philippe's, alameda & main, los angeles
Philippe's, supposedly the first restaurant to serve french dip sandwiches, has been on my "to eat at" list for almost as long as I've been in LA. The vibe inside is something akin to a medieval beer hall, filled with long benched tables, and sawdust all over the floor. Sandwiches can be ordered at any one of many available lines, although all of the lines were fairly long when my brother and I arrived on a Saturday afternoon. In addition to the famous french dip sandwiches, Philippe's has a pretty wide selection of wine and beer, as well as a deep side-order menu. We got pickles, potato salad, macaroni salad, a pickled egg, and two lemonades to go with our sandwiches. Even in spite of all of the extras we ordered, I believe our bill was still under $20. Not bad. And then (I swear to god this really happened), after we sat down at one of the the tables with our grub, a medieval maiden sat down next to us at the other end of the table. She was with a friend wearing more contemporary clothing. I don't know where on earth the maiden came from, but between her, the local crowd, ball games on the TVs, and the "Train Museum" (!!) in the back room, I was digging the scene. The food was no disappointment, either. The beef french dip was delicious, although Philippe's concept of a french dip is somewhat different from my own- rather than being served with a cup of au jus, the drippings were poured directly onto the sandwich. The meat was otherwise unadorned, although there was a squeeze-bottle of Philippe's house mustard at each table. The primary characteristic of the mustard was a painfully intense horseradish flavor- I was sweating from the heat (and then I bought a bottle to take home). The side dishes were pretty good- I liked the potato salad, thought the macaroni salad had too much mayonnaise (when is this ever not true of macaroni salad?), liked the sour pickles, and liked the pickled egg- the first pickled egg I've ever eaten! It tasted like what you would expect a pickled egg to taste like, although the texture is a little bit more rubbery than a hard-boiled egg.