Food Facts & Lore

The First Doggy Bag

6th century BCE feast. Roman centurions have just returned from a successful campaign and sit in the great room with their general after a well-deserved bath, partaking of an also well-deserved meal. Yes, there is a connection between those men in armor and sandals and Doggy Bags, for it was common practice in Roman culture to wrap a few choice morsels from the table in a piece of cloth for a late day snack.

The concept of the Doggy Bag per say entered American culture gradually, sometime during the Second World War (1940’s). Belts were tight and food storage low. Even affluent Americans watched every penny, but maintaining the simple pleasures of life was a good way to cope and dining out was a blessing in the midst of uncertainty. Restaurant chefs began to offer leftover bones and such for patrons to take home to their pet dogs. It did not take long for people to begin leaving a few bites on their plates to take home for later, thus making the most of a little extravagance.

By 1943, eateries, restaurants and hotels began packaging leftover bones and other unused bits and pieces in waxed bags and cartons for patrons to take home to the pooch. Some even added a label bearing the name, “Bones for Bowser.” Perhaps it simply made patrons feel less embarrassed as they gladly carried the tasty treasure home to make soup.

Dan Stampler’s Steak Joint, New York, is often recognized as the official birthplace of the name, “Doggy Bag,” around 1949. Stampler encouraged his patrons to take home leftover bones (among other morsels). He even designed a logo for his bags, featuring a Scottish Terrier. It would later become a trademark as thousands of similar bags were manufactured for the restaurant industry.

Nevertheless, some observers took offense over time, defenders of proper etiquette chief among them. An article in the Emily Post Newspaper (1968) pointed out that a Doggy Bag was intended for a dog, not for their owner. However, post-war economy also led to an increase in the size of restaurant portions and the Doggy Bag expanded its scope, naturally.

Did you know that asking for a doggy bag is a great compliment to the chef? Read an earlier article we posted to this blog: The Doggy Bag. 3 Serving Suggestions.