Dr. Amy Bentley, a professor of food studies at NYU, posited that the rise of mozzarella sticks (and other quick, fried foods for that matter) was likely due to an influx of new frying technology in the late '60s and early '70s that made frying foods cheap and efficient. This not only allowed fast-food joints to grow like weeds, it also allowed smaller kitchens -- like those in sports bars, dives, and bowling alleys -- to embrace the glories of deep fryers.
And fried food and cold drinks just go together exceedingly well, so it made sense for these establishments to base their menus around them.
"Mozzarella sticks, as well as hamburgers and fries, go well with cold beer or soda. It's a temperature and texture contrast, balancing out and cutting the salt fat of the mozzarella stick," Bentley said. Basically, bars, chains, and other restaurants considered putting mozzarella sticks on the menu a sure thing.
"Deep fat-fried items taste good to most people, are pretty durable, and can keep for a while in a warming tray. Melted cheese is pretty lowest-common-denominator food -- that is, will appeal to most everyone," she added. It sounds like perfect bar food because it is. And while it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact birthplace of the mozz stick as we know it today -- no tall tales abound, as with chicken wings -- it's a safe bet that it was birthed in the back of a dimly lit kitchen by a curious/bored chef likely wearing polyester.