Saturday, September 25, 2021

Cole's (Los Angeles, CA)

Cole's French Dip
118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Sat 09/25/2021, 09:15p-11:25p

Cole's Exterior

As you might recall, I wrote about The Varnish a couple months ago. Following that post, I realized that I'd never done a proper write-up on its sister restaurant, Cole's, and thus decided to rectify that during my latest visit to Downtown's Historic Core.

A bit of history: The brainchild of Henry Cole, the spot opened in 1908 as Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet, named so because it was situated on the ground level of the then-new Pacific Electric Building. The French dip was ostensibly invented at the eatery shortly after its debut (though Philippe's disputes this claim), supposedly at the request of customer who wanted a softer consistency on his baguette. The sandwich's origin story aside, Cole's was deemed a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1974, and was in continual operation from its founding until 2007, when it was purchased by Cedd Moses' 213 Hospitality (the sellers were Gitti and Madhi "Martin" Beheshti). Moses shuttered the restaurant that year for a historically-sensitive renovation (which removed the non-original sections of the dining room), and the place re-opened in December 2008. The menu, meanwhile, was updated by none other than Neal Fraser, while Eric Alperin revised the beverage program.

Cole's Bar
Pictured above is the bar at Cole's.

Cole's Dining Room
And here's the adjacent dining area, replete with a pool table. Note also the entrance to The Varnish in the back.

Cole's Cocktail List Cole's Draft Beer List Cole's Bottled/Canned Beer List Cole's Menu: Sandwiches Cole's Menu: Sides & Desserts Cole's Happy Hour Menu
The menu is straightforward, with a small array of sandwiches and sides joined by classic cocktails and a handful of beers. However, do keep in mind that the food selection has been abridged as a result of the COVID-19 situation, so I expect it'll grow in breadth once things get back to normal. Click for larger versions.

Manhattan [$12.00]
I opted to get things going with a Manhattan, which is pretty much my go-to classic cocktail these days. The drink showed off an unusually cherried nose, but with a bitter undertone, while the taste blended dark fruit and chocolate notes with a distinct backbone of rye spice.

Braised Pork Dip & Cheese
Braised Pork Dip & Cheese [$15.00]
Food-wise, I started with the pork sandwich, which was far better than I remember. The long-cooked meat ate juicy and tender, with a delectably savory depth that completely overshadowed the American cheese. I thoroughly enjoyed this even without the accompanying beef broth, but I will say that the experience was definitely improved with a squirt of Cole's wonderfully zingy horseradish-boosted mustard. Nice heat and crunch from that "atomic" pickle to boot.

Cole's Slaw
Cole's Slaw
The pork dip also came with a side of coleslaw, which featured a creamy, crunchy character, with a bit of pepperiness in the background.

Seasonal Punch
Seasonal Punch [$12.00]
The evening's punch featured a gin base along with strawberry and a touch of absinthe. The end result was a sweet, fruity cocktail with a distinct underpinning of herb and a finish hinting at the anise-y notes of the absinthe.

Prime Beef Dip & Cheese
Prime Beef Dip & Cheese [$16.00]
The beef sandwich was next, and it was a more nuanced composition compared to the pork above. The thin-cut roast beef had a certain elegance, one that melded near perfectly with that deeply-flavored, bread-tenderizing jus. In addition, the Swiss cheese served as a more crucial, more apparent complement to the meat here. Do also note that the beef utilized in the dip has been upgraded to prime level since Cole's re-opened back around the end of May.

Fries (Regular)
Fries (Regular)
The fries that came along with the beef dip were of the thin, crispy variety, and sort of reminded me of a hybrid between McDonald's' and Burger King's.

Sidecar [$12.00]
My next cocktail was one that I don't have all that often, though I did enjoy the version tonight. The drink demonstrated a refreshing fruitiness that alternated between tropical and pome, while the potency of the brandy definitely made itself known, particularly with a bit of herbaceousness on the back end. Nice contrast from the sugared rim here, too.

Mac 'n Cheese
Mac 'n Cheese [$7.00]
I was curious about the macaroni and cheese, so I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, it managed to be the only miss of the night, as I simply found the cheese overly runny, and the pasta overly limp.

Banana Cream Pie
Banana Cream Pie [$10.00]
Of course I had to order dessert, and the cream pie fit the bill nicely. I got a good back-and-forth between the custard, whipped cream, and banana slices, while the thick, chewy crust offered up a graham cracker-esque sweet spice. Great counterpoint from that sugary caramel sauce as well.

Old Fashioned
Old Fashioned [$12.00]
Coming along with dessert was perhaps the most classic of all cocktails. Nose here was huge on the citrus, but with a brown sugar backing. Taste-wise, I got more citrus and spice up front, transitioning to caramel flavors and smoke toward the rear, making for one of the more multifaceted preparations of the drink I've had.

This was actually my most satisfying visit to Cole's yet, so I guess I'm glad that this was the experience I chose to document. The sandwiches were actually better than ever, while the drinks were just as solid. By the next time I'm back, hopefully the full menu will have been reinstated, as I'd like to sample the revamped lamb dip and get another shot at the potato salad and tots.


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