Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An LA Institution: Philippe's

Most Angeleno natives have heard of Philippe at one time or another. Since this is only my fifth year in town, I just recently stopped by. What can I say about an institution that has been in Chinatown since before it was Chinatown? What you see is what you get.

More after the jump...

Beef French Dip with Potato Salad, Coleslaw and $.79 Lemonade

This is what I ordered at Philippe. It is nearly identical to the orders of the legions of people in the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon. You'll have to navigate through the throngs to find a line at the counter. Whenever you can, snag the attention of one of the people behind the counter to take your order. I have a feeling this system works much better on slow days.

I figured that the beef sandwich would be a safe bet, although I had to fight long and hard to give up on the lamb one. Knowing that these sandwiches have maintained their popularity for so long with hardly a change gave me confidence. However, the sandwich was a soggy mess. I had no idea that the sandwiches are pre-dipped for you, a rather disgusting concept if you think about it. I resorted to picking it apart with a knife and fork. Anytime a sandwich pushes me to those extremes is going to be the last time I eat it. The beef was dry and the jus soaked bread dissolved without imparting any flavor.

The saving grace was the restaurant's amazing hot mustard. If anything, I would just buy a jar and keep it for every sandwich that needs a kick. For the record, I have a jar of Plochman's Stone Ground mustard, which is just as good but without the heat. Also, Sierra Nevada makes a great mustard. I also enjoyed Philippe's potato salad. The dill pickles added sweetness and brine, plus the paprika gave it more spice. The coleslaw was also plain but up to par. If you're looking for cheap drinks, $.79 lemonade and iced tea are refreshing but filled with so much ice that you end up buying two anyway.

What you get at Philippe's is nothing special. The sandwiches, at around $7 are even on the expensive side. But if consistency is what you crave, I'm not surprised that this restaurant is an LA institution.

Also, can anyone tell me if it's pronounced "Felipe" like in Spanish, or "Fill-eep" like in French?

Philippe's the Original Restaurant
1001 N Alameda St
Chinatown, 90012
$7 a sandwich, $2-3 side, $.79 lemonade/iced tea



Mike said...

I've always wanted to go to Philippe's but never seem to make it. It's one of the most lauded sandwich stops on Chow and Yelp, so I'm surprised you had such a messy experience.

It's a good tip about the pre-dipping. I didn't realize that was automatic. I hear some people get them dipped twice so at least you had the lesser of the two.

I'm still gonna go. How can I live in LA and not have already been? But I'm going with the lamb no question.

Aaron said...

Agreed, Mike. I don't regret the experience; it just wasn't as memorable as I had hoped. Try the lamb and let me know if it's worth another shot

Anonymous said...

didya make it to the Langer's birthday special?

(for shame, I've never been to Philippes either. never felt the need)

Anonymous said...

I went there years and years ago and had the exact same experience. Everyone I went with had gone there for years and loved it. I just didn't get it. It was a soggy beef dip with dry beef. I only went there once.

Glenda said...

Yea, I'm with you all. I've been there a couple of times. It wasn't my thing. Yet, it is an institution in LA...just saying!

JustinM said...

I love Philippe's but I'm not going to lie: a personal history with the restaurant is important to the experience.


Paleo Recipes said...

Very thoughtful bllog