When we visited a couple years back, the place was packed. During the week you'll see CEO's from downtown office towers standing in line next to construction workers; young hipsters next to eighty year olds. Weekends bring in families who want to share the Philippe's experience with their kids or grandkids.
Philippe's is the kind of place my grandfather would have taken me to: a throwback to the 1940's or 50's. It's not one of those cheesy places that's themed to look old. Philippe's is the real deal. There's a small display of model trains, including those that came in and out of Los Angeles, towards the back (Philippe's is located across the street from Union Station).
The dining room is basic - and very large. Get your food, grab a seat. Order the French Dip - it was invented here in 1918 (seriously!).
Philippe's offers free parking (in the back) while you eat. One of very few places downtown that does.
Here's their website: www.philippes.com
What's the appeal of Philippe's?
Perhaps it's what MacDonald Harris of the New York Times ("Real Food in L.A., March 1990): wrote: "There is a camaraderie among the customers, a kind of unspoken friendliness and consideration that's rare in a big city ... The customers are people of all kinds: shoppers, residents of nearby Chinatown, businessmen, Amtrack workers from the station, people who have been coming here for years and are now bringing their children. More than any other place I can think of, Philippe's typifies the democratic spirit of Los Angeles ..."
Remember the old TV show "Cheers"? The place "where everyone knows your name"? As a Christian, I wonder what it would take for more more churches to be like that, a place where everyone knows your name, a place of "unspoken friendliness and consideration"? Of course, there are churches like that - and the church is called to be much, much more than that. But it's also that.
Here's to treating others with "unspoken friendliness and consideration." Amazing how lunch at one the city's oldest restaurants is a reminder of that - with a French Dip sandwich thrown in to boot.
© 2011 www.experiencingla.com
(originally published 3/21/09)