‹ Back to Recipes

French Dip Sandwich – An L.A. Classic

Written by: Alison Needham

Los Angeles loves a good crosstown rivalry. And such is the case with the French Dip. A French Dip sandwich is a thinly sliced roast beef sandwich, that is then dipped in pan juices or broth. Cheese is optional, spicy mustard is not. Philippe the Original claims to be “Home of the Original French Dip Sandwich,” while Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet asserts that they invented the sandwich shortly after they opened their doors (both opened in 1908). The basic concept is the same at both places – Philippe's serves their French Dip “wet” which means that the roll is dipped in the meat juices and then filled with roast beef, Cole’s serves theirs with a side of au jus which diners dip their sandwich into. Each has a different origin story; Philippe’s says they invented it after a roast beef sandwich was accidentally dropped into the pan drippings. The patron wanted to eat it anyway and found it so delicious that they began always serving roast beef sandwiches with the bread first dipped into pan juices. At Cole’s, they say that the sandwich was invented after a customer with sore gums complained about the bread being too difficult to eat. So the chef provided a small bowl of pan juices to dip the sandwich into to soften the bread. Nobody knows for sure which story is true - maybe they both are. At any rate, the French Dip Sandwich has become so popular that it’s served in restaurants and fast food chains throughout the Golden State. Our version swaps traditional roast sirloin with a very California cut of beef -- the tri-tip. And we add pickled onions for a tangy heat. We amp up the traditional au jus with a brown butter and wine reduction sauce. And naturally we add some Real California Provolone cheese. Serve with California Syrah or California Zinfandel.

Yield: 4 Servings Prep: 30 minutes | Cook: 30 minutes Total Time: 60 minutes


For the Tri-tip:

  • 2 ½ pound tri-tip roast, trimmed of excess fat (1134 g)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Pickled Onions:

  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar (118 mls)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

For the Au Jus:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup zinfandel or syrah (118 mls)
  • 2 cups beef bone broth or good quality beef stock (475 mls)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sandwich:

  • 4 French rolls or 2 baguettes cut into 6-inch segments
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 6 slices of Provolone cheese
  • Spicy mustard, to taste



  • Prepare the tri-tip. Place the tri-tip fat side up in a medium baking dish. Mix the salt, garlic granules, onion granules, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub evenly all over the meat. Let sit at room temperature for one hour. After 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  • When the oven reaches temperature, roast the tri-tip for 15 minutes, reduce oven to 350°F (176°C), and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 125°F (52°C) for medium rare. Remove roast from oven and tent with foil. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. Thinly slice meat against the grain.
  • While the roast is in the oven, prepare the pickled onions. Put the sliced onion in a medium, non-reactive bowl. Add the vinegar, sugar, and salt and toss to coat. Allow to rest at room temperature while meat roasts. Can be made up to a week in advance - store in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare the au jus. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter solids are golden brown and has a nutty smell. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the wine is reduced by half. Add the broth, increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the jus is reduced by about one-third. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Slice the rolls lengthwise down the middle, taking care not to cut all the way through the roll. Brush with melted butter and toast on the top rack of the oven for about 5 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cut the cheese slices in half and layer each roll with cheese on one side of the cut roll. Return to the oven until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes longer (watch carefully so the bread doesn’t burn).
  • Remove rolls from the oven. Spread with spicy mustard if desired. Dip meat slices in the au jus and place in the toasted rolls. Top with pickled onions. Serve remaining au jus in a small bowl on the side for dipping. Serve with a green salad and/or sweet potato fries.
Become a Wine Insider

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.