Friday, May 18, 2007

Dining at the Automat


After brunch in the East Village, we wandered in search of cheap sunglasses and knock-off handbags. Suddenly I perceived a pink storefront… No, not a storefront, but a vending machine the size of a hotel room. What kind of crazy contraption might it be?

Imagine my glee at realizing it was none other than the very Automat I read about in The New Yorker a few months ago. I couldn’t have been more excited. I think Keryn had a tough time understanding my fascination, but I was not the only man drawn to the stainless steel machine. In the fifteen minutes we stood in the vicinity, ten people snapped photographs. None bought food.

The Automat offers a diverse set of snacks and meals. PB&J sandwiches. Chicken nuggets. “Roast pork bun”--whatever the hell that is. Or how about the mac ‘n’ cheese kroket (or the dubious-sounding chicken pot pie kroket). Corndogs. Hot dogs. Cheeseburgers. Donuts. Name something unhealthy, and they’ve got it.

How does this nifty contraption work? Well some guy in the back prepares the snacks and loads them onto shelves. The hungry shopper feeds six or eight quarters through the change slot, opens one of the glass doors, and takes the treat of his liking. No lines, no menus, no language barriers. Like buying a soda except with meat.

I’m not going to lie--the food did not look especially appetizing. And I’ll eat almost anything. The cheeseburger repelled me with estimable enthusiasm. Yet I nearly bought a portion of chicken nuggets just to be able to say that I sampled the wares.

I’m not sure whether the Automat will ever catch on (it certainly didn’t the first time around, decades ago), but the next time I pass one by, I might have to roll the dice. I think I'll stay away from the cheeseburgers...

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