CLOSED: L.A.'s Iconic Dish: Philippe's French Dip Vs. Donut Man's Strawberry Donut

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 voted on your favorites. Here is the final match-up. Voting ends Friday, September 20 at 12 p.m.

VOTING CLOSED.

Photo by Mia WasilevichFrench dip at Philippe the Original: The French Dip champion.

The History: Philippe's opened in 1908, though not in its current location, which was opened in 1951 after the owners got the boot from their first spot, in order to make way for the 101. This restaurant claims to have made the first French dip, though they say it happened in 1918 and was probably just a case of bread-dropped-in-broth. (Their competitor Cole's lays claim to inventing it 10 years prior, and on purpose.)

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. It's an order at the counter situation, which sometimes makes things a little bonkers.

The Food: The food here is good. And sometimes kind of funky, but in that nice 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.

Strawberry donut at Donut Man: Midnight munchies worth the drive.

The History: This donut shop -- one where they actually make the donuts in-house -- has been open for 40-some years, under the same ownership. The strawberry donuts came a few years after the store opened, and then there were peach donuts, too. Though L.A. is absolutely lousy with donut shops, Donut Man is one of the few known and requested by name.

The Scene: You know how donut shops are. There are usually some characters milling about, along with the parents and kids and the food tourists and, after dark, the people who feel as though they might totally die if they don't get a strawberry donut now.

The Food: The owners are really on to something here. They took something absolutely ubiquitous to Los Angeles, and they elevated it with something else very L.A.: fresh fruit. Do you have a sweet tooth? You'll like the strawberry donut. (Which is only available a few months a year, adding to its allure.)

Philippe's
Strawberry donut at Donut Man


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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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