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french dip: Phillipe's Original VS. Houston's

JeniH May 22, 2004 02:29 PM

I'm a little bit hesitant to try Houston's french dip sanwich because 1) I absolutely LOVE Phillipe's french dip, AND its only about $8 2) Houston's french dip is $16, which I think is a whole lot to ask for... especially if its not as good as Phillipe's.
So, please help me out and compare the two for me. Is Houston's version worth the $16? Is it that much better than Phillipe's? Perhaps I am comparing apples and oranges... how are they different if thats the case?

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  1. h
    Hugh Lipton RE: JeniH May 22, 2004 02:41 PM

    Huston's is good but not worth the upcharge compared to Phillipe's. If you want to try a good french dip (again not as good as Phillipe's) which is tasty and inexpensive try "The Dip" at 14333 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. Just brought in from there last night. Tried the roast beast (beef), pastrami and lamb (single dip - any more is too soggy for me). Really good. Actually if they would get a crispier roll like Phillipe's uses I would give them a higher rating. They still wouldn't be as good as Phillipe's because where else can you get that fabulous mustard that flames the mouth, makes the eyes water and destroys your nostrils. "The Dip" charges $4.89 a sandwich and I think you actually get a little more meat than Phillipe's. Give it a try!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hugh Lipton
      carter RE: Hugh Lipton May 24, 2004 01:30 AM

      Totally agree with you Hugh. The bang for the buck is very good. Get mustard and horseradish and a single dip lamb sandwich! Yum. Wish they did tongue(lengua)!

    2. e
      Ernie RE: JeniH May 22, 2004 03:17 PM

      Try the Houston's French dip, you won't be disappointed. Houston's meat is thinly sliced prime rib and very soft and tender. They serve au jus and horseradish cream on the side. I love Phillipe's as well, but Houston's is definitely worth the extra $$

      1. t
        Ted RE: JeniH May 22, 2004 03:34 PM

        I do not like the Houston's version, one reason is that they put way too myuch mayo on it. I tried it again without Mayo and it's OK, not amazing like Phillpe's. The california burger is what to get at Houstons, in my opinion.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ted
          Ernie RE: Ted May 22, 2004 04:24 PM

          They offer the mayo and horseradish (great horseradish BTW) on the side if you want. Houston's French dip also comes with good skinny shoestring fries on the side

          If you are near a Bandera (Houston's sister restaurant) they offer a nearly identical FD, but with slightly better bread

        2. c
          Curt RE: JeniH May 22, 2004 03:45 PM

          Philippe's is about $4.50 and comes in beef, pork, lamb, turkey and ham.
          Houston's is a prime rib dip, a better cut of meat.
          Is it worth it?
          How much is "grilled cheese night" at La Brea Chat 'n Chew?

          1. g
            GFEHER RE: JeniH May 22, 2004 08:18 PM

            In my humble opinion, (and I,ve sampled both versions) Houstons blows the doors off Phillipe's. It is indeed the "gold standard" for this type of sandwich.

            6 Replies
            1. re: GFEHER
              Curt RE: GFEHER May 22, 2004 10:54 PM

              I don't eat beef.
              How's their pork or lamb dip?

              1. re: Curt
                GFEHER RE: Curt May 22, 2004 11:33 PM

                I sampled the lamb dip on two occasions. The first time, I left with a very favorable impression, it was moist and very tender with a nicely balanced "spring lamb flavor". I was in heaven! second time around I did'nt fare nearly as well. The lamb was very tough and chewy with a strong, unpleasent lamb odor. UGH!!
                I promised myself, never again. But who knows, maybe someday if I'm in the vicinity I'll give 'em another try.


                1. re: GFEHER
                  BobbyG RE: GFEHER May 23, 2004 01:27 AM

                  I've had the same experience with the lamb dip at Phillipe's recently. Previously dependable, the last one was a chewy bust. Houston's Dip is really a prime rib sammy au jus. Exquisite, but strictly a 'special occasion' treat at that price.

                  1. re: GFEHER
                    Curt RE: GFEHER May 23, 2004 10:32 AM

                    Lamb usually reminds me of cooked shoe.
                    Good lamb is so rare that I have all but given up on it.

                    I believe you are refering to Phillipe's.
                    That's what I was expecting.

                    IMO, when "comparing" Phillipe's, places like Cole's or the Jolly Jug come to mind.
                    Comparing it to Houston's prime rib sandwich, is like comparing The Hat to Langers; they're different animals.

                    Phillipe's also makes a grilled cheese.
                    The logical comparison wouldn't be La Brea Chat 'n Chew.

                    And that wine list; don't get me started!

                    The posts are now beginning to make the point.

                  2. re: Curt
                    50sGuy RE: Curt Oct 8, 2009 01:20 PM

                    Actually, I prefer the pork over the beef at Phillipe's. You'll notice that the pork sandwich is listed above the beef sandwich on their menu boards, FWIW.

                  3. re: GFEHER
                    russkar RE: GFEHER May 23, 2004 02:23 AM

                    You mean Awesome, right?

                  4. m
                    Midlife RE: JeniH May 22, 2004 10:05 PM

                    I'm going to take a leap of faith here. If Houston's French Dip is anything like the one served at The Rutherford Grill (in the Napa Valley), which is owned by the same company.......... it may just be the best French Dip ever!! I've always enjoyed Phillipe's, but the Rutherford sandwich is a must when we visit that area. In a class of it's own and worth every penny!!!

                    1. t
                      TE RE: JeniH May 23, 2004 12:51 AM

                      This reminds me of food review I read, years ago, where someone praised an upscale restaurant's expense-account busting french toast as being "almost as good as Du-Par's." Which, of course, cost half as much.

                      Allowing for ambiance and proximity (neither of which were mentioned in the inquiry here), why spend twice as much even for something that's AS good as Philippe's? Why encourage them?

                      1. r
                        RSMBob RE: JeniH May 23, 2004 03:03 AM

                        Another poster hit the nail on the head by saying the Houstn's sandwich is a really a sliced prime rib au jus sandwich...it's a larger sandwich and a better cut of meat. In addition, the Houston's shoestring fries are among the best anywhere and the combo makes a delicious if somewhat overpriced meal.

                        Phillipe's is an LA institution, and it just so happens the food is pretty darn good as well. WIth Houston's you get the more upscale atmosphere to go along with the food and prices.

                        I like both...if I'm going through downtown Phillipe's is on my list of places to stop. If I want a nice place for lunch, then Houston's is one of my fav's as well. I say try it!

                        1. c
                          Chefdavis RE: JeniH May 27, 2004 11:33 AM

                          On a visit to Houston's Century City around 11AM, there were several guys taking racks of steaming hot french dip loaves out the door. I asked about it and Century City bakes the bread everyday for Bandera, Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach.

                          Obviously I had a french dip at 11:15 and it was awesome

                          1. wyatt3290 RE: JeniH Dec 16, 2007 01:28 PM

                            I love the single dipped lamb sandwich, potato salad and a coke. i'm sure the sandwich at houstons is good but if it's $16 you could almost get 3 sandwiches at Phillipe's ( I think the lamb is the most expensive @ $5.85). being that next year will be there 100th anniversary they must be doing something right. actually i'm getting hungry reading this so i'm going to go there now. :)

                            1. a
                              andydisa RE: JeniH Dec 16, 2007 03:44 PM

                              Had both and Houston's is BY FAR superior. I guess people go to Phillipe's for the nostalgia. Anyways, try Houston's version and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

                              1. Hungry4Good RE: JeniH Dec 16, 2007 03:53 PM

                                Houston's is technically superior and is larger. However, Houston's will not give you the enjoyment and "connection" of experiencing one of L.A.'s few old-timey indigenous culinary spots. (And don't forget the great mustard!)

                                1. l
                                  lynch bages RE: JeniH Dec 18, 2007 10:25 AM

                                  Houston's French Dip, although more expensive than Phillipe's is far superior and you can ask for it as rare (it is prime rib afterall) as possible unlike Phillipe's meat which I find overcooked and very dry. Also, at Phillipes, they put the jus directly on the bread and are not all that generous with it. At Houston's you want more Jus, you got it. I also like the brioche roll they use versus the submarine sandwich style bread at Phillipes...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: lynch bages
                                    Wolfgang RE: lynch bages Dec 18, 2007 10:44 AM

                                    How does the Houston's FD compare with the FD at Taylor's? I've had Taylor's and Phillipe's a number of times. Phillipe's is nice to go to when I'm down there but I don't think about that sandwich when I'm not in the area. Taylor's beef dip is altogether better but it is about twice the price.

                                    1. re: lynch bages
                                      tissue RE: lynch bages Oct 8, 2009 12:20 PM

                                      I just had this yesterday and I was SOOOO impressed. I had it rare and I loved every bite.

                                    2. h
                                      Hackenbush RE: JeniH Dec 18, 2007 11:36 AM

                                      I'm not sure of the point of this comparison. Both are great sandwiches. The big difference between them is the room in which they're served. Phillipe's is out of the way for me and I wouldn't meet business associates there. Houston's doesn't have the funky history. But both places serve a great beef dip sandwich. The one at Houston's may seem more expensive but you get more meat and you're also paying for the nicer surroundings and having someone actually wait on you.

                                      I'd also like to suggest that the Prime Rib Sandwich at Lawry's Carvery in Century City is great. It's not exactly a French Dip but it's close. They serve the same sandwich at the wonderful sandwich bar at the Tam O'Shanter in Los Feliz. The Tam is owned by the Lawry's company and no one knows better how to cook a piece of Prime Rib.

                                      1. where2chow RE: JeniH Sep 30, 2009 01:04 AM

                                        Phillipe's Original is simply it! They focus on the food in hand and flavor in your mouth. The price is right and making it over a 100 years says it enough! Houston's is good, but cannot be considered great in comparison!

                                        1. LATrapp RE: JeniH Sep 30, 2009 11:07 AM

                                          Apples and Oranges....

                                          I suspect much of the cost difference in the Houstons dip is going towards the impeccably trained staff, high-rent locations, restaurant build-out, and corporate structure.

                                          As a result, It would be wrong to compare them based on price. At Phillipes, you stand in line to order and get your meal on a school cafeteria tray before finding a spot at a community table.

                                          That being said they are both very good sandwiches. Although, the differences between the two extend beyond the physical surroundings:

                                          Houstons slightly toasts their bread, adds mayo (I always ask to skip it), and serves it with creamed horseradish, au jus and excellent fries. You do the dipping. As far as I know, you don't have any other options other than beef.

                                          Phillips dunks the bread, adds the meat (I always get the lamb), optional cheese (swiss here for me) and serves it up. Smaller in size, I usually get two. The side for me is usually coleslaw or mac salad. Although you have plenty of options including pickled pigs feet. At the community tables you add on their incredible french mustard.

                                          Both are excellent although I've never quite had the same feeling of culinary elation eating the Houstons dip as I have eating the much cheaper Phillips.

                                          Phillips has been around since 1908 with VERY few changes. Something there must be hitting home with a lot of hungry bellies!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: LATrapp
                                            Servorg RE: LATrapp Sep 30, 2009 02:11 PM

                                            One other rather glaring difference between the two sandwiches is that Houston's serves thinly sliced "prime rib" cooked rare as the filling in their dip. Phillipe's uses the traditional, cheaper and much less savory thinly sliced roast beef cooked to a well done consistency that relies on the au jus for moisture and flavor (for the most part).

                                            1. re: Servorg
                                              E Eto RE: Servorg Sep 30, 2009 02:27 PM

                                              For an even better version of the Houston's sliced prime rib sandwich au jus, and for a better value, you might want to try the Thursday lunch special prime rib dip & soup at Taylor's Steakhouse. It comes with soup and fries and will fill you up. I was also surprised by how good and rich their chicken soup is.

                                              I also enjoy the non-beef (pork or lamb) dip sandwiches at Phillipe's. Completely different sandwiches, really.

                                          2. Midlife RE: JeniH Sep 30, 2009 02:49 PM

                                            Wow! I'm kinda getting to like these really old topics that come back from searches or sidebar links. A 5 1/2 year-old topic?

                                            I first became a fan of Phillipe's when I worked in Lincoln Heights about 30 years ago. It was great then and it's great now. My intro to what Houston's serves came at Rutherford Grill (almost identical twin) in Rutherford (Napa). This sandwich has blown me away for only 20 years or so.

                                            They are both terrific examples of a similar, but not quite the same, thing. I'm not exactly sure how to describe the difference. The beef at Houston's has always seemed to be sliced more thickly and is so tender that I think I'd have to declare it the winner, based solely on texture. From a taste standpoint they're both terrific. Then, too, Philippe's is over an hour away from me and Houston's is 15 minutes, so my judgment may be affected by that. One's counter service, the other table.

                                            Leaving cost out of this.......... I vote for Houston's. Cost included.......... I'm really glad I'm so far from Phillipe's, even though it's always so busy, because I'd be there at least once a week and would weigh 20 pounds more in no time.

                                            Bottom line:

                                            Taste alone: Houston's
                                            Overall value: Phillipe's

                                            1. k
                                              krick RE: JeniH Sep 30, 2009 04:05 PM

                                              I love Phillipe's, but IMO Houston's is a better sandwich. Better ingredients, better flavors. HOWEVER, for some inexplicable reason, the Phillipe's version is crave-worthy to me, whereas the Houston's version is not. I would and have gone out of my way to go to Phillipe's just for the french dip. I have never and would never think to myself "Man, I could really go for that Houston's french dip right now." And yet, almost everytime I go to Houston's, I have to order it, and everytime I say to myself and anyone around me "This really is the best french dip in LA."

                                              On the other hand, I do crave the Costa Mesa Bandera's lamb sandwich, and also think that's the best lamb sandwich anywhere.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: krick
                                                exilekiss RE: krick Oct 1, 2009 09:22 AM

                                                Hi krick,

                                                Do you mean Bandera in Corona Del Mar? Couldn't find a Bandera restaurant in Costa Mesa. Thanks.

                                                1. re: exilekiss
                                                  krick RE: exilekiss Oct 1, 2009 11:25 AM

                                                  Oops - yes. Speaking of CDM and sandwiches, the short rib sandwich at Crowbar just up the road from Bandera is really good as well.

                                              2. rednyellow RE: JeniH Sep 30, 2009 07:21 PM

                                                Phllipe's is pathetic. It was decent, at best, many years ago but has really slipped. I kept trying to keep liking them but after several just plain bad sandwiches, I've given up on them. Houston's is much better in every way including the room itself. My fav. in L.A though is at lunch at Taylor's prime steaks on 9th in K-Town. Great beefy flavor, good crusty roll, good salty au jus and a comfy room.

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