I love a good origin story, the confluence of events leading to the creating of something great. Some uppity American ladies visiting south of the border have a hankering for a midnight snack, a Tijuana barkeep tosses whatever old tortillas he has with some canned jalapenos, the ladies swoon, Nachos are born. The Earl of Sandwich wants something he can hold in one hand to chow down on whilst playing poker, the rest is history. In a pinch, Caesar Cardini uses the dregs of his larder (egg yolks? parmesean? anchovies?) to quick dress a salad, and voilà. It all seems a matter of luck, happenstance, and, generally, a deep hunger. Which, when adventuring, is sort of how I roll- letting fate call the shots, getting really hungry in the process. How fortuitous, then, that TWO different places in Los Angeles both claim to have invented the French Dip Sandwich. Forget Grauman’s Chinese Theater, this is the kind of thing I want to do in LA. Philippe’s (which looks just like Katz’s inside) claims that their pre-jused buns were accidentally dipped first when Philippe himself (slippery Frenchman) butterfingered a roast beef sandwich into a pan of meat drippings. Cole’s (which looks just like Milk & Honey inside*) claims that the sandwich was invented in 1908 by a sympathetic chef for a customer (une Frenchy?) who was complaining of sore gums. Philippe’s comes wet with juice, Cole’s comes with a side of dip. Philippe’s has briny deli-style pickles, Cole’s has shoestring fries. Phillipe’s has beers, Cole’s has impeccable whiskey cocktails. Both have an incredible (and incredibly horseradishly spicy) mustard. We ate both. We came, we dipped, we conquered. It would be wholly impossible to pick a favorite, and, in the rarified world of archetypal sandwiches, why should you have to?
*ed. note: light googling actually informs me that the new Cole’s cocktail menu is created by Milk & Honey’s Sasha Petraske, so- boom.