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Feb 14, 2011 09:03 PM

Which restaurants will take kindly to requests for doggy bag?

I've read some posts that imply that it's OK to ask for a doggy bag at certain restaurants -- for example, Chez L'Ami Jean.

Are there other restaurants at that price range that would be OK with this?

I would like to try larger orders of meat (whole roast chicken or cote de boeuf from somewhere like La Rotisserie, etc.) without feeling like I should attempt to finish the whole thing in one sitting, or else let the food go to waste.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Doggie bag is not a custom in France. Even chez L'Ami Jean I have only seen it requested by a fellow hound who is such an habitué that he is practically a shareholder, and he requested it for a real dog. I would not say that doggie bag is otherwise a practised custom chez L'Ami Jean.

    However, doggie bag for unfinished bottle of wine is quite popular.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      At lunch at L'Ami Jean this Wednesday, I saw a woman ask the waiter to wrap the untouched bowl of potato puree that accompanies most of the main courses. The waiter agreed without hesitating - staff seem to be particularly helpful and friendly at L'Ami Jean.

      1. re: Fuffy

        I was there a couple of weeks ago and saw much the same thing. The girl had tried to fill the cardboard box the meringues are served in with the rice pudding - probably the reason the rice pudding is no longer served in a large communal bowl! Instead the waiter took it all back to the kitchen and gave her a nice carrier bag to take away.

        I wonder if CLJ have simply adapted to the fact their clientele is now mainly American so doggie bags are offered.

        1. re: PhilD

          They do have special carrier bags for taking uneaten stuff away. They've had them for some time. They do that not because their clientele is partly American (it is still mostly French) but because they have a policy of large portions.

          (Did you mean the pecan-almond nougatine to be served with the rice pudding? The meringues are served with coffee, they're unrelated to the rice pudding.)

          1. re: PhilD

            I was at Chez L'Ami Jean for two lunches when clientele was about two thirds French and one third foreign (not necessarily American). Of course at most places I go to lunch is all, or almost all, French, whereas, I believe, at the same places people from other countries pour in for dinner.

        2. re: Parigi

          "However, doggie bag for unfinished bottle of wine is quite popular."
          This may have slipped by while most posters were talking about food left-overs but since the Loi Evin (drunk driving) was passed, when dining alone I've been encouraged to order a full bottle which I much prefer over yesterday's old open wine and sent off with a corked bottle in a discrete sac. It's just right at night with my unfinished cold steak with a little A1 sauce.

        3. portion sizes are such in France that I'd be pretty surprised to have enough left over to even justify a doggie bag, even if you could find somewhere that would give you one.

          (you won't see a to-go box for doggie bags-- it'll be emptied into a square of foil.)

          1. The whole roast chicken and cote de boeuf that you mention are prepared for two people. Are you a single diner? If so, I would ask your waiter in advance about policy.

            Actually, any restaurant will, as already said, plop your remains on a square of foil and bring it back to your table. Whether you feel tacky doing this is up to you.

            16 Replies
            1. re: mangeur

              Thanks to everybody who responded.

              Yes, I will be a solo diner. My initial understanding was that asking for doggy bags in France was a total no-no. But then I saw some posts that seemed to say that it would be OK to ask in certain situations (when you have ordered a larger order of meat). Maybe the situations apply only when you are "such an habitué that [you are] practically a shareholder." :)

              I didn't want to "miss out" on dishes that are typically prepared for two people, but, at the same time, it sounds like asking to take leftovers will be a hassle. I think I'll be able to find plenty of other dishes to keep me happy.

              1. re: nl06

                As a frequent solo diner, I've had great results when I want a particular dish usually prepared for two, by stopping by the day before (not during peak hours) and speaking to the head waiter.

                1. re: nl06

                  It's no no-no (by which I mean not a no-no, not no-no-no!). But it's not usual either, and mostly, you should not act like it is your right. In fact, when in French restaurants, you should probably never act like anything is your right and always ask anything as a favor. That usually gets you everything.

                  1. re: souphie

                    "In fact, (when in French restaurants), you should probably never act like anything is your right and always ask anything as a favor. That usually gets you everything."

                    Words to live by. Could be titled "How to Succeed in France Without Really Trying".

                      1. re: mangeur

                        What Souphie and mangeur say -- indeed. In our experience, that approach works generally in France.

                        1. re: Jake Dear

                          Is there a place in the world where it works differently?

                          At the risk of uttering a dissonant voice, I never found any difficulty asking for doggy bags anywhere in France. It is perfectly okay. If you leave more than half your portion on your plate and it's meat or fish, go ahead. A refusal or even disapproval from the service would be a very strange thing indeed. Most kitchens have take-away containers.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            Yes, there are places where it works differently. There are places where your being kind can actually annoy the staff, who want to you to be more direct and waste less of their time and not pretend you're building a relationship they're not interested in, for example.

                            1. re: souphie

                              My question was: "is there a place in the world where it works differently, that is to say: where you can act like anything is your right and you don't need to ask anything as a favor"? I doubt it.
                              As for a place where being kind would annoy the staff, I am not sure I'd want to go there more than once.

                            2. re: Ptipois

                              I would have to agree that every where I have lived or traveled, things seem to work out more advantageously when one acts with humility and without entitlement. It's certainly true in New York.

                      2. re: nl06

                        As sunshine says portion sizes are quite small so there is rarely a need for a doggy bag. My question would be to ask what you plan to do with the leftovers from the big dishes? If you are in an apartment with a kitchen (and fridge) then I can see you reusing it (good economy but a lost opportunity to sample a broader range of produce). But in a hotel you will find storage tricky, if there is a bar fridge it will be minute and need to be cleared out in order to squeeze in food, for example if we buy cheese to take home we ask for it to be stored in the kitchen fridge. Hotel rooms in Paris are as small as the portion sizes.

                        1. re: PhilD

                          and you do have to watch for the new generation of hotel fridges -- they have sensors in all of the slots where things fit, and the minute you take something out (to move it or just to look at the label) it's connected via electronics to your account, and you're charged for that item.

                          Reheating, then, similarly becomes an issue, as there are very, very few microwaves to be found in hotel rooms in Paris.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Uh oh. PhilD and sunshine bring up valid points that I hadn't thought of. If a restaurant would take kindly to a request for a doggy bag, then might they also take kindly to requests for fridge space in their kitchen??

                            JUST KIDDING.

                            The good news is I'll have an apartment with a fridge and microwave. I think I know what PhilD means about the "lost opportunity to sample a broader range of produce." But the thought of changing into sweatpants and attacking the leftover roast chicken or cote de bouef without worrying about manners or table etiquette is kind of nice, too...

                            1. re: nl06

                              "the thought of changing into sweatpants and attacking the leftover roast chicken or cote de bouef without worrying about manners or table etiquette is kind of nice"


                              1. re: nl06

                                If it's roast chicken you're after, don't even bother with the restaurant. Stop by one of the boucheries that has chickens roasting on the rotisserie outside on the sidewalk. Buy that, and some of the gorgeous potatoes that have been cooking in the dripping all afternoon.

                                Drop past the traiteur for a small salad...the boulanger for a demi-baguette, and pick up a split of a nice red along the way.

                                Dinner is served and you can eat it off of your stomach laying on couch with your fingers while you watch CNN. (shudder)

                                1. re: nl06

                                  Why wear any clothes for that? I know some who don't.

                        2. When DH & I go out, we almost never have left overs even in America, because we're bottomless pits masquerading as human beings, but not all our friends are like us, so many times, at the end of a meal in France, they usually say something like "too bad we can't take it home here" or "Too bad it's not the US" or "do you think they have boxes?".
                          At the risk of having glares thrown at me, I have asked the restaurant staff for to-go boxes for my friends' leftover food in many parts of the world where it's either looked down upon (i.e. China) or simply not customary (i.e. France). Half the time they would do it, a little less than half they would say "sorry we don't have boxes", in which case I would say "what are those things you put take-outs in? can I buy one of those?" or "do you have foil?", very few times would I not be able to get some sort of container to bring food home.
                          I really wish people would stop worrying about embarrassment and just ask a simple question; I just can't see how it's more honorable to waste food that was enjoyed and had potential to be enjoyed some more than to risk looking like you can't afford the waste. If more people asked, more restaurants would get into the habit, and less food would be wasted.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: kerosundae

                            "I really wish people would stop worrying about embarrassment and just ask a simple question"

                            Exactly, and stop worrying about what the staff will think of them and other useless sources of frustration.
                            My experience is that restaurant staff rather like it when food is not wasted. Even those that are not accustomed to the doggy-bag thing don't bite anyone's head off when that sort of service is asked. It also sends out the message that the food has been appreciated. I see no reason not to ask.

                            One thing puzzles me in your post though. You mention China as a place where asking for to-go boxes is looked down upon. This is not what I have noticed, at least in the South. Taking leftovers home is actually so commonplace that just a discrete little gesture of the right hand is enough to signal to the waitstaff that it's time to take out the boxes and pack up everything that's left on the table.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              "You mention China as a place where asking for to-go boxes is looked down upon. This is not what I have noticed, at least in the South."

                              I have not noticed this contempt either, not in the south, not in the north, not on the coast, not in the west.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                maybe it's just my family and all of their friends then. When I was little, whenever I suggested, they hushed me like it was profanity; last time I visited in 2007, I was explained that if all the food ordered is finished, that means that the inviting party didn't order enough food, so it's an absolute requirement to have food left on the table.

                                1. re: kerosundae

                                  "if all the food ordered is finished, that means that the inviting party didn't order enough food, so it's an absolute requirement to have food left on the table."

                                  True. (And I always do leave a little something on my plate, always, LOL.) But that is a different matter from "looking down on" to-go boxes.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    on your own plate it's different, but if the food is on the big communal plates (lots of it), then it's like "uh...I'm full but do I finish the plate? it's good, and I can if I want to, but I won't because otherwise they'll order another one; but if I don't is anyone gonna bring it home? no, that's just not done." It's not the boxes are are looked down on, they just think that if they pack up food to go, people will think they're cheap. Frankly I don't think anybody else other than the dining party is judging, people are just self conscious; it's like how everybody thinks their own nose pores are the biggest & ugliest on earth...or maybe it's just me on the last part.

                                2. re: Parigi

                                  I think in China i depends on the style of the restaurant. If it's homestyle, it is almost mandatory, but in a smarter restaurant with larger groups it seems to be less common.

                                3. re: Ptipois

                                  We've never ever had a problem when asking for a doggie bag in France.
                                  To date we've asked & received at every class of restaurant from simple routiers to 2 star Michelins.

                                  Have to try a 3 star.

                                4. re: kerosundae

                                  I live in Switzerland but my office is close to the French boarder. Recently my boss (who is French) and I went to lunch in Divonne. I ordered an interesting take on a steak tartare which was called a tartare burger on the menu if I remember correctly.

                                  Anyway, the dish was steak tartare with a grilled piece of flank steak on the bottom and top. Overall the dish didn't really work, but both the tartare and the steak on their own were nice. However, there was A LOT of it. Really surprising for a lunch menu given how expensive beef is in this area. I was only able to eat about 1/2 of it and was lamenting to my boss what a shame it was to not be able to take it home. To which he concurred.

                                  As in your post above, I was rather hinting the same thing to the waiter when he came by to take our plates saying how much my 18 year old son at home would appreciate the leftovers.

                                  The waiter looked at me and smiled and replied that yes, the portion was particularly large and then proceeded to remove my plate without further comment. My boss then said to him, "what the lady is trying to politely imply is that she would be very pleased if you would bring her a "doggie bag" with what is left."

                                  To which the waiter responded with a straight face, "Indeed monsieur, I understood, I was just trying to be polite in not responding in the negative to such an uncommon request." And with that he slightly bowed and walked away.

                                  Needless to say my boss and I laughed our heads off!

                                  (I should also mention here that I speak French well - but with a Swiss accent. Though I am immediately recognized as a native English speaker, the French find it amusing that my "twang" has a ring of the Swiss to it and I am regularly teased by my colleagues - who all call me Texas anyway. Swiss accents are, in some ways, similar to southern accents in the states. We speak slower here and tend to add more syllables to our words. All part of the charm I say!)

                                  1. re: marsprincess

                                    I would have asked thet waiter if he needed help in removing the evident cactus up his wazoo.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      In Australia it is a waste of time to ask for a doggie bag. Some misguided health expert apparently convinced the government that saving leftovers was unsafe. Voila, a law prohibits taking out leftovers.

                                      At least, this was true in the state of South Australia.

                                        1. re: RandyB

                                          ok it could make sense if it's beef tartare or oysters...but all leftovers?!

                                          1. re: RandyB

                                            As if people are dropping dead left and right from take away...

                                            1. re: RandyB

                                              A good story but unfortunately not true, extract from the states official advice (which is similar to other states in Aus: "The Food Act does not prevent a business from providing doggy bags. It is good practice to transfer the left over food into a new, food grade container and mark with the date. Stickers for containers are available from your local Environmental Health Officer to remind customers that food taken home should not be left unrefrigerated."

                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                Very interesting, Phil. Our friends from Adelaide were quite insistent about it, too.

                                      1. Zip-loc sandwich bags. Won't work for half chickens, but quite adequate for most half portions of protein.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: mangeur

                                          I carry three sizes of ziplocks just in case.

                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                            Quite frankly, I do this because in the average restaurant I can't eat the quantity of meat/protein served. In order to maintain enthusiasm over several weeks of dining out, I have learned not to let DH finish what I can't. So I'm left with leaving it on my plate and trying to explain to the kitchen, dropping it on the floor or simply slipping it in my handbag in a ziploc. FWIW, these leftovers seldom get consumed because tomorrow is another day and another restaurant. And, worse, I've learned that the French don't feed their dogs people food and are appalled at the thought of accepting a leftover for them.

                                            1. re: mangeur

                                              "these leftovers seldom get consumed"
                                              I knew there was another advantage to eating at home at dinner.

                                              1. re: mangeur

                                                apparently my French friends have never heard this.