San Francisco’s Sloat Boulevard is well known for leading to the San Francisco Zoo, but it’s also home to a rather different faunal landmark. That would be the iconic “Doggie Diner” head, the only one still on public view—though that may change if a Napa Valley car salesman has his way.
From 1948 to 1986, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area had their pick of Doggie Diners from which they could grab a quick, greasy bite. At the peak of the chain’s popularity, there were more than 20 locations operating throughout the area, all unified by the presence of a towering, smirking, bow-tied, button-nosed host out front: a giant statue of a dachshund’s head atop a 10-foot pole.
In a testament to these familiar faces’ emotional resonance with Bay Area residents, the city of San Francisco recovered one out of exile more than a decade after the chain closed down and all of the doggie heads disappeared behind private ownership. This rescued head, after receiving a refurbishment, was installed at the intersection of Sloat Boulevard and 45th Avenue in 2001, and was declared a city landmark in 2005. There’s no working diner operating underneath, but a proposed reboot—about an hour north, in Napa—might offer as many as 50 different varieties of hot dog.