Either a restaurant owner nicknamed Frenchie accidentally dropped sandwich bread into a pan of gravy or a chef at a different eatery dipped the bread on purpose to soften it for a customer with sore gums. But whether it was created at Philippe's (1001 North Alameda Street; 213-628-3781; www.philippes.com) in 1918 or at Cole's (118 East Sixth Street; 213-622-4090; www.colesfrenchdip.com) in 1908, the French dip, perhaps LA's oldest sandwich, is delicious at both places. The difference between the Downtown rivals is in the presentation. At the cafeteria-like Philippe's, counter servers construct your meal in front of you, dunking the slow-roasted beef, pork, or lamb sandwich to your liking: "single dip," "double dip," or sopping "wet." You can enjoy it there with a ten-cent coffee or a Silver Oak cabernet, but either way, it's an earthy experience. At the recently renovated Cole's, your pastrami or turkey–Swiss sandwich is served to you undipped, its rich gravy on the side. With its mahogany bar, red booths, and Tiffany stained glass, Cole's is a destination for nightclubbers as well as sandwich lovers; a door in the back of the dining room leads to The Varnish, a speakeasy with a menu of handcrafted cocktails. But Cole's raison d'être, just like that of Philippe's, is that glorious, LA-born dip.