The Best French Dip Sandwiches In The US

What's better than a sandwich stacked high with tender thin slices of beef and melty cheese on a French roll? Dipping said sandwich into a deeply rich, flavorful sauce made from its own pan juices. Since its inception in the early 1900s, the French dip sandwich — notably accompanied by a bowl of au jus (a thin broth or gravy) to dip it into — has become a staple item across menus in America.

The French dip isn't actually a product of France — it was created in Los Angeles. Depending on who you ask, the French dip was invented at either Phillipe's or Cole's (more on both of them later). But no matter who came up with the delicious sandwich, it has become one of the most iconic dishes of Los Angeles, right up there with Wolfgang Puck's smoked salmon pizza and the Dodger Dog.

Today, the gospel of the French dip sandwich has spread all over the world. But where are the best spots to pick up the sandwich in the United States? We've compiled a list of some of our favorite spots across the country.

Philippe the Original (Los Angeles, California)

It's right there in the name: "the original." At least, that's what they'll tell you. The story of how the French dip sandwich was born has several different versions, but the most popular story takes place at Philippe. Way back in 1908, a French immigrant named Philippe Mathieu had saved up enough money to open a restaurant in the United States, appropriately called Philippe's Restaurant. That's where the French dip was allegedly created.

Even the descendants of Philippe's aren't super clear about how the French dip was made. According to the restaurant's website, "Mathieu accidentally dropped the sliced French roll into the roasting pan, which was filled with hot juices from the oven," and served it to a policeman. The next day, the policeman returned with friends for more "dipped sandwiches." Another account says a fireman complained that the bread of his sandwich was stale and asked for some of the "gravy" to dip it into.

Today, that same restaurant still serves up some of the best French dip sandwiches in the country from its location in downtown Los Angeles. If you snag the "beef double dip," the bread is pre-dipped in au jus, then assembled with piles of roast beef, cheese, and the restaurant's famous hot mustard. Of course, an extra cup of au jus is served on the side for additional dipping, along with a full plate of fries. You can't go wrong with "the original" French dip.

Cole's P.E. Buffet (Los Angeles, California)

On the other side of the French-dip-inventor spectrum, you'll find Cole's, another classic LA institution. Cole's, also known as Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet, is also one of the oldest bars in the City of Angels. According to one of the co-owners of Cole's, the sandwich was created by a simple accident in the kitchen where the bread dropped into the beef juice by chance – creating a dipped sandwich. However, the story seems to be mostly a legend at Cole's, with no hard evidence to back the story up. Another story says that founder Henry Cole dipped the bread to soften it for a customer who had recently had dental work and couldn't eat the harder bread with his sensitive teeth.

In any case, drop into this Los Angeles institution and you'll be blessed with an absolutely mouth-watering rendition of the French dip sandwich. You can order your choice of pork or roast beef, cheese, horseradish, and a hefty cup of au jus to dip it into on the side.

So, of the two originators, who has the better French dip sandwich? It really depends on your personal taste. Some people prefer Philippe, while others like Cole's better. You'll have to make a trip to Los Angeles and make the decision for yourself.

Pony Up (Denver, Colorado)

If you find yourself craving a French dip in Denver, you should head over to Pony Up — a late-night restaurant dedicated to the art of dipped sandwiches created by owner Angela Neri. At this fun, neighborhood bar, almost all of the sandwiches on the restaurant's menu come with some sort of broth to dip the sandwiches in.

If you want to go classic, you can order the Alameda Street Classic, which comes with roast beef, rosemary, sea salt, mayonnaise, and a cup of beef jus to dip it into. You can also opt for the Frenchie, which houses roast beef, gruyere, thyme, crispy onions, and French onion au jus. The restaurant also has several other creative dipped sandwiches, like the garlic pork-featuring Saigon that comes with pho broth to dip into, the smoked mushroom with a porcini broth dip, and classics like grilled cheese and tomato soup.

You'll also find classic sides to go with your cocktails, like karaage (Japanese fried chicken), Bavarian soft pretzels, crispy potatoes, or classic chicken wings. If you really want to get crazy, you can get a Pony Up shot, which consists of a whiskey shot along with a classic au jus chaser — that's for only the realest French dip enthusiasts, we assume.

Maison Pickle (New York, New York)

If you frequent the Upper West Side of New York, you're likely familiar with Jacob's Pickles, a neighborhood staple that features homey American dishes like biscuits and gravy, fried chicken sandwiches, and of course, some of the best pickles you'll find. The owners of Jacob's Pickles created an offshoot restaurant called Maison Pickle that was specifically created to feature one menu item: the French dip sandwich.

If you check the restaurant's website, you'll find an ode to the Los Angeles founders of the French Dip (Cole's and Philippe), but venture to the actual restaurant and you'll find its own take on the signature sandwich. There are three choices here, all served on a French roll with big dill pickles and pan-scraped au jus: the Classic (sirloin beef and horseradish aioli), the Deluxe (the classic ingredients along with caramelized onions, gruyere fondue, and fried onions), or the Reuben (gruyere, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and onion au jus).

Although the French dips at Maison Pickle might be a bit more upscale, and therefore pricier, you'll be spending your money on incredibly high-end ingredients that result in an incredibly delicious French dip sandwich.

Brennan & Carr (Brooklyn, New York)

Ever since the creation of Brennan & Carr in 1938, the restaurant has specialized in serving up delicious hot roast beef sandwiches to the Brooklyn community. When you walk into the building, you feel like you're walking through a piece of history.

You'll find plenty of classics on the menu, including a hamburger, crispy chicken sandwich, onion rings, and corn fritters, but the star of the show is the roast beef sandwich. The sandwich is piled generously high with hot roast beef on a Kaiser roll that has been pre-dipped in beef broth, so you won't actually get a cup of broth for dipping unless you want to get extra saucy.

If you're new to the French dip game, you might not know there are different styles of pre-dipping found right on the restaurant's website under a page called "Broth 101." The first dipping style is the "dingle dangle," which involves dipping the meat into the broth but leaving the bread dry. The "double dip" dips the meat and both sides of the bread in the broth. Lastly, the KFJ ("Knife Fork Job") takes the tasty broth and pours it over the entire sandwich like a wet burrito. Yes, dipping is an art.

Hillstone (aka Houston's) (various locations)

If you scour the deep parts of foodie message boards to find the best French dip sandwich in the United States, you'll find two names that pop up time and time again, no matter what area of the country the participants are talking about: Hillstone and Houston's. Sure, it's not often you find a chain of restaurants that serve the best of a type of dish — especially one as particular as the French dip sandwich — but Hillstone absolutely nails it.

So why are Hillstone and Houston's mentioned in the same section? Both chains of restaurants are actually owned by the same group: Hillstone Restaurant Group. The group also has several other restaurants under the same banner, such as Bandera, R+D Kitchen, and Palm Beach Grill — and many of them actually follow the same recipe for their French dip.

No matter which branch of the restaurant group you're looking into, you'll find comments like this one on Reddit: "The French Dip at Hillstone on the Embarcadero is the best I have ever had anywhere." Order it up and you'll get perfectly toasted bread, well-seasoned au jus, and thin slices of medium-rare roasted prime rib stacked on a creamy smear of mayonnaise.

According to an ex-employee on Reddit, the company really knows its food. The "sandwich is cut to order from their prime rib on bread that is made in-house each morning...g** d*** do they make good, consistent food."

Laurenzo's Prime Rib (Houston, Texas)

If you're ever in Houston and are looking for an incredible French dip, look no further than Laurenzo's. The restaurant was founded by Domenic Laurenzo, who comes from a family of famous restaurateurs. His grandmother founded the legendary Ninfa's — the restaurant that serves "the best Mexican food in Texas since Texas was in Mexico," according to the restaurant's website.

Domenic's restaurant, Laurenzo's, mixes in a bit more of his Italian side, resulting in a drool-worthy menu featuring dishes like chopped steaks, baby back ribs, paninis, fried oysters, pasta, and of course — the French dip filled with prime rib. The sandwich comes served with the restaurant's namesake prime rib, an option of provolone cheese on top, stacked between two pieces of bread, and served with a side of au jus and a huge plate of fries.

According to one reviewer on TripAdvisor, it's the "best French Dip in town!" She suggests getting the French dip with cheese and horseradish sauce is the way to go.

Mitchell Delicatessen (Nashville, Tennessee)

Ever since Mitchell Delicatessen opened its doors in 2008, it's been a hit with local residents. In fact, according to the deli's website, it ran out of food on its opening day. What is it about this specific little sandwich joint that continues to draw in accolade after accolade? It's simple: natural, locally sourced ingredients. With that simple mantra, Mitchell Deli continues to find itself on lists like the best sandwiches in Nashville, and even best in America.

Although there are plenty of favorites on the menu, like the B.L.T., Italian, Reuben, and even a banh mi, it's also a fantastic spot to satisfy your French dip cravings. You'll find stacks of house roast beef and Swiss cheese piled high on a Silke's hoagie with a steaming cup of au jus on the side. Local Nashville-ians all seem to agree. On a Reddit post looking for the best French dip in town, the most highly rated restaurant is Mitchell Deli by a mile.

The Cheese Shop (Costa Mesa, California)

One of the best French dips you'll find south of Los Angeles isn't at a restaurant — it's at a humble cheese shop in a shopping center called OC Mix in Costa Mesa. Here, you'll find a full-service cheese shop full of farmstead and artisanal cheeses that are cut to order. You can also find top-quality pairings with the cheese, like bacon jam, pickled fruits, local honey, and cuts of meat — but locals know it's the spot to get mouth-watering sandwiches, as well.

On the menu, you'll find sandwiches like the croque monsieur, smoked salmon toast, and the pastrami (dubbed "Johnny Pastrami"), as well as fancy grilled cheeses that feature ingredients like caramelized onions, bacon, or roasted tomatoes. But arguably, the best menu item has to be "The Finest French Dip." The sandwich includes thinly sliced prime rib and horseradish cream layered onto a glazed potato roll and is served with a side of au jus.

Bartlett's (Austin, Texas)

Austin may be known for breakfast tacos and barbecue, but you can still find a top-quality French dip if you head over to Bartlett's. Owner Tim Bartlett originally helped open and manage the first Houston's back in 1977 and spent 13 years with the company. In 1990, he set out on his own and took over an existing store, effectively changing its name to Bartlett's. You might have noticed Houston's is also on our list of best French dips around, which might be why Bartlett's is right up there as well.

Order the "Famous French Dip Au Jus" and you'll be awarded an excellent rendition of the sandwich. According to one review, it "lived up to my expectations and then some. Perfectly tender and beefy with an amazing fresh bun." Another went as far to say Barlett's "made [a French dip] for the gods." A sandwich good enough for the gods is good enough for us.

HoneyHole (Seattle, Texas)

"Damn, that's a good sandwich," is the first thing you'll see on HoneyHole's website, and it's not an empty boast. Founded in 1999 by brothers Sean and Devon London, HoneyHole has been dubbed one of the best sandwich shops in Seattle. When you walk into the restaurant, you'll be greeted by several funky decorations, like a hang-gliding lizard and a floating shark.

In 2021, HoneyHole opened a second location in the city to serve up its incredible sandwiches, like the bandit (house-smoked tender beef brisket in BBQ sauce), the Corleone (house-cured pastrami on a demi baguette), or the Fast Eddie (tri-tip beef with pepper jack and sautéed onions). But most importantly (for this article), is what it calls the Gooch, which includes thinly sliced house-roasted tri-tip beef, red onions, sharp cheddar cheese, and horseradish mayo, served up on warm bread and dipped in a cup of au jus.

As u/RockItGuyDC said on Reddit, "HoneyHole has a really good __________ (fill in the blank, any answer is correct)," and many others in Seattle seem to agree.