This is a great old restaurant, the likes of which one almost never finds in, and does not generally associate with, Southern California. It has been in business since 1908 and has the old-style early 90th century feel and decor that is more often found in San Francisco. It has barely changed since it opened, with dark wood panels, little round sconce lights, an old bar, etc., located in the basement level of the Pacific Electric light rail buildings.
It is also noted for being one of the two LA eateries that lays claim to the French Dip sandwhich, of which Cole's serves several versions. The sandwiches, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, and other dishes are great, as are the home-made pies.
Service is great, too, in our experience.
Favorite Dish: French dip, die, pole slaw.
Before leaving Los Angeles, Sony and I decided to have lunch at a little spot in downtown LA's fashion district called Cole's that is famous for it's French Dip sandwich which originated in 1908. The restaurant is very charming, comfortable and cozy. It reminds me somewhat of John's Grill in San Francisco for it's ambiance and flavor. It is located within a historical landmark building and also houses a speakeasy in the back room. We wanted to get a glimpse of the room while there but they were so busy that afternoon that we just did not get a chance to see it.
The waitstaff was friendly and got our food to us very quickly. Because I was going to be flying back home to San Francisco shortly after our lunch I did not want to have a big meal. I don't like flying whether it be 45 minutes or 14 hours and I never like flying on a full stomach. So, we decided to split our order.
We had the Beef french dip sandwich, a side of bacon potato salad and a basket of garlic fries. The sandwich was very tasty on a crisp bun with the au jus on the side which I liked. So many other restaurants deliver the order with au jus already infused onto the sandwich which makes for a soggy mess. This was much more enjoyable. The potato salad had a distinct Mediterranean flavor. I'm not sure exactly what intensified this taste but whatever it was, it certainly made for a unique and scrumptious side dish. The garlic fries were delicious to say the least. Garlic roasted, crispy shoestring fries in a huge basket? You just can't get any better than that. It was truly a tasty afternoon treat and again, had I not been flying I would have had an order myself along with dessert. Next time I'll make sure to have lunch there again on the day I arrive rather than the day I leave.
We had a great time there and we'll definitely be going back again.
It is located on 6th and South Main street. It is very close to Pershing square and accessible public transportation. If you are in the Hollywood area, just take the Metro Red Line to Pershing square and walk a couple of blocks. It takes all of 15 minutes to get there. For more information visit Cole's Home of the French Dip.
Favorite Dish: I'd have to say the garlic fries and bacon potato salad. Of course the french dip is a given.
Cole's is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Los Angeles. From 1908, Cole's menu is simple - French Dip sandwiches - just choose the kind of meat and maybe a side dish, and that's it. No matter what you get it'll be good.
They claim, like Phillipe's does, that the French Dip sandwich was invented here. Their version of the invention differs from Phillipe's so maybe they both invented it at the same time (Phillipe's has been around about the same length of time)? Whatever the circumstances, it's a great invention and an LA original (not too many things can we Los Angelenos claim as our very own).
Favorite Dish: The chefs prepare your sandwich in the main part of restaurant. The buns are soft and the au jus is on the side so you can dip as much or little as you want. It's all good.
My wife and I each had a beef french dip. What a joke! The meat tasted boiled rather than roasted - no flavor. There were chunks of beef fat on the sandwich. Very little meat, barely enough to cover the bread. I don't know what all the hype is about. Sure it looks nostalgic and "old timey" but my God, if they food sucks then why bother?
We also had the bacon potato salad and that was below average as well - I've had better salads at KFC. I honestly don't know why they would go to all the trouble of renovating this restaurant only to serve up substandard food at ridiculous prices. $8 for a french dip with just a little meat and a huge roll? No way.
Also, parking was a pain.
If you want a GREAT french dip go to Phillipe's
Favorite Dish: Nothing good to write about this place.
Cole's is said to be the place which originated the French Dip Sandwich.
A French Dip involves tipping the french rolls in the meat juice so the bread would not be so hard.
In April 1908, Henry Cole introduced the French Dip Sandwich as the new Daily Special at Cole's P.E. Buffet.
The food is great and the place has a certain run-down quality which gives it some ambience. I felt very comfortable reading a book and chatting to the bartender whilst wolfing down the house speciality.
NB. It's location is in a basement at the southern end of Skid Row and to get there you have to walk down some pretty ugly back streets that I, personally. found worrying even in daylight.
Still, the fact that it's lasted nearly 100 years is a testament to the quality and taste of the food.
Ok,many out of towners tell me that L.A. has no history etc,well,tucked in the heart of downtown is Cole's P&E Buffet.The name is significant because it is in the old Pacific Electric building,near the corner of 6th and main.Many saloons of that era were called "buffet" to denote a free lunch counter but also to disguise the fact it was a drinking establishment and men could conceal from their wives where they really were.(The bar!!)Probably you should go in a group or in the daytime.The area is actually getting better these days.
When you first see Cole's,you will see an old neon sign,and an old storefront on the ground floor.There is also an old railing in front that was once used to tie horses to! You then walk downstairs,just like the show "Cheers"
and you end up in the Restaurant/bar.Cole's claims to be the originator of the french dip sandwich(beef brisket on a roll with au jus gravy) Phillipe's in L.A. also claims to be the originator.try them both and decide who is better.The sandwich at Cole's is carved off a huge brisket as you order it from the chef who has worked there 30 years plus.
the atmosphere is a very dank and dark bar,this was supposedly an old pacific Electric car barn.Some of the tables are made of old P&E car sides.There is tiffany glass everywhere.real or not,who cares?
This place is full of interesting citizens of dowtown and also professionals and cops.
The cops have their own reserved table.This place has a great early 1900's atmosphere with all the old wooden paneling and the wooden bar etc.it looks like they haven't cleaned this place since 1908. The poet Charles Bukowski supposedly drank in here.The bartender Jimmy Barela,who retired in 1997,had worked there 65 years!!!(he still came in to drink after retirement).if you are driving,there is a parking lot around the corner for a few dollars,or sometimes you can park across the street at a meter.try to go during the day or in a big group at night.Cole's has been the location of many movies.
Favorite Dish: French Dip sandwich(beef brisket) Pastrami Dip,Corned beef dip.Spaten beer on tap.
Coles PE Buffet - Coles claims to be the inventor of the French Dip Sandwich in 1908 and is the oldest restaurant in LA.
Don't expect anything fancy here, but it is definately unique. This is the oldest restaurant in Los Angeles, and the interior keeps this theme. Many of the decorations are from 1908, check out the Tiffany stained glass that is all over the inside. There are signs from the period, lots of old photos of early LA, and tons of photos of actors. Last time I was here I started talking with Marty (owner?) and he gave our group an informal tour after we were done eating. He had lots of fun stories about the old Red Car that ran right by here, the many movies and TV shows filmed here, and stock exchange stories (I guess it used to be right by here).
Favorite Dish: French Dip - Beef or Brisket (have other meats, too). About $5.50. Add a Coke for under $2, and a side of potatoes, rice, or vegetables for $2. All this would be right around $10. It was $9.98 for me in April 2002.