What: The french dip sandwich, crafted of shaved prime rib and swiss cheese on a baguette, served au jus:
Why: In celebration of our national birthday, I offer the most American of sandwiches. The french dip combines America’s two greatest culinary weapons: bread and beef. Our overindulgence in both contributes to us being the most overweight, prideful nation on Earth. But this time, we’ve got major justification. The french dip liberates prime rib from snooty wedding-reception carving tables, shrouds it in cheese and a french roll, and plunges the concoction into a beef broth. That’s right, beef goes into more beef. Unless you’re the kind to abstain (which I admire to no end), you can’t do better.
Impact: There are two restaurants in Los Angeles, Philippe’s and Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet, that claim to have invented the french dip. (Only the former has a French chef, which gives their claim a touch more weight.) Regardless of which you favor, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first dip. A century later, it remains unchanged on the menus of all the finest diners in America.
Personal Connection: I often claim I can order food in any city in the world. Part of that is knowing when not to order something. My most rigid rule is that I will not order a french dip in any establishment that claims to serve it “with au jus.” I figure that if you don’t take the time to learn when you’ve created a grammatical redundancy, you probably don’t care enough to make it properly. This rule has held up time and again. (How do I know? Well, I violate this rule all the time. And each time I remember why it exists.)
Other Contenders: a falafel sandwich, with tabouli and tahini paste wrapped in pita; peanut butter and jelly on wheat; a lightly toasted grilled cheese sandwich; a thick bleu cheese burger; the only thing I will eat from McDonald’s, the surprisingly unreproduceable Sausage McMuffin with Egg.