99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Philippe the Original

photo by Anne Fishbein

Quite a few places in town might make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time, but very few take you quite so far back as Philippe the Original, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2008 and has hardly changed in those 106 years. At the long deli counter, women carve hunks of moist lamb straight from the bone, then cram it into sandwiches made of crusty French bread dipped in pan juices. Lines of customers snake through the tables; when it’s your turn in front, you could get a beef or turkey sandwich as well, but the lamb is where it’s at, especially double-dipped and with the addition of blue cheese. Order a bright fuchsia pickled egg and a glass of lemonade, then wind your way though the massive, worn wooden dining room, its floors covered in sawdust, to find a seat. The history and tradition of Philippe’s is awfully charming, and the time-travel aspect is pretty delightful. But what it really comes down to is this: Seriously, this is a damn good sandwich.

-- Besha Rodell