Standing on the sawdust covered concrete floors while waiting in line to place an order at Philippe’s, any new customer, and even the older ones, know that just by looking around the room, what they must order is one of the “French Dipped Sandwiches” made famous at Philippe’s. They might even try a cup of their 9 cent coffee. Yes, 9 cents.
Established in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, and owned since 1927 by the Martin/Binder/Downey family, Philippe’s is one of the oldest and best-known restaurants in Southern California. As soon as you walk in, everything you see seems to be stuck in a time warp, which adds to the traditional and homely feel of the restaurant.
Philippe’s is a place of tradition, where the prices seem to be the only thing that has changed. Inside we can still find the classic phone booths, the non-fancy seating arrangements made up of booths and stools, designed for quick dining, a small train display, and even some coat hangers in between some of the table divisions.
The famous “French Dipped Sandwich” can be ordered with roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey, or ham and is served on a freshly baked French roll, which has been dipped in the natural juices of the meat.
Upon entering Philippe’s, it is important to get into one of the open lines along the display counter, where a server, or “Carver” as they are called, is waiting to take your order. Breakfast items include: eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, fried potatoes, omelets, cinnamon French toast, pancakes, coffee, and a variety of fruits and juices.
For lunch, the “French Dipped Sandwiches” are made readily available, in addition to a variety of delicious soups and salads, including coleslaw, potato, and macaroni. Another specialty is beef stew, which is prepared daily. Beverages include soft drinks, beer, and wine. Many delicious desserts are also available, such as the New York style cheesecake, baked apples, tapioca, ice cream, and assorted fruits.
It is a delightful experience when eating at Philippe’s. While waiting patiently in line, time seems to pass even faster as you become preoccupied with the rather large menu, meanwhile, wondering what you should order. Philippe’s is an attractive place to eat at, because the plates are made of paper, the neon beer signs cover the walls along with the menus, and the long tables with stools allow you to sit together with people from different walks of life. Philippe’s combines family, friendship, great food, and tradition.
As to where the name of the “French Dipped Sandwich” really comes from, the answer isn’t exactly clear. Many say it is because of the French roll that it is served on, while others say it’s because of Mathieu’s French heritage. One other theory is that one day in 1918, Mathieu accidentally dropped the sandwich roll into the meat sauce and sold it to a policeman, whose name happened to be “French.” The policeman took it anyway, and returned the next day with his friends, asking for more of the “dipped” sandwiches.
The history behind the sandwich name may be unclear, but one thing is for sure: everyone must go to Philippe’s to experience one of its delicious sandwiches.
Philippe’s The Original is located at 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles. The hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Breakfast is served from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. daily. It is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Parking is available. Prices: $3 to $10. Cash only. Visit www.philippes.com for more information call (213) 628-3781.