Oddly, Philippe The Original's hundredth anniversary celebration next Monday isn't the only French dip sandwich news in my mailbox. On that day from 4 to 8 pm, Philippe's will roll back to ten-cent sandwiches and nickel coffee — and celebrate with Dodger Stadium peanut tosser Roger Owens and the USC Marching Band. Across Downtown, the new consulting chef at Cole's P.E. Buffet — and no, I never thought I would mention the word's chef and Cole's in the same sentence, let alone twice — is planning a cautious update of the institution's famed sandwich. Neal Fraser spoke to Lesley Balla at Eater LA about the delicate maneuvering:
Talk about taking on an institution like Cole's.
My take is just not trying to go too far, and I think [owner Cedd Moses] is in agreement. I just want to be more or less the way it was, but of course updated. It's still going to be meat and bread on a plate, single or double dipped. Beef, pork, lamb or turkey. Maybe the lamb will be a little more than $10 but the others will be less. The pies will use as much farmer's market fruit as we can. We really want the pies to be great. We want to keep it the way it's been done, not necessarily reinvent things.
What will the sandwich be like? Any significant changes?
I didn't have access to the Cole's recipes, but to me it's all about technique. It's still going to be a handcrafted sandwich. Obviously if you only have three ingredients on a plate, the product has to be good. You canít cover it with hollandaise or something. We'll try to use the best meat we can use, and I'm going to try and be as sustainable as possible.
Any thoughts on Cole's vs. Philippe's?
In the later years, Cole's was probably a shadow of what it was. There was a lot going on in that building in its heyday. But you know, the restaurant was only a half a block away from Skid Row. Philippe's got saved by the neighborhood, and Cole's wasn't as fortunate. But it feels like it's been here for a 100 years. Philippe's is more like Canter's. It doesn't look 100 years old.
Cole's is scheduled to reopen in November as the newest outpost in Moses' Downtown hipster empire after the
gentrification remodeling is done.
* Added: The re-lit neon sign out front of Cole's was featured last week at blogdowntown.