The Theory of Chaos

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Guess where I had lunch today?

Phillipe’s is the least likely restaurant in Los Angeles to ever be robbed. This downtown fixture will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, and claims to have invented the French Dip sandwich. There are other Los Angeles restaurants that make the same claim – it is not so named, as you might imagine, because the sandwich comes from France; it is named because in order to make a proper French Dip you’re supposed to use a hard French roll so the bread survives soaking up the necessary amount of sweet, sweet gravy. Most restaurants just throw seven pounds of roast beef on a roll and give you a cup – at Phillipe’s, they dip the bread right in before they even build the sandwich. This is a French Dip done honest.

That was a tangent, excuse me – it’s easy to get on that tangent once you’ve tried one.

So everyone loves the taste of Phillipe’s – that is not why it’s burglary-proof. Nor is it the Alameda St. location’s proximity to the courthouse, which promises that any given day the restaurant will be packed with armed detectives and patrolmen in foul moods because some jerkwad decided to contest a parking ticket. Nor is it the thick crowds of potential witnesses that line up in front of the counter desperate for their 9-cent coffee. Nor is it the unforgiving layout with its narrow staircase leading to the sawdust floor of a room done up in a décor best labeled 50’s Train Station Waiting Area Moderne.

No, the reason Phillipe’s will never get robbed is the counter women. I don’t know where they find these women, who take and assemble your order. They don’t look bred but manufactured, by some long-defunct Eastern Bloc factory. They are beige and industrial, all seemingly cast from the same bell-shaped mold. They look like they could make Bob Mitchum plead for mercy just by staring at him.

I pity the burglar who tries to make it through these women to reach the cash register – he’s like as not to get brained by a tub of coleslaw. Right before they spit their gum out on him and fetch you that slice of pie you asked for.


  • Great write-up!
    You are soooo correct on the personnel issue!!

    By Anonymous carter, at 10:24 AM  

  • Thanks. Glad someone else out there sees what I see.

    By Blogger Nick, at 10:31 AM  

  • i dunno. the last three, four times i was there, i've been helped by a couple of very comely latina women, if somewhat tired and disinterested. most of the elderly women who help me are very sweet to me--not chatty, but always ready with a smile. maybe they just like me because i look like a peasant.

    By Blogger Santos, at 5:31 PM  

  • I've noted exceptions from time to time - they always seem to disappear. It's like a couple of weeks working there and they get absorbed into the mold. Truth be told I wouldn't have it any other way. If they were all replaced by Hooters girls it just wouldn't be Phillipe's anymore.

    By Blogger Nick, at 6:12 PM  

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