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The French Dip: a sandwich that is justifiably, if way too slowly, creeping onto menus in our fair town. It's about fucking time as well, what gravy loving nation isn't going to love a meat roll that you dunk into meat juice?

Invented an American eternity ago, 100 years in layman's terms, there's no disputing that LA is the birthplace of the French Dip sandwich. What is disputed is who invented it, an accolade that has been duked out by two places a mere 10-odd blocks from each other: Cole's and Philippe's. Each place justifies the title of originator with their own story, which this pretty neat video explains.

A lot of Cole's evokes feeling of a 1920's saloon, complete with classic deep-red wooden bar, flock wallpaper, red leather booths and framed old photos dripping off the walls. The bartenders even wear white shirts with braces; there's a faint 'Cheers' vibe, but it doesn't ever feel overdone and corny. We were seated at a booth in the cosy restaurant area and our waitress Lioness (yup, that's right, because that was what she wanted on her name badge) took our Dip orders.

Pastrami Dip

With a choice of meats (including prime beef and turkey) and cheeses (sharp cheddar, pepperjack and, intriguingly, blue cheese) but we plumped for thin slices of peppery soft, pink pastrami sandwiched between just melted tangy Swiss. A cushiony, pliable roll handled generous dunking into rich, meaty jus, the result being a juicy, chewy concoction. The punchy and potent atomic pickle spear added a piquant after bite, and a light dashing of atomic mustard on the second half of the sandwich added a nice tang.


Home made biscuits and gravy

If the sandwich was decent, the biscuits and gravy were outstanding, with sizable chunks of sausage in a thick, well-seasoned buttery gravy dumped atop doughy crumble-in-the-gob biscuits. It was bang on.

What ices our cake with Cole's though is that, in addition to the actual bar, it harbours a prohibition-style hidden doorway, behind which The Varnish lies; a proper speakeasy liquor bar complete with sassy singer lathered over a piano, sassing the Old Fashioned swilling patrons between song lines. And it is open late, as in we-do-not-remember-what-time-we-fell-out-of-there late.

  • Rob.