written by: Mary Brown Malouf photos by: Adam Finkle
The conversation went something like this:
Kent: You know who has the best French dip sandwich in Salt Lake?
Me: No, who? [Note: I had never even wondered.]
Me: Duffy’s????? [Note: I didn’t even know Duffy’s, an esteemed bar in south downtown, served food.]
Let’s be truthful: Duffy’s Tavern means beer, usually after a Bees game. I’d never even noticed their menu before, but I’m not that big on brews or baseball, either. I know. Call me unAmerican. Speaking of nationality, a French dip sandwich is as American as it gets—there’s really nothing French about it except the baguette. Like most things American and culinary (hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream cones, Philly cheesesteaks) the French dip sandwich’s origins are disputed. Two different Los Angeles restaurants claim the invention and their versions are different. Philippe the Original’s is served wet (sandwich is dipped in jus before serving) and Cole’s is served dry (diner dips his own.) In either case, the fundamentals—baguette, beef, jus—are the same. How is it, then, that good French dip sandwiches are so hard to come by?
I sampled three local French dips—none were horrible, but none were excellent.
Copper Onion, 111 East Broadway, SLC, 801-355-3282
The bread on the Copper Onion sandwich was excellent—a crisp and chewy baguette—and the onions were beautifully caramelized. Aioli (sounds so much more enticing than mayonnaise), Niman Ranch beef roasted but not rare and Tillamook cheddar instead of the traditional Swiss cheese completed the sandwich and it was all fine until we got to the “dip” aspect. Instead of deep-flavored beef jus, a cup of briny broth was served. Its excessive saltiness overshadowed every other flavor. With choice of salad or fries: $16
Even Stevens, 2030 S. 900 East, SLC, 801-953-0357
The menu at the sandwich specialty shop varies—the French Dip I was served was piled with tasty beef, but it was pot roast, not sliced beef, which defies the definition of a French dip. The bread was crisp on the outside, but so soft on the inside it turned to mush when dipped. It comes with jalapeno jelly, but I skipped that as too aberrant. $9.65
Duffy’s Tavern, 932 S. Main St., SLC, 801-355-6401
Kent may be right—this may be the best French dip in SLC. But that doesn’t mean it’s fabulous. Bread consistency: check. Thin-sliced beef: check. Onions and cheese: check. But the sandwich had been heated up whole, which meant the once-rare deli beef slices had curled from re-heating and the broth is insipid.
Join the Quest
Here’s what a French dip sandwich should be:
*A hefty stack of thinly-sliced rare roast beef
*A section of baguette loaf sturdy enough to hold together when dipped in hot broth or jus
*Caramelized onions. Really caramelized—this is a time-consuming process that’s often faked with caramelized sugar and balsamic vinegar.
*A thin slice of Swiss cheese, melted.
*Jus should be juice and drippings from the actual roast beef or a strong, genuine beef broth.
See more inside our 2018 Jan/Feb Issue.