Plaza Blog

The Evolution of LA's Iconic French Dip Sandwich: A Taste of History

Los Angeles is a city known for its vibrant culinary scene, and among its many food innovations, there is one dish that stands out - the French Dip sandwich. This delicious concoction of tender roast beef or pork, served on a French roll and dipped in savory au jus, has become an iconic LA specialty. But where did it come from, and how has it evolved over time? Let's delve into the fascinating history and origins of Los Angeles' famous French Dip sandwich, and find out where you can taste the best versions in the city today.

The Origins of the French Dip

The French Dip sandwich is a product of early 20th century Los Angeles, but its exact origins are a subject of debate. Two downtown LA restaurants, Philippe's and Cole's, both lay claim to inventing the sandwich, each with their own charming story.

Philippe's story dates back to 1918 when Philippe Mathieu, the owner, accidentally dropped a French roll into a roasting pan filled with juice while making a sandwich for a policeman. The policeman liked it, and the French Dip sandwich was born. On the other hand, Cole's alleges that they created the sandwich in 1908 for a customer who had sore gums and couldn't eat a regular sandwich.

Despite the conflicting stories, what's clear is that the French Dip has deep roots in LA's culinary history and has become a beloved dish in the city.

The Evolution of the French Dip

Over the years, the French Dip sandwich has evolved and diversified, reflecting LA's innovative food culture. While the classic version with roast beef and au jus remains a favorite, you can now find French Dip sandwiches with roast pork, lamb, or turkey. Some places add cheese, caramelized onions, or horseradish for an extra flavor kick. But no matter the variation, the core principle of a juicy, savory sandwich remains.

Where to Taste LA's Best French Dips

Here are a few places where you can savor some of the best French Dip sandwiches in Los Angeles:

  1. Philippe's: The originator of the French Dip, Philippe's still serves up its classic sandwich with a choice of beef, pork, lamb, or turkey. Don't forget to try their spicy homemade mustard!
  2. Cole's: Another contender for the title of originator, Cole's offers a classic French Dip in a historic setting. Their au jus is particularly flavorful.
  3. The Original Pantry: A downtown LA staple since 1924, The Original Pantry serves a fantastic French Dip. It's especially delicious with their cole slaw on the side.
  4. The Hat: Known for their generous portions, The Hat offers a mouth-watering French Dip with plenty of au jus for dipping.

The French Dip sandwich is a true LA icon - a dish that has stood the test of time and continues to be a beloved staple in the city's culinary scene. Whether you're a lifelong Angeleno or a visitor to the city, tasting a French Dip is a must for a true LA food experience.