Archives for posts with tag: cole’s

daisy, bo and luke duke had the boar’s nest. norm, cliff and fraiser had cheers. jack, janet and chrissy had the regal beagle…and now with the recent opening of the escondite, i too have a local.

the escondite

when i first moved downtown almost 5 years ago, i went to see the derby dolls when they were at 3rd and alameda, and on the way back my friends and i stopped into the 410 boyd for some food afterward. as i remember it, the food was pretty decent, but the lighting was fluorescent and horrible, and the art on the wall was god awful. i never went back. being that it was only a block away, i have always wanted it to become some place that i would like to hang out and have a drink, or get some late night food. i have been asked many times ‘is there some place nearby that we can just get a drink?’ and i think of the usuals: bar 107, mignon, pete’s cafe, wurstküche, and cole’s, but all of those are easily a 10 minute walk, and for non-new yorkers, you might as well ask them to run a marathon. 410 boyd never even crossed my mind.

a few weeks ago, while walking back from lunch with my friend shirley, i noticed the 410 boyd sign had changed. it was now planks of wood with an eye peering through them. intriguing…

we decided to stop and check things out. erin, one of the owners, was on the patio and asked if she could help us. she was as sweet as my sweet potato pecan pie, told us that they would be opening in a few weeks, and that we would be pleasantly surprised. my neighbor katherine had met brian, the other owner, while doing some guerrilla gardening in their parking lot, and he was nice enough to donate water to them. we decided we would go get a drink on opening night, and as it turned out quite a few other people in our building also wanted to see the new digs. there was easily a dozen of us there.

the escondite, or the hiding place, is dark enough to hide from anyone, but so much so, that i had a hard time even reading the menu that night. i was told that they would be adding candles to the bar area, and reprinting the menus with a darker font. i have been back a few times now, tasted the food, had a chance to chat with erin and brian some more, candles have appeared and fonts are darker.

the menu is pretty simple: mostly burgers, some sandwiches, a few salads and appetizers, and hand cut french fries.

chili cheese fries

cheese stix

most of the burgers have names right out of my generation: boss hogg, rip taylor, ricardo montalban, herve villachez[sic], capt kangaroo, don ho and my favorite gavin macleod.

boss hogg + gavin macleod

dr joyce brothers

they all have some not so usual ingredients on them including fritos, refried beans, pineapple, hashbrowns, mashed potatoes, and cream cheese. they are vegetarian friendly, and can all be made with a veggie burger, or if you prefer chicken breast, that’s an option too. their buffalo mushrooms have a really good kick, and one of the best sauces i have tasted, but it made me want them to be chicken wings.

buffalo mushrooms

brian wants to respect the vegetarians and wont use the deep fryers for both fries and wings, and until they can expand, mushrooms it is. the teriyaki steak tips were tangy and had some good heat and spice as well. i need to try out their sandwiches next, but since i am a bit of a sandwich snob, who knows that outcome? ultimately, the food is good, and for a neighborhood local i don’t need it to win any james beard awards. what i do need is that on a sunday night after a long day at work, without a meal break, to show up after 10pm and erin to happily say ‘we serve food til 1am every night.’ thank you sweet baby jesus! …and this was the view on the patio that night:

and as we left last night:

i have been in enough over the past couple of weeks to know that once the word gets out about this place, my local will soon be popular, but even brian implied he has no qualms about turning people away that don’t give him the vibe that he wants. he and erin set out to make it a neighborhood place, and i believe it.

brian is also an owner at bar 107, which on the weekends especially, can get crazy and over run with usc kids, and what i like to call ‘bridge and tunnel’ peeps. the feeling at the escondite is much mellower and matured. it’s a place where people of any age will want to hang out and have a drink and some food, but has character and isn’t stuffy.

the music has been fantastic. a great mix ranging from obscure 70’s one hit wonders to punk rock, with a little old school willie nelson, and a bit of early 90’s grunge rock thrown in. again, all up in my wheelhouse. although, i have seen both erin and brian on 2 separate occasions run and jump the bar when a certain enigma song came up in the rotation.

i asked brian, why not just take the song off the ipod? he said, ‘cuz it’s fun to run.’

i’m pretty sure chrissy, janet and jack would be jealous.

the escondite is at 410 boyd street, la, ca 90013 • skid row adjacent • parking is free after 6 + all day sunday • happy hour 5-8p m-f.

*a special thanks to shirley shivhon for providing some of her photos.

it has long been argued who is the originator of the french dip sandwich: cole’s pacific electric buffet or philippe the original? both were established in downtown los angeles in the year 1908, and both claim to be the original. philippe’s website claims it wasn’t invented until 1918 when,

while making a sandwich, Mathieu inadvertently dropped the sliced french roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. The patron, a policeman, said he would take the sandwich anyway and returned the next day with some friends asking for more dipped sandwiches. And so was born the “French Dipped Sandwich,” so called either because of Mathieu’s French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on or because the officer’s name was French. The answer is lost to history.”

whereas cole’s website doesn’t tell a story, but still lays claim. regardless who invented it, i was curious as to who does it better?

i only live a few blocks from cole’s and have had their pastrami french dip a few times, but never the one from philippe’s. before going to moca’s art in the streets exhibit for my second time, a few of us met at philippe’s for a late lunch. i thought this will be the test. i had been once before in my early days of living in los angeles, way before living downtown, and definitely before i knew of the debate, but i seem to remember i just got a turkey sandwich.

you place your order from one of the ‘carvers’ at a counter (similar to katz’s in nyc, but less deli and more diner) and they make your sandwich right in front of you. there is sawdust on the floor, booths or short stools at communal tables to sit at, and often before a dodgers game you will see quite a few fans (including the opposing team) come in to get food.

as it turns out, they don’t have pastrami at philippe’s, so i ordered the beef, with a side of macaroni salad and a pickle.

it was probably twice the size of cole’s, and they pre-dip the roll in the jus, instead of putting it on the side. my first bite told me it was way too salty, and i didn’t like the pre-dipped aspect. frankly, it just makes the bread soggy. i liked the quality of the meat, but it was too thickly cut for my taste, and halfway through, i was wishing they offered half sandwiches, or at least the jus on the side so i could take the rest to go without it being a mushy mess later. the pickles were good, nothing spectacular, but the macaroni salad was delightful, reminding me of something my grandmother once made.

since they didn’t have pastrami at philippe’s, that meant i had to go back to cole’s and try their beef in order to do a direct comparison. so, the next day i got on my trusty steed and biked over for lunch. (side note: sit at the bar. it is the only place i have received decent service. the bartenders are really knowledgeable and very nice. the table servers are either really understaffed or just bad at their jobs.)

i ordered the original (beef) french dip, otherwise known as the little dipper, and a side of spicy garlic fries. one pickle wedge is complimentary, extras are $.91.

the only difference between the little dipper and the big dipper is the amount of meat they put on the bread. the loaf is the same size. they also have a skinny dip, which is half a dip with a side of fries. fyi, the fries come in a basket and are big enough to share. happy hour from 3-7p has the skinny dip for only $5, but i seem to remember the portion of fries is smaller and not in a separate basket.

i have to say even though cole’s beef was good quality and sliced thinner than philippe’s, it was a bit bland. perhaps it was just in contrast to how salty philippe’s was, or maybe that the pickles and fries at cole’s are extremely spicy in comparison, but i wont order it again. i prefer the pastrami, which has the right amount of flavor, thinly sliced meat, and jus on the side. although, i must say i enjoyed the macaroni salad at philippe’s as a side compared to the fries at cole’s.

philippe’s wins a price comparison hands down at $6 for the sandwich, $1.20 for a side of macaroni, and $1.10 for a whole pickle. cole’s little dipper is only $6.38, but in order to come close to how much meat is on philippe’s you’ll have to order the big dipper (and still doesn’t have as much meat as philippe’s) which is $9.11. a side of fries goes for $3.19. personally, a little dip or half a big dipper is enough for me especially with a side, but if quantity is important, you’ll have to pay for it.

so, as far as which beef french dip is better? philippe’s is too much meat, too salty, and soggy, whereas, cole’s is sparing on the meat and bland, but at least the jus is on the side, and i could always add salt. i guess i’d vote for cole’s, but i’ll stick to the pastrami, and swing by philippe’s for a side of macaroni salad.

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