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Disappointed with the Beef French Dip Sandwich at Philippe or Am I Missing Something?

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
* coleslaw
* 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
(213) 628-3781

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Philippe the Original
1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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  1. 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.

    1. I was equally unimpressed with the beef. I might return sometime to try the lamb.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ns1

        for sure, the lamb -- my personal favorite -- tastes "lamb-y."

        1. re: Muskrat

          YES! Try the lamb...I like it MUCH better than the beef. (I've never had it with cheese; the lamb is good enough for me.)

      2. My experience at Phillipe.....

        The bread stinks and the au jus is weak. It wasn't worth the wait......and I tried the beef, pork, lamb and turkey.

        1 Reply
        1. re: fourunder

          One the same page - I just don't get Phillipe's...

        2. It's overrated. Get the lamb, it's easily better. Though nothing great. I do like their mustard though.

          7 Replies
          1. re: mdpilam

            Of course The Copy Cat, is overrated!! Cole's is the inventor and still serves the best beef French Dip in LA.

            1. re: reality check

              Philippe The Original invented the French Dipped Sandwich and serves the best French dipped sandwich in Los Angeles.

                1. re: mucho gordo

                  "The Dip" has been gone for a goodly amount of time.

                  1. re: Hughlipton

                    Though the Hollywood & Highland location only just went under a few weeks ago.

                    1. re: wutzizname

                      I'm sorry. You referenced Sherman Oaks.

                      1. re: Hughlipton

                        the dip in sherman oaks is now the infield. they do still serve the pastrami dip though it's quite different from either phillipes or coles

            2. I was there once - a long time ago. I didn't get it either and have never been back.

              I make a far better french dip using prime rib leftovers. No comparison.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                I your prime rib dip better (or as good) as the Houston's/Bandera version? They set the bar as far as I am concerned.

                1. 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.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I always order a single dip lamb with bleu cheese as well. I'm rarely disappointed as well.

                  2. 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.

                    1. I love the cole slaw and always pile it on my beef sandwich along with the mustard. And take bites of pickle in between. Love it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sparkareno

                        I like that touch of adding the coleslaw to your sandwich. What a great idea.

                      2. i was not impressed. i don't get it either. i agree, it must have something to do with nostalgia.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lucymom

                          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.

                        2. I agree. After waiting an ungodly period of time, I thought the french dip was flatly uninspired. However, I did LOVE the lamb slathered in their punch-you-in-the-sinus-mustard.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: treetopflyer

                            As opposed to Otius you are a person after my own heart. "A dab". Never! Slathered? Always. My daughter asked why I keep putting it on my sandwich if I always say it's that hot. My response, "Because I love it".

                          2. Also-how could I forget the candy stand? One of the only places I can find Sen-Sen!!

                            1. The single dipped lamb is far superior than the beef. The horseradish mustard is the key. Without it the sandwich is average.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: A5 KOBE

                                Don't eat lamb and agree with all those negs about this place. And do agree about the one at Bandera's. It's great. Better than any I have had at Philippe's.

                                Philippe the Original
                                1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                11704 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                1. 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.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: wutzizname

                                    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.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      I swear I thought the money on the tray was to facilitate/prompt a tip to the server- they bring change- you take what you want and the remainder is the tip.

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        I would bet money that the tray is a health-specific custom, because they also all wear gloves.

                                    2. 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?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                        Exactly how I felt when someone took me to Famous/Original (forgot which one) Ray's in New York. I waited in line an hour for that?

                                        1. re: andytseng

                                          Yeah, not even DiFara or Bianco is worth waiting that long for. But hopefully the Ray's you waited for was the good one in the Village, and not one of the terrible fakeniks. Last time I was there, there was no waiting.


                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            Okay you guys, I haven't been able to make my annual NYC pilgrimage for a couple of years, and it's terrible. This discussion isn't helping any!

                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                              Excluding breakfast which I have never eaten, I also think the food is average. I mainly go for the surroundings and nostalgia. Downtown LA is full of great places to experience and Philippe is one of them.

                                      2. I was unimpressed with their beef dips. My biggest problem was the amount of beef they put on them....very little! I would get 2 but for that much I can pretty much go anywhere.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: parker394

                                          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.

                                          1. re: monku

                                            Monku is right on, the #7 sandwich, pastrami and roast beef is also very good and much bigger and tastier than philippes beef dip.

                                            1. re: malibumike

                                              You want that #7 dipped, just ask.
                                              Philippes and Eastside get their rolls from the same place, Frisco Baking.

                                        2. 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.