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Philippe's Celebrates 100 Years with Fans of the French Dip

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, October 07, 2008, at 09:58AM
kiss.jpg Ed Fuentes

Outside Phillipe's, balloons provide plenty of amusement for one young child.

When Philippe the Original announced they would drop the price of its French dip sandwiches for a few hours on the day of its 100th anniversay, there was no surprise the line for ten cent French Dips would reach around the block.

This wasn’t about waiting for an affordable meal. This was a pilgrimage of French Dip lovers who wanted to celebrate this particular landmark, and any line was a respectful homage to the French Dip sandwich.

When the queue snaked down Alameda and through the parking lot, circling the building, up Ord Street, down North Spring and circled through another parking lot, no one left. Many came prepared with umbrellas and lawn chairs.

The 100th Anniversary crowd included civic leaders (who later jumped in to make a few beef dips), four generations from the family that has owned the restaurant since 1927, and the grandson of the original owner who (the story says) changed culinary history when a roll fell into the pan of meat dripping, or was requested by a police officer... or was it a fireman?

Of course, the great L.A. legend was fortified as it was retold today, including in a press release. In 1918, Philippe Mathieu accidentally dropped a French bread roll into pan of beef drippings while preparing a sandwich for a police officer. He liked the sandwich so much that he brought friends to order it for themselves.

Philippe Guilhem, the grandson of the founder, Philippe "Frenchy" Mathieu, has been credited as the source of the story of the fireman who complained the roll was stale, and Philippe solved that problem by dipping it in the juice.

“My belief is the Cole’s just named it the French Dip.” he says, answering the question that has followed him for his 64 years. “That was the nickname of my grandfather.”

For the thousands waiting in a line that formed at noon and reached Ord and N. Spring by 3pm, an hour before the doors would even open, the precise myth of the French Dip didn't quite matter. As long as the sandwich is made the same way, they will keep coming.

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