their french dip's definitely my favorite so far, way past Philippe's or Cole's.

      2. re: Ernie

        Me personally, I think Houston's French dip is WAAAY overpriced. It's a good sandwich, but it's just not all that IMHO. The meat is indeed tender, however, and the sandwich is nothing but sliced prime rib on a French roll without any "pesky" onions or cheese. IIRC, the au jus was fairly mild, not salty at all. So, although it wasn't all that for me, it might be just what you're looking for. It comes with Houston's traditional shoestring cut fries, which I always enjoy. Be prepared to fork over at least $18 for this dish, not including tax or gratuity.

        1. re: Ernie

          The reason for the similarity may be that Houston's and Bandera are owned by the same company, Hillstone Restaurant Group.

          They also own Gulfstream, among others.

          1. re: Barbara Ladden

            Yes, and the only Hillstone restaurant in California I have not been to yet is Los Altos Grill.

          2. re: Ernie

            They use the same meat, cooked the same way and the bread is baked at bandera and delivered fresh to houstons everyday.

            1. re: Mr. S

              They may use similar ingredients, but the execution at Bandera is definitely superior. The bread is better and softer and the meat is always meltingly tender. I can't say the same for the FD consistency at Houstons where I have had overcooked meat and harder, breadier rolls. I also like the skinnier fries at Bandera vs. Houstons too.

              1. re: Ernie

                The last time we were at Houston's I had fish, but the fries are identical as far as I can tell. They would need a DNA test to tell them apart.

                1. re: tony michaels

                  Sorry, they are not identical. The fries at Bandera are thinner. Try it and see.

                  1. re: Ernie

                    We go to Bandera every other week and over the years we have been to Houston's in the 100 + range. Identical.

                    1. re: tony michaels

                      We also regularly go to Bandera (both Brentwood and Corona Del Mar locations) and Houston's (Manhattan Beach, Century City, Santa Monica, Pasadena) We have also tried most of the other Hillstone Group restaurants in California, i.e., Cafe R&D, Gulfstream (Newport Beach and Century City), and Rutherford Grill in Napa Valley. Bandera and Gulfstream are consistently the thinnest and best we have had so far.

          3. The Beef Brisket Dip at Juniors Deli on Westwood Blvd just north of Pico is to die for.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PaliBruin

              Ditto on the Junior's recommendation. My favorite sandwich at Junior's is actually the pastrami dip--not the best pastrami in town by a long shot and not the best bread but the combination, with the au jus, works really well.

              Houston's is excellent too, albeit pricey.

            2. IMHO -the best beef dip in LA is in El Monte on Peck Rd. This section of Pech Rd. has maybe 7 good places to eat within maybe five blocks. As for the Beef Dip, a good Sandwich must begin with a good roll and this french roll is perfect. The size is just right -- long enough and wide enough. The taste is just right with the crust having the right crunch, tug and chew. The beef is roasted fresh every day and sliced just right. They serve this with a gravy over the meat inside or you can request a side dish with that gravy for dipping. You get some great pickels and their fries are also good. Jolly Jug has been making this for over fifty or sixty years. Their have been several changes in ownership over the decades yet this sandwich has been the same -- bread, roast beef, gravy and size -- perfect. Damm, now you got me hungey for one.

              Jolly Jug (Best Beef Dip in L.A.)
              4264 Peck Rd
              El Monte, CA 91732-2114
              (626) 444-8425

              8 Replies
              1. re: JeetJet

                JeetJet you are killing me!!! Sounds like my perfect sandwich...they chewy tug of the bread put me over the top. I see a trip to the Jolly Jug in my very near future.
                Thank you for the rec.

                1. re: bubbles4me

                  I went tonight. The bread on Sunday night did not have a tug and chew. It did have a crust but I think they toast each roll before putting on the meat. I use to buy these rolls from them when I went on fishing trips to make subs the next day. I did a take-out tonight and the bread really does not travel well and was not as good as it might be eating there. The story of the dip being created at Philippe's on a Sunday night by a customer dipping the roll in gravy to make it moist applied to my roll at JJ tonight. But that is what a dip is all about. The beef at JJ is sliced very thin to the point of a thin philly steak style and much of it is very small. What I like most is the flavor of the thick gravy combined with the beef. They will provide a au jus for dipping and so it might be good to get a side of the gravy and one of au jus to try both. Nevertheless, the bread will be moist (wet) once dipped and it will be the flavor of that moistness, the gravy or au jus, that will control the texture and taste of the bread and beef. In other words, it is the total package that makes this or any other dip. IMO, the gravy is what pays the bills at JJ and has allowed this place to stay around for so many years. The fries also do not travel well. They are not quite steak house but they are thicker than most.

                  1. re: JeetJet

                    I sensed your visit didn't live up to your hype earlier in the sounded a bit disappointed. What was your conclusion on the sandwich tonight?

                    1. re: monku

                      The roll was not as good as I wanted it to be tonight. However, what I think you also might have read between the lines was some latent feelings I had after repeating my order four times that I also wanted a cheeseburger "meat and cheese only" and getting home and finding some kind of thousand island dressing on the top and bottom of the bun. My little girl wants only meat and cheese. However, they were busy and I think a little under staffed. Maybe more local folks were out for Mother's Day than they expected. Bottom line, this beef dip is different and when you eat it there, hot with that gravy, it is the total experience thing, like that chili-cheese burger at the Boat, or Manuel's special at El Tepeyac,– one that I keep going back for. Ya, I will go back to JJ but Mimi’s in Monrovia is also on my mind again but I have had worst service problems there. BTW, the beef dip was large and I could not eat more then half tonight so little Jeet ate the rest. She likes meat plain but she dipped her half in that gravy. So unlike her but she liked the gravy.

                      1. re: JeetJet

                        I can sympathize with you...."meat and cheese" only cheeseburger for my daughter too...they rarely get it right.

                        Now you mention it, I was forced to eat a Mimi's and had the French dip and it was pretty darn good.

                        Problem with rolls and bread is that bakers are closed Sunday and Wednesday and normally you'll get a stale roll or bun on those days everywhere. Nothing worse than a bun that disintegrates in your hand while you're eating a burger.

                  2. re: bubbles4me

                    I was thinking about the bread you might like better. I have a relative that loves Mimi's Cafe. That fact has lead me to several Mimi's around SGV and Whittier more often that I like to admit. But the one in Monrovia does a really good beef dip. Both their roast beef and their roll are exceptional. In fact their roast beef and eggs is one of my fav breakfast in SGV.

                    Mimi's Cafe
                    500 W Huntington Dr
                    Monrovia, CA 91016
                    (626) 359-9191

                    1. re: JeetJet

                      Wow, Mimi's? I would never have thought of that. I tend to avoid chains but if there is a good beef dip I will check it out...such a beef dip floozy.

                  3. re: JeetJet

                    My experience is with each change of ownership something is lost.

                  4. The Hat has a good beef dip sandwich(don't think they use the term French Dip, but its on something like a French roll and dipped and their fries are pretty darn good too. Everyone always associates The Hat with their pastrami dip, but their beef dip is right up there too.

                    Someone inevitably always mentions Coles in downtown LA, they also claim to be the originator of the French dip sandwich. I didn't think it was worth the effort.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: monku

                      Ditto on the Hat.

                      The Beef Dip at the Hat is more knife/fork endeavor, than a true pick-me-up sandwich. It's a big, sloppy mess of a sandiwch. Very good, though.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I remember The Hat, I never got the beef dip there but I will have to put it on my list.....ugggg I just remembered the last time I was there I had the gravy fries. I could only eat about five of them, (too rich) but they do have great plain fries. I remember they gave you massive amounts of them is that still the case?

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Hmm.. I've only had a beef dip from the Hat once, a few weeks ago. It was good, but it was much smaller than the pastrami. Whereas the pastrami is piled with meat, so much so that much of it falls out of the roll, the beef dip was very neatly packed with meat. Too neat, in fact, looking like it had been assembled in a factory. It wasn't bad at all but I much prefer the pastrami. This was at the Temple City location, by the way.

                          1. re: monkuboy

                            I agree, and the same is true with Tops up in Pasadena.

                      2. I like Taylor's beefeater dip with their cottage fries.