CLOSED: L.A.'s Iconic Dish: Cole's French Dip Vs. Philippe's French Dip

Los Angeles is full of people who care passionately about food, and there are plenty of restaurants happy to serve us. We don't all agree on what constitutes "good," but we do know we like our burgers, our froyo, our Korean BBQ, our pizza. (That's right, our pizza. We like it.)

The thing is, we don't have one iconic dish. Nothing that we can point to and say, "This. This is Los Angeles on a plate." So now we're going to find out. KCET Food came up with 16 contenders. You vote on your favorites. Here's the fifth match up:


VOTING CLOSED.
Photo by Jakob LaymanFrench dip at Cole's: The one downtown.

The History: Cole's opened in 1908 in the Pacific Electric Building, a very busy location that included a railway terminal. It now stands as L.A.'s oldest still-operating restaurant; a few years back they closed for about 18 months to remodel and did a gorgeous job with it.

The Scene: When Cole's was purchased and remodeled by revitalizer-of-downtown Cedd Moses, the restaurant was introduced to a whole new segment of L.A.: scenesters! The fact that the restaurant is bookended by two bars helps draw in that younger crowd, too.

The Food: Some will say that the French dip here is an elevated version of the original, with better ingredients and a cleaner presentation. Some will say it lacks soul. Both eminently entertainable points of view.

Photo by Mia WasilevichFrench dip at Philippe the Original: The one in Chinatown.

The History: Philippe's opened in 1908 too, though not in its current location, which was opened in 1951 after the owners got the boot from their first spot, to make way for the 101. This restaurant also claims to have made the first French dip, though they say it happened in 1918.

The Scene: There are many tourists here. There are also many old-timers who come for the reliable food and cheap coffee and un-changing décor and ambiance.

The Food: The food here is good. And sometimes kind of funky, but in that good homespun way: pickled eggs are on the counter, for instance, and one of the more popular versions of the dip is lamb with blue cheese. It's "just" diner food, but a sense of adventure helps one enjoy it.

French dip at Cole's
French dip at Philippe's


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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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