There's a sign hung behind the bustling counter of Philippe the Original (the one true originator of the French dip sandwich, in my mind) that poses a difficult decision to diners: lemonade or iced tea? The retro typefaces and jaunty design of the placard always catch my eye and put me even more in the mood for the delectably soggy sandwiches slathered in piquant mustard, but on a recent visit to the L.A. institution it was an adjacent notice that got me really excited.
A chalkboard posted alongside the menus and neon signs advertised "draft beer," and it wasn't just a list of indistinguishable light beer and imported options best ignored in favor of the more refreshing teetotaler options. Six taps were offered alongside a list of boring bottled brews, and though Bud Light received top-billing, there were some honest craft beer options to accompany the legendary sandwiches and splurge-worthy sides.
Angeleno IPA from nearby Angel City Brewery would satisfy hop-lovers, Hangar 24's Orange Wheat was the other locally brewed option, while a pair of beers from Karl Strauss Brewing -- a pale ale and an Irish red ale -- were well suited to the menu, and New Belgium Blue Paddle Pilsner rounded out the tap list. The beers are available in 10- or 16-ounce sizes for $3.90 and $5.95 respectively, and while those are not a bargain on level with 65-cent iced tea, a $6 pint of craft beer is becoming an increasingly rare bird in L.A. restaurants.
Which brew should you pair with your French dip sandwich, macaroni salad and chili (with beans)? Try the pale ale with the turkey or pork sandwiches, but for the traditional beef dip I'd recommend either the Irish red ale or Angeleno IPA (especially if you opt for cheddar cheese or have a heavy hand with the bottles of sinus-blasting mustard). The IPA would also be fantastic beside a lamb dip sandwich with blue cheese -- a personal favorite combination.
But my go-to choice overall is the Blue Paddle Pilsner, a light and refreshing Czech-style pils that balances a malty body with a dry finish and hoppy zing. It's nearly as thirst-quenching as the iced teas or lemonade on offer, and its lively effervescence and bitter finish make it a fabulous brew to match with nearly the whole menu. The pilsner is especially fitting with the rich, creamy side salads and slaws in Philippe's cases (also, the pickled eggs). Try it beside a turkey dip with Swiss cheese and a paper bowl of potato salad while sitting among the historic photos adorning the eatery's walls and be transported to a bygone era of Los Angeles.