Origin Story: “Philippe’s The Original” Breakfast, Chinatown

This is in Chinatown

This is in Chinatown

Nearly every major city has a sort of restaurant rivalry: You’ve got your “Ray’s Pizza”, “Original Ray’s Pizza”, “Ray’s Original Pizza”, “Ray Charles’ Original Chart-toppings Pizza”, “Charles Ray, the Original Pizza Sculptor”, the list goes on. Here in L.A. we have one of the more anti-climactic rivalries of all time between Cole’s “The Originators” and Philippe’s “The Original”.

The fantastic culinary invention in question? The “french dip”. Well, ooh la la! Basically, the french dip is the world’s most boring sandwich – and a sorry excuse for a sandwich, at that –  dressed up with a highfalutin name, and notable only as a vehicle for the true show-stopper: horseradish mustard. That’s just my opinion, though.

On the “dip” front, both restaurants are just “aiiight” (both offer a variety of meat options, if you’re super-picky). But Phillipe’s has a clear advantage over Cole’s in the pricing ($3-$4 less than Cole’s, a turkey dip at Cole’s will set you back $10.75) and the efficient system of lunch-counter ordering at Philippe’s: “Carvers” are stationed along the counter, and customers line up in sections to place their orders. Once you pay (cash-only, be warned), and the cashier gives you back the change on a cute little tray, you’ll have your order within a few minutes. Pretty straightforward. On the way out, I like to stop at the candy counter for some 10 cent candies. Sometimes I combine my Philippe’s breakfast excursion with my trips to the post office (the USPS Terminal Annex is right across the street – there’s something satisfying about being the first postal customer in line in the morning). Easy peasy. Find a seat upstairs for a really creepy meal in what I think may have been an insane asylum?

Every bare brick wall upstairs has a customer's signature...

Every bare brick wall upstairs has a customer’s signature…

...even Jesus Christ.

…even Jesus Christ.

However, Cole’s has the “night-life” nailed down (living across the street from this palace of douchery gives me a bird’s eye view of all manner of bros, bitches, and even bumfights long into the early morning), but they haven’t really gotten a handle on their playlist yet: Their seemingly infinite loop of 12 songs has been playing every night like a soundtrack to my nightmares – heavy on the Pat Benatar (?), Tom Petty, and White Stripes.

Anyway, my point is that the breakfast at Philippe’s is off the hook! These are your basic, classic “Denny’s”-style breakfast dishes. Biscuits, pancakes, french toast (not “dipped”), eggcellent omelettes, and a ham steak that won’t quit. And the coffee is only 45 cents. Awww jus!

Breakfast Menu at Philippe's

Breakfast Menu at Philippe’s

The drawback: At this point, Philippe’s is kind of a tourist attraction. On any given day, you can find a charter bus parked outside (having just unloaded a massive posse of the aged). But I kind of like these experiences: some of the conversations that I strike up with the greatest generation while I’m waiting in line are pretty priceless. On a recent visit, my friend was reminded to say “Excuse me” as he is squeezing by dozens of customers in the crowded dining room. Afterwards, he was like, “Who does she think she is?” Ahhh, pancakes truly are wasted on the young.

Breakfast at Philippe's

Breakfast at Philippe’s with Impromptu Eating Partners

The Crowd at Philippe's Los Angeles
The Crowd at Philippe’s Los Angeles

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