Why 2 Los Angeles Restaurants Fight Over The French Dip

Picture a classic lunch in your local steak house on a Friday afternoon. What dishes come to mind? Maybe a skirt steak salad or a hearty burger? Perhaps, but for the true beef connoisseur, there's one particular item that jumps off the menu every time. The dish we're talking about is the iconic French dip sandwich. Combining thinly sliced cuts of beef like a roast, ribeye, or sirloin, butter-drenched onions, and crispy bread alongside a bowl of flavorful au jus (via The Pioneer Woman), it's no wonder this sandwich continues to be an eternally favored sandwich.

Don't let the name fool you; while French is in this sandwich's title, this delightful dish did not originate from France. That's right, the combination of famous French au jus, translucently cooked buttered onions, and freshly baked French bread alongside superior beef cuts is not a French concept — but it sounds right. Believe it or not, the French dip sandwich hails from the City of Angels, Los Angeles (according to Thrillist). Dating back to the 20th century (via Thrillist), Los Angeles became the official home of the French dip sandwich. Two Los Angeles restaurants each lay claim to the origin of this sandwich. 

The big question is, who is right? While we can't take a time machine back to the early 1900s, we can share both eateries' stories to see who makes a better case as the original French Dip Sandwich. 

A tale of two French dips

Philippe the Original and Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet are both LA institutions that swear they're the first. First, there is Philippe the Original, located in downtown Los Angeles. Opened in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, Philippe the Original has a reputation for having a complicated storyline when telling the story of the 'first French Dip' according to Thrillist. Owners for the last decades have told and retold the story — each with a new twist. However, the Philippe the Original website claims it was back in 1918 when a police officer ordered a French sandwich. As Mathieu made it for him, it dropped into a hot roasting pan with hot juice. Not picky, the policeman offered to take the sandwich still, and the rest is history — the French dip sandwich exists.

Then there's also Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet which claims the French dip title. Considered the oldest bar in Los Angeles, according to Tales of the Cocktail, the eatery was located in the Pacific Electric terminal for the LA train station in historic downtown (via Discover Los Angeles). Currently a museum, the restaurant opened in 1908 (like Philippe the Original) claims to hold the title of the first French dip sandwich served in the world.

While you may not be able to decide who's right, you can take a trip out to LA to taste the two for yourself and see which French dip you like the best. Happy dipping!