By Ben and Lisa Waters
Updated December 24, 2015
The brilliant mashup of French Dip and Pho at East Borough
© Lisa Waters

Behold the sandwich—what began as an exercise in convenience has been elevated over the years to become one of mankind’s most delicious inventions. Across Los Angeles, there are sandwiches new and old that aren’t just good - they are the stuff of legend and lines as far as the eye can see. If you find yourself in Southern California, here is what you must eat.

The #19 - Langer’s Deli - Downtown

With apologies to some of the noted outfits in other parts of the country, for almost 70 years, Langer’s has served up the best pastrami sandwich on planet Earth. A simple stack of cole slaw, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing sit atop slices of cured perfection, surrounded by two pieces of Rye (supplied for decades by Fred’s Bakery in Beverlywood). When people say L.A. has better pastrami than New York, this is what they’re talking about.

Side order: Potato Pancakes

The Southern Fry - Plan Check - Multiple Locations

Outshining the great burgers at Plan Check is not easy, but the jidori fried chicken with its pickly tang & pimento cheese manages. The incredible griddled duck ham on top elevates this from mere greatness to the chicken sandwich the gods themselves must order.

Side Order: Sweet Potato Waffle Fries

Beef French Dip with Swiss Cheese - Philippe The Original, Downtown

Every city lays claim to their contributions to world cuisine. Among Los Angeles’, remarkable, edible inventions is the French Dip sandwich and Phillippe is the place that (debatably) started it all. Practically unchanged since moving to this location in 1951, Philippe’s served up beef on a roll doused in au jus since, legend has it, founder Philippe Mathieu needed a way to soften up their bread in 1908. Order it double or triple dipped and enjoy a bite of L.A. history.

Side order: Cole Slaw. (Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, head over to competitor Cole’s—also opened in1908—and see if you prefer their Lamb Dip.)

The Godmother - Bay Cities Italian Deli, Santa Monica

I know what you’re thinking—an Italian sub is an Italian sub. So what? Once you taste this quintessential L.A. sandwich, such sacrilege will not cross your mind again. Prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, Genoa salami and provolone cheese – make sure to get it with the works (mayo, mustard, Italian dressing, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and mild or hot peppers). Also make sure to order online before you head over. The lines at lunchtime are truly epic.

Side Order: Casserole-style Baked Mac & Cheese

The Original Blockbuster - Galco’s Old World Grocery & Soda Pop Stop, Eagle Rock

Galco’s is mostly known for its stupendous selection of interesting and lesser known soda (black lemonade anyone?), but in the back corner at the old deli counter, they’re still serving up the sandwich that boxer Rocky Marciano once called “a real blockbuster.” Since the ‘50s, Galco’s has piled cold cuts, mayo, mustard, pickles, and provolone (no lettuce or tomatoes) on a French roll, fresh in from Frisco Bakery that morning. Like the many resurrected sodas of old lining the shelves here, owner John Nese serves up this culinary blast from the past just as it’s always been.

Side Order: Fentiman’s Cherrytree Cola

Pho Baguette - East Borough, Culver City

This sandwich is L.A. cuisine all wrapped up in one Sriracha-hoisin aioli-drizzled baguette. Daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and SoCal native Chef Chloe Tran took the L.A.’s native French Dip and transformed it to match the food she grew up by substituting a top-notch brisket banh mi along with a pho sidecar in place of the traditional au jus. Be warned: it’s a combination so natural and so damn good that after you have one, munching on banh mi alone may feel like eating grilled cheese without tomato soup.

Side Order: Vietnamese Coffee

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich - Coolhaus, Culver City

Coolhaus, the inventive ice cream shop with the cult following, may even be available in your local grocery store at this point. But the packaged stuff at the store can’t compare to what you can get at their brick & mortar spot. Coolhaus is always experimenting with their ingredients (Maple flapjack cookies with pizza ice cream? Sure, why not.) and the Culver City shop is ground zero for trying out the newest creations. Don’t worry, you can still get the classic Chocolate Chip/Vanilla combo, but can you resist a scoop of Fried Chicken & Waffle? I thought not.

Side Order: Napkins

Beef & Cheese - Top Round, Mid City

“That looks like an Arby’s sandwich” you might be thinking. Maybe, but now elevate the quality of the beef, add some homemade Cheese “Wizz” whipped up by 800 Degrees’ Anthony Carron and former XIV chef Steven Fretz, pile it all on an onion bun, and suddenly you can see why this sandwich is about to go national. Last year Top Round began plans to open in Dallas, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.

Side Order: Blueberry Pie Custard Concrete (skip at your own peril)