The old-fashioned scent of sliced meat and jus permeates the corner of Alameda and Ord Street, where the blue baseball-style logo beckons. Phillipe's is the oldest continually operating restaurant in Los Angeles and claims (along with Cole's on Main and 6th) to have originated the concept of the sauce-dipped sandwich. I won't argue with anyone, and you can read up on the details.
The photo you see here is a rare lull. Normally this long deli counter is anywhere from two to ten people deep, but moving reasonably. There are ten capable carvers behind the counter, slicing, scooping, adding and smiling. Long communal tables line the warehouse-like interior, and wood shavings are scattered on the floor.
There is no "Order Here" sign to focus your attention. Just get behind someone, and decide your sliced and breaded pleasure (it might be recommended to get to know the menu). Your food will be placed on paper plates, on an ancient tray that's been chewed on by dinosaurs. Despite the offering of wines and beers I just get lemonade.
Having your sandwich Double Dipped means that both halves of the bread, lightly toasted and crusty, will have tan marks creeping up their interior. Quick and painless, not a prolonged soak, the Double Dipped is what I always get.
The whole affair is less treacherous to your fingertips and clothing than expected, but demands your full attention. The sandwiches are not overly large, resting like ragged trilobytes on the paper plate. I usually get two.
The beef is well-sliced, not too fatty, and benefits from the extra juiciness imparted by the dunking. It tastes honest, hitting the bottom of the stomach in the right place, and it is hard not to wolf it down. The beef is the classic, but there is also turkey, ham, pork and lamb. The pork is as soft as the juice-kissed bread, almost too gentle. Blue cheese adds a gummy pungency that is not unwelcome, but I prefer the structural support and classicism of Swiss.
The house mustard used to be served deli-style in little pots with spoons, but is now in squeeze bottles, which I'm sure is healthier for the Los Angeles citizenry but less friendly. Carefully add drops of this to your sandwich; it is very tasty, but will race up your nose and start ringing bells if you're unsubtle with it. Buy some and take it home.
There are parking lots all around this venerable icon. Philippe's is open until ten daily.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), East Side/Downtown, Deli, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
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