Philippe The Original claims to have invented the French dip. The simple diner opened in 1908, and according to the restaurant’s personal lore, it stumbled upon the everlasting sandwich in 1918. One fateful day, owner Philippe Mathieu dropped a French roll into a roasting pan full of juice. The cop who ordered the sandwich said he didn’t mind and took the deliciously soggy sandwich for lunch. He returned the next day, requesting the exact same sandwich. Another version of this story, told by Mathieu in an interview with the L.A. Times, states that the cop asked for French bread filled with roast pork, which Mathieu later began making with smaller French rolls.
“One day a customer saw some gravy in the bottom of a large pan of roast meat. He asked me if I would mind dipping one side of the French roll in that gravy. I did, and right away five or six others wanted the same,” Mathieu said.
Regardless of how it came to be, you can still get Philippe’s French dip with roast beef, pork, lamb, turkey or ham on a dipped French roll with optional cheese. Spicy mustard is available too, but guests are advised to use it sparingly. Other deli sides and desserts are also on offer, and you can still get a hot cup of joe for less than 50 cents.
However, there is another contender for inventor of the French dip that’s also worth trying. Cole’s, which also opened in 1908, lays claim with a similar story about a roll fortuitously dunked in roasting juices. We may never know who was truly first, but both sandwiches are delicious.