San Francisco Landmarks
The Doggie Diner sign is a five-foot fiberglass sculpture of a dachshund head, complete with chef's hat and bow tie. It is the last one of its kind standing, from a group of about thirty which all once stood outside Bay Area restaurants in the Doggie Diner chain.
Fast-food restaurants first appeared in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. White Castle and McDonalds were among the first to provide fast and cheap roadside food service to the increasing number of automobile owners driving along America's burgeoning roadways. By the 1950s Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Doggie Diner had opened.
Doggie Diner founder, Al Ross, began selling hot-dogs from a stand outside of Oakland's Castlemont High School in 1948. The original Doggie Diner sign was essentially a hot dog with four short legs, tail and head. This version lasted until sometime in the mid-1950s, when one or two Doggies were set upright, teetering preposterously on their tiny back legs and waving a Doggie Diner flag.
By the 1960s, the stand had become a self-serve, eat-in restaurant with parking lot. It was one of many roadside, self-service food joints established in the Bay Area during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Other local establishments that opened during this time include Whiz Burger, Red's Java House, the Smokehouse in Berkeley, and Joe's Cable Car.
In the 1960s, a Los Angeles plastics firm designed the ultimate Doggie and created Doggies in neon and plastic.
Phyllis Diller was known to regularly visit the Doggie Diner in her limousine and send her chauffeur in to buy a Chili Cheese Burger. Diller liked the burger so much she sent the company a letter of support that they used in their advertising.
Prominent socialites had a pre-opera dinner party at the Doggie Diner located at Van Ness and Golden Gate.
The company sent Doggie Diner wrappers to Korea as a morale booster for U.S. soldiers fighting in the Korean War. The men were served their rations in the wrappers to remind them of "drive-ins, hamburgers, necking in the back seat, making the world safe for democracy and all the other things they were fighting for."
At its height the chain had twenty-six locations, with only one located outside the Bay Area in Stockton. Like most other fast-food chains, Doggie Diner had plans to open restaurants across the country. But the diner was a unionized restaurant, and competition from non-union chains like McDonalds and Burger King prevented further expansion.
By the early 1980s the Doggie Diner's business had declined and four of its restaurants had closed.
The last Doggie Diner closed its doors in 1986.
Adapted from the San Francisco Landmark Designation Report dated 5 April 2006