Saturday, January 02, 2010

Meat on Meat: French Dip Fest '09

Arguing about French Dips is like arguing about pizza, burgers, or blowjobs--in the end, even the bad ones are pretty good. But I live in Downtown LA so I figured I should tackle the great Cole's v. Philippe's debate. Since this isn't a queer pretentious food blog I won't pretend to standardize my tasting. I didn't get the same dips at both locations, didn't go at similar times, or with the same people, or even in the same state of intoxication. Despite all that I think I can unequivocally say that, crappy service aside, Cole's knocks Philippe's out of the water.

And I say that with grave hesitation because there's a lot to like about Philippe's: it's family-owned and has been staffed by some of the same people for years. The sandwiches are a step cheaper than Cole's (though Cole's has just dropped its prices) and the casual cafeteria layout, despite its limitations, is better in a lot of ways than the dour inattentiveness of Cole's staff. But Philippe's meat is mediocre and the bread isn't any better. Cole's has good bread and rich, densely flavored meats. Time to break this down:

The Dip: Turkey
The Side: Potato Salad
Pros: Home-y atmosphere, more traditional pre-dipped sandwiches, cheap, (usually) quick, huge array of sides and non-dip entrees, good pie, dirt-cheap drinks (9 cent coffee, 60 cent iced tea)
Cons: Stale bread, bland meat, sometimes long lines, just overall meh

The Dip: Lamb
The Side: Spicy garlic fries & atomic pickles
Pros: Great meat, decent bread, good fries, tasty spicy pickles, classier vibe, jus on the side for self-administration of jus
Cons: Inattentive service, expensive drinks, limited selection,

(Also, what's the point of the spicy pickles? Spears on the side? Why not slices to put on the dip?)

With Cole's dips now $6.38 versus Philippe's $5.55, the price difference isn't as significant as before but you'll still have to contend with mixologist-priced drinks to jack up your tab.

In the end? Definitely don't stay away from Philippe's, but if you're only going to do one DTLA dip, do Cole's.

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