Having featured (and highly praised) the French Dip from Phillipe’s, it is only fair that I give a chance to the other establishment claiming to have invented the sandwich. Where Phillipe’s claimed a roll was inadvertently dropped into a pan of jus, Cole’s story is that such a dip was made intentionally, to cater to a customer with sore gums. I’m not sure which story is true, and to be frank I don’t care. It’s the sandwiches I’m after, not the trivia.
This is the beef dip, where the linked Phillipe’s sandwich is the pork dip. I’ve tried the beef and the pork at both places, so forgive me for jumping back & forth while only having a picture of one or the other. I suppose the simplest way to do this is to simply run down who does what better. The beef dip is better at Phillipe’s, and the pork dip is better at Cole’s. The fact that the pork dip is listed above the beef on Cole’s menu suggests that maybe they’re aware that their pork supersedes the beef. Whether they know it or not, though, those are the facts as I see them. The associated matters seem an even draw. The mustard at Phillipe’s is smooth and yellow with a substantial amount of horseradish, the mustard at Cole’s is pale and features even more horseradish, present in shreds. The atmospheres of the establishments differ significantly, Cole’s being a restaurant with subdued lighting and a bar that can put forth a very impressive old fashioned. Phillipe’s, meanwhile, is bright and the shared seating is bustling with familes, the young and old and everyone in between. Cole’s serves the sandwich with a small cup of jus and you dip on your own, at Phillipe’s the sandwich is dipped before it’s handed to you. All told I prefer Phillipe’s mustard and dipping style, but the old fashioned really is spectacular and I can easily see someone preferring Cole’s.
Neither the pork at Phillipe’s nor the beef at Cole’s is bad, both are very good, incredibly tasty sandwiches. It’s just that someone on the other side of town does it better. In a bit of symmetry, though, each establishment wins a particular category and the contest of the whole can only be called a draw. While some may see this result as something of a letdown, I can’t see it as anything but the best possible outcome. Think of it! Any one of us can travel to Los Angeles, patronize one or both historical establishments and eat a delicious sandwich. No matter which you choose you are unlikely to walk away unsatisfied. Truly, the winner here is neither Cole’s nor Phillipe’s but your humble sandwich enthusiast.