A French dip sandwich is a type of sandwich consisting of sliced meat on a roll, usually a French bread baguette, which has been dipped into the pan drippings of the cooked meat. These sandwiches can also be served dry with a small container of the drippings, referred to as eating the sandwich au jus or “with juice,” rather than being dipped into the liquid before serving. Sometimes, beef broth is used rather than the actual liquids in the pan from cooking the meat, or the drippings can be added to other liquids such as broth to increase the amount available. The French dip sandwich does not owe its origin to French cuisine and is an entirely American delicacy.
While there is some debate regarding the origins of the French dip sandwich, the most popular claim is that it was invented by Philippe Mathieu, former owner of Philippe’s Restaurant in Los Angeles, California. The story goes that in 1918 Mathieu was preparing a sandwich for a police officer consisting of sliced roast beef on a French bread roll. While preparing the sandwich, Mathieu reportedly accidentally dropped the bread into the pan drippings from the roast beef, and the police officer insisted he would eat it regardless. The story goes that the officer enjoyed it so much he brought some friends back the next day to try the “dip” sandwich.
Many people associate a French dip sandwich with roast beef, but it is also often made with lamb, pork, and turkey. French dip sandwiches are still made at Philippe’s in Los Angeles and are still made by dipping the bread into the liquids, rather than serving the sandwiches au jus. Customers are able to request both single and double-dipped sandwiches, dictating the amount of juices that will be soaked into the French dip sandwich. Philippe Mathieu was French and the roll on which the sandwich was first served was also French, but otherwise it is a wholly American food.
The French dip sandwich quickly spread in popularity and numerous restaurants throughout the United States now serve these sandwiches. Many restaurants offer the sandwich “with au jus,” which typically indicates the sandwich is prepared dry and is provided with a container of liquid to dip the sandwich into while eating it. The unnoticed repetitive nature of the listing, basically translating as “with with juice” is similar to other American linguistic repetitions such as the reference to automated teller machines (ATM) as ATM machines.