February 04, 2010

I Love:: Three - the landmark - Philippe's

History may repeat itself, but there are places we visit where something new can be found in the old. Philippe's French Dipped Sandwiches is like that. My family introduced our niece and nephew to Philippe's over Christmas break. It was great fun. The kids all sat in phone booths with the wood framed door closed, and perhaps for the first time, talking on phones tethered to the wall. 
My niece was astonished to find a place that really only offered one thing - the French Dip sandwich. (She'd had Subway for lunch and figured it would be the same. Mais non!)
Philippe's boasts inventing the French Dipped Sandwich sometime after it opened in 1908. Apparently, the owner dropped a sandwich roll into the roast juices and voila! l'histoire was made. The next day a police officer came in to have that sandwich again. And so on.
Our group ordered beef dips. A couple tried twists like adding bleu cheese (wonderful) or using Philippe's French mustard (hot) and were delighted. 
The place has a couple of rooms, with decor related to it's location near Union Station: circus pictures and a train collection. I watched the kids loading up at a big common table and looking at the old stuff which was quickly deemed cool. It is. Very cool to be a part of Los Angeles history. To sit in a restaurant where I know my mom and dad ate, where my husband ate with his parents, where, we get to go to LA's downtown and dine with Angelenos from all over the basin.
I recalled my first trip to Philippe's. I was working at my first advertising job as an account executive. A group planned to drive down to Philippe's for lunch and invited me along. All I'd heard was that it was French and I considered my cash accordingly. We all piled into someone's car and when we arrived, I was stunned. A big brick building where you queue to order and sit at any number or shared tables. I was thrilled at the potential for saving lunch money - sandwiches were cheap and coffee was then, 5 cents. (It's 9 cents now.) But I was most thrilled by this bit of history where I could see back in time a bit - lining up with weary workers for a hardy meal. I could picture a young, snappy reporter from the Los Angeles Times and that historic beat cop who ordered the first beef dipped sandwich and the builders of the Los Angeles infrastructure all together. 
It's a tasty picture.

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