Disappointed with the Beef French Dip Sandwich at Philippe or Am I Missing Something?
- pleasurepalate Oct 5, 2010 09:29 PM
I've been to Philippe's about 3 or 4 times in the past several years, but for some reason, I've always ordered their French Dip Beef Sandwich and each time I've been disappointed.
When it comes to the juices the sandwich bread is dipped in, they just doesn't have the meaty flavor you'd expect or would want, which just leaves me with partially soggy bread. Also, the beef is usually a little dry, chewy and tastes unseasoned. Only the addition of Philippe's mustard gives this sandwich any oomph.
As for why I only ordered the French Dip Beef Sandwich, I think a part of me thought that was the specific dipped sandwich to order over all the other dipped sandwich choices. For some reason, I thought the Beef Sandwich was the first "dipped" sandwich that gave Philippe's the fame it has now and given its popularity, there must be something I'm just not getting. Isn't it amazing how something just sticks in your head, even it may be wrong? For all I know, that first dipped sandwich was pork.
I kept on thinking that if I tried it enough, I'd end up liking it more, but nope, no dice. That was obvious at a recent visit there where again, I was disappointed. I also wasn't that thrilled with the potato salad which had so much mayonnaise that you could hardly see the potatoes or the cherry pie, which had a filling that was too sweet and tasted like it came from a can.
After I uploaded my Phillipe photos to Flickr and posted them on my Facebook Wall, I posted a message saying that I didn't get the allure of the Beef Dipped Sandwich at Philippe. In response, a few of my Facebook friends gave me suggestions of other things to try on their menu, which included the:
* lamb and blue cheese double dip
* turkey double dip
* pork dipped sandwich
* macaroni salad
* pickled eggs
* pickled pig's feet
* beef stew
* baked apple
Being from the Philippines, I'm definitely a pork kind of girl, so if I do make my way back to Philippe, that pork dipped sandwich with a side of pickled eggs and a baked apple might make up my three course menu. How about you? What do you like (or don't like) about Philippe? Do you think it's popular just because it's a classic restaurant icon that's been around for over 100 years or is their food actually better than I've experienced so far?
Philippe The Original
100 N. Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
To see post complete with photos, go to:
Philippe the Original
1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
I'm not sure the beef is supposed to taste "beefy" in the way a roast beef would. That's why they dip in the au jus and why those spicy mustard bottles are on every table.
The French Dip at Philippes is sort of a creature all onto itself. It's a soggy, wet, sort of salty creation that's best appreciated for what it is -- a good vehicle to sop up au jus and hot mustard.
And I find this true for all the iterations of their sandwiches -- be it beef, lamb, pork, or turkey.
You're not supposed to innately like the French Dip (at least not in the same way that one would expect a near universal approval rating for things like ice cream or bacon). It's sort of nondescript in a very not so subtle way, if that makes any sense. It doesn't make a dramatic impression on your tastebuds, but there's something about that sandwich that *just* makes you want to finish it -- no matter what you have to do to get it all down. More au jus? Sure. More mustard? Check. Pickle spears? Soda? Check and check.
I consider the Philippe's French Dip in the same category of foodstuffs as Cincinnati Chili, Beef on Weck Sandwiches and scrapple. Some like them, others not so much.
If you like the soggy, squishy sort of salty tasteless denture-friendly texture of the french dip, then you'll love Philippe's. If you don't, move on. Life's too short.
Well, I will say that Philippe's was better when it was $2 cheaper. Having said that, I too have been disappointed on those rare occasions when I veered away from the lamb. Dry, chewy, flavorless pork and beef. And on occasion, my lamb sandwich has had a kneecap or something in it. But for the most part, I order the same things and I am rarely disappointed. Lamb (single dip, or the bread falls apart) with bleu cheese. Coleslaw (a little watery, but gits nice to have a crunchy vegetal texture to offset the lamb), a pickle, coffee, and any of the cream pies, which are huge. Altogether it costs about $13 and is more than enough for my wife and I to share. And yes, those pickled eggs are surprisingly good too.
I love Phillipes, partly out of nostalgia, partly because I really love it. The beef double dipped tastes just fine to me! Plus macaroni salad, baked apple and a pickle, washed down with lemonade! My Dad really likes the pork, though.
I agree that "it" has something to do with nostalgia. If a Philippe sandwich was on a table in a sterile taste-test lab somewhere next to another French Dip, it may not be the best.
However, I find in the venerable shrine at 1001 N.Alameda, double-dipped with a dab of mustard, a Philippe's sandwich is a treat.
I think I got a turkey sandwich double-dipped and a cup of coffee with a side of cole slaw ("Dry, please") for less than $8.
As seems to be the consensus... I don't believe the quality of their sandwiches is their main draw.
It's the history of the place, which compared to most, appears to be frozen in time, including their quirky old customs, like placing your money on the tray. And it's the prices, which may not be as low as they once were, but are still pretty hard to beat. And it's the communal vibe of the very diverse crowd, of tourists and locals and downtown workers, eating in that old, saw-dusted parlour.
Personally, if I want a french dip, I go to Cole's. But I still go to Philippe's several times a week. For their breakfasts. Or their chili. Or their big bargain-priced slice of great banana cream pie, and a few cups of their 9-cent coffee.
I don't know this to be a fact, but I suspect that the money on the tray would be a modern custom, brought on by health department regulations, and not by some old timey tradition. In fact, ignorance of the harmful effects of filth is a very old-timey tradition indeed.
For what it's worth.
You're not missing anything. You've got it exactly right. People are happy about Phillipe's because it's a famous establishment, a very cool piece of LA history. But the sandwich itself is exactly how you described it: barely there.
It reminds me of my disappointment when I finally visited Philadelphia and ate a cheesesteak. And the excitement is about what exactly?
I remember when they were $1.50 each (35 yrs. ago).
Check out East Side Market & Deli get the #8 hot beef/hot pastrami plate for $7.10. They give you a roll you can make a sandwich and still have plenty of meat left over for another meal.
They're a landmark and that's where the LA working class get's their sandwiches.
you can make a better sandwich with bologna on white. Phillipe hasn't made a good sandwich in decades; what they are about is selling shitty food for lot of money because there are plenty of fools believe in the aura of its name.