As it turned out, we decided to try our hand at Philippe, since neither the bf nor myself had ever been there (and we both grew up here in L.A.--sad, isn't it?). Found parking nearby for $4, which was worth it to save on hassle. The lines were indeed long, but I think we waited for maybe 20-30 minutes to get to the counter. And, incidentally, why is it that the line I first picked and then abandoned in favor of another one, moved much faster? Always the case. Sigh.
Anyway, the bf's mom got the lamb, no cheese, while the bf got beef with swiss, and I beef with jack. A bag of chips to share and a slice of cake for dessert. It will come as no suprise that we stuffed those sandwiches down our gullets very fast. The big surprise for me was the quality of the meat--not too fatty. I tried a piece of lamb and again was pleasantly surprised by its tenderness. The cake was better than I expected it to be, sweet and spongy, although the chocolate frosting tasted suspiciously like something from a Duncan Hines tub. (However, I have been on a home-baking tear lately, and am inclined to be a bit snobbish about purchased baked goods. My own prejudice.)
I can't say that I'll rush back to Philippe, since it is rather far for a sad Westsider to go for a French dip sandwich, but everyone enjoyed the experience. The food was quite tasty and I felt like I was having a little adventure--the people watching, the room itself--and when returned from the Ed Ruscha show, I was quite pleased with my cultural experience.
Thanks for your suggestions earlier, Hounds. This place is a terrific resource.
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