The French Dip - hearty, satisfying and with a history shrouded in mystery and feuding parental claims. The popular sandwich has long been the center of an argument between Los Angeles restaurants Philippe and Cole's.
Philippe's restaurant has two versions of the story of how the French Dip came to be: firstly that in 1918 a chef or waiter accidentally dropped a roast beef sandwich into a dish of meat drippings, and the second as recalled by Philippe's grandson, that founder and restaurant namesake Philippe Mathieu concocted the sandwich and accompanying "au jus" to appease a patron fireman who had complained about the dry and stale state of his sandwich roll. Doubts have been cast as to whether Philippe did in fact create the recipe after he gave a differing story in an interview in 1951 in which he said that he made the original sandwich using pork and gravy drippings for a hungry police officer. One day another customer asked for roast beef gravy, and it caught like wild fire, thus giving birth to the French Dip.
On the other side we have Cole's, who claims their French Dip recipe precedes Philippe's by ten years and was dreamed up to accommodate a customer with sore gums in 1908. The feeble man asked the chef to dip his sandwich into the juice because the crusty French roll was too hard for him to chew on. Word spread and the sandwich became popular. This story too has its share of "ifs". When the owner of Cole's, Gitti Beheshti, was interviewed in 1997 about the origin of the famous sandwich, he explained it almost exactly like Phlippe's version, that a chef dropped a sandwich into the beef juice.
The truth about the French Dip's origins may never truly be known, but one thing you can be sure of is that 320 Main has concocted a recipe for this sandwich as legendary as its history. Jason was inspired to add this item to the menu after experiencing it in LA while he was at Cole's Red Car Bar. In fact he thinks he has improved the original recipe.
"I have always enjoyed the French Dip but, really never gave it too much thought, until the first time I visited Cole's in downtown Los Angeles. Something about the atmosphere opened my mind and gave the whole idea of a French Dip a certain "new life" that I had never realized. It was like stepping back in time. I could see Men in suits and brimmed hats sitting at the bar with a dip in one hand and the paper in the other. The French Dip was this amazing new food adventure that had such a colorful background, it's like I was enjoying it for the first time. That's when I knew I had to put it on the menu at 320. I LOVE the French Dip! Ours is a combination of the styles of Philippe's and Cole's. The rolls we use are moist on the inside and dry on the outside, so you can dip it in au jus, but you don't have to. We also serve ours with Swiss cheese, which isn't traditional."
Served with horseradish dijon, it's a delectable spin on the original, perfect for lunch or dinner.
Pairs well with: Bloody Mary