Automat documentary

HBO Max is streaming a heartfelt doc, The Automat, about Horn & Hardart, a fond memory of older Philadelphians and New Yorkers, me included. Unofficially hosted by Mel Brooks, it also includes reminiscences from former Philly major Wilson Goode, plus Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Colin Powell, and others. I went there as part of elementary and junior high field trips, feeling very grown-up because of the freedom to choose my own lunch, and eating in a restaurant with lots of marble and silver decor.
Much more important, the automats were melting pots in which no tables were reserved. A hobo could drink a cup of coffee seated next to a successful businessman. People of all races and ethnicities were welcome, and employees treated all customers with dignity. Truly, those WERE the days!


It ran on PBS last month–great film. One of those places I really wished I could have visited in its heyday.

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“a fond memory of older Philadelphians and New Yorkers,”

I saw that! It was so good. I thought my visits were pretty “heyday”, but I m not feeling that “older” part.

I mostly remember the Mac and cheese. Not like my Aunt Helen’s ( tomatoes???) but still a great memory.

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Thanks for posting about this. I watched it yesterday and loved it. I’ve never been to an Automat, but I’ve always been interested in them - so cool! I do remember seeing parts of one years ago at the National Museum of American History, but apparently it’s not currently on display.

Thank you!!! I grew up in New York, but
In the Queens suburbs, so Automats were not a regular thing. I DID go to the last one (42nd St and 3rd Ave) a few times in the last years before it closed. The documentary was fascinating both as history and business lesson.

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my Dad worked downtown Phila, and he’d often take us to the H&H when we visited him ‘at work.’

Obviously different assortment of food, but if you’re ever in the Netherlands, FEBO is de lekkerste


Best menu items at FEBO - Power-ranking the FEBO automat’s wall of food - Thrillist Amsterdam

I’ve often wondered if that kind of place could make it here in the USA and I’m really doubtful…it would be awesome tho.

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They had a similar, small one in the East Village for about 2 seconds.

you’d think that st marks place or something like that would be one of the places it could work too bad it didn’t. my mind is turning to the recent french fry shop riot!

if you’re think St Marks/Venice - no chance. the competitors would fire bomb it out of existence, next day. the resto charging 35euros for coffee and hundreds for a meal… they’re serious about no interlopers.

east village nyc