I embody the history of the Automat!

Interesting article today in the Times about Automats: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/revisiting-the-era-of-automatic-dining/?ref=nyregion

When I was a kid, my grandmother took me to the US’s very first Automat, on Chestnut Street in Phila. She taught me to make Depression Soup, with the free hot water, ketchup, salt and pepper (Grandmom was never poor, but she *was *really cheap).

And after I moved to NY in 1980, I frequently ate at what became the nation’s last Automat, on Third Avenue near the Chrysler Building. I remember the baked beans and apple pie being delish. I felt just like Ruby Keeler, and kept hoping Lyle Talbot or Jimmy Cagney would try to pick me up!

Any other Automatons here?

My only experience with the Automats was around 1987. We took Amtrak down to Manhattan from Albany for a college journalism convention. We were free for lunch one afternoon and wanted something uniquely New York. So we went to the Automat (possibly one of the last remaining ones). As we were sitting there eating, I noticed multiple Japanese men and women wearing gold jackets and with the stereotypical cameras around their necks. I looked outside to see the tour bus that brought them there. It was a tour bus of Japanese Century 21 agents, who also wanted a New York experience.

I ate at Automats in NYC a few times in the 1960s and 1970s, and miss them. There was apparently an attempt to bring them back in the 1980s or 1990s that failed.
I understand that the recipes were pretty good, and it was neat to use real plates and silverware instead of fast-food paper wrapping. Perhaps, though, they could use automat cooking with disposable plates to keep costs down.

We used to go to the Automats in NYC when I was a kid in the early 60s. The place was fascinating. You’d see the empty trays turn around and the food showing up. There also was a spigot for coffee.

It was often a high point to our visits to the city.

That very Automat was the first place where I ate out by myself, it being also down the street from the UN where my father worked. Back then there were no McDonalds and other such culinary travesties in New York. I had macaroni and cheese, of course.

Coming back from the theater in the latter part of the '80s we saw someone having a bar mitzvah party in it on a Saturday night. Beats the hell out of where I had mine.
Being that my wife is from around Philadelphia, automats are a piece of culture we share. I trust you own the Automat book?

What with the advent of debit cards, I’m surprised that the Automat hasn’t had a resurgence. It seems that something like this would be welcome. I know I’d like it.

This thread makes me :).

I used one a few times and it was tasty, but maybe because I had the good sense not to pick a sammy. (Especially the “___salad” kind.)

The thick plates and heavy forks reminded me of eating in a railroad dining car and lent a touch of “fancy.”

They still had them in Amsterdam in the 90s. I was fascinated, and kept buying croquettes that I had no clue what the filling was.

Southern California girl, born in '72. Not a shred of familiarity with such a thing!

Here’s the Wikipedia article.

The problem with a resurgence is that people probably aren’t interested in food that’s been sitting out (even if it’s under glass). Hot foods would have the equivalent of a warming tray. Thus foods would dry out if there’s not a lot of turnover. Sandwiches would be the equivalent of a sealed tuna sandwich in a deli – without the cellophane. Food quality would be like a buffet, but without “all you can eat,” and with single portions that would go bad more quickly. With stricter limitations of food safety these days, a lot of food would be wasted, and there are better options for fast food.

But they were neat while they lasted.

Born in 1944. We lived in Arlington VA. so a trip to NYC for the weekend wasn’t a big deal. My dad love to travel. We did this multiple times. Ate at automat always once on the trip.

The last time I ate in one in NYC was the 1964 World’s Fair. We were there for a long weekend. Brought back memories of the times I ate there in the 1950s. It was magic for a young kid. It wasn’t so magic to me at 20 years old in 1964.

I loved and miss the Automat. Thanks for posting the Times article link.

I also enjoyed this very brief read from a few years ago, hope you do too…

Passing Trains: The Automat

I ate at one during a trip to NYC when I was a kid. It must have been sometime in the late sixties. I was highly impressed.

In those pre-fast-food days, the only equivalents were the good old coffee shop, with its counters and amazing milkshakes (in big silver shakers) and wise-cracking waitresses named Mabel–and the Automat.

At the Automat, people left you alone. It was like a Starbucks in that you could sit for hours and nurse one coffee and work on your Great American Novel or read *Variety *for the casting news or just kill time before going home and trying to convince Wifey that you still had a job.

Plus, as I say, the baked beans and apple pie were superb. Here, poor Joan Crawford nearly has some cigarette pie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we0vziFsl9I

I was born in the wrong decade (1980) and have always wished to live in the era of the automat.

When I first moved to NYC in the '60s, I lived at the Y and ate lunch at the Automat every day. They had the best baked beans and lemon meringue pie, and absolutely the best coffee. And every Friday we got paid just before lunch time, so I could afford the chicken pot pie.

I was always fascinated by the wizened chain-smoking old lady in the little glass booth, where you’d exchange your money for nickels. Imagine doing that eight hours a day, forever.

The best Automat was on Fifth Avenue, a few doors from 42nd Street. It was down in the basement, and completely art deco. Everything was polished black granite with brushed silver trim. Very Fifth Avenue. Even the patrons seemed a little more elegant there, though of course they were the same *schlubs *as anywhere else.

Yeah, I miss the Automats.

I’m too young to remember the NYC automats, but I have made a FEBO stop or two while stumbling drunk around Amsterdam at 4AM.

I ate at one in Manhattan once or twice when I was a kid in the 50s. I thought the place was amazing.

I had lunch with my mom and brother at the automat in 1969 when we were waiting for my dad to get out of a meeting, we were given the option of eating at the hotel or the automat, and we both liked the sound of automat =) Same trip a waitress at a diner told my mom to have my brother and I checked out for diabetes because we both wanted refills of water :dubious:

Does anyone have a recipe for this?