Tag Archives: Los Angeles

L.A. and the French dip sandwich

Los Angeles, CA
Double-dipped lamb sandwich at Philippe’s The Original

The French dip sandwich is to L.A. what the cheesesteak is to Philly, and what the poutine is to Quebec – a trashy, iconic local specialty that seems less inspiring than it is.

What is it? Basically it’s a soggy meat sandwich. You can get it with roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey or ham. It is served in a nice crispy bread roll and – here’s the gimmick – dipped in natural roast gravy. You can order it single-dip, double-dip or wet, corresponding to the amount of gravy you want on the bread. “Wet” is probably the way to go. And yes, it’s tastier than it looks.

Why do they call it a “French” dip? This is a good question, especially as roasts are traditionally very British. It bears no ressemblance to anything I have seen in France, nor to the roast beef sandwiches sold in Quebec. It does bear a slight resemblance to the traditional Quebecois Hot Chicken (pronounced “ott-shi-keuhn”), but no direct link. Its Frenchness comes from supposed inventor Philippe Mathieu, a Frenchman who migrated to L.A., where he apparently came up with the idea for the sandwich around 1918.
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Vietnamese Poutine in Los Angeles

The Gorbals

After winning on reality show Top Chef a few years back, Ilan Hall opened up a well-reviewed restaurant in Los Angeles’ edgy downtown. The Gorbals takes its name from the old Jewish neighbourhood in Glasgow where Hall’s father came from. He describes the cuisine as “tasty, oddball food.” The menu includes such items as bacon-wrapped matzoh balls and octopus-tofu sandwiches.

Although I generally wasn’t a fan of the L.A. sprawl, downtown is a different world – it’s worth visiting the city if only for the interesting revitalization of beautiful old buildings taking place in the art deco streets around The Gorbals. The restaurant is curiously located down a long hallway on the ground floor of an apartment building. There’s a speakeasy feel to the location.

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