A Few Nickels in the Slot Buys You Lunch at the Automat

By Gaetano Kazuo Maida

April 1, 2022

A film that starts off with the instantly recognizable dulcet tones of Mel Brooks gushing, “one of the greatest inventions, insane centers of paradise…” is irresistible even if you’ve never heard of the Automat. For those of us of a certain age from New York or Philadelphia (and yes, I’m one: born and raised in New York, with family in Philly), the Horn & Hardart Automat was a unifying experience of childhood delight and teenage necessity. You didn’t need a lot of money to eat, just a handful of nickels… In its heyday (1920s to the 1970s) it was, in just two cities, the largest restaurant chain in the country by any measure, at one point in the 1940s serving fully 10% of the population of Philadelphia. Continue reading

THE AUTOMAT–Recipes, In The Movies & More

Assembled by Gary Meyer

April 4, 2022

The theatrical release of a new documentary by Lisa Hurwitz, The Automat, has taken me back in time with its wonderful clips from classic movies and discussions of food favorites of our youth from Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Pot Pie to Custard Cups and Pumpkin Pie. It is essential viewing for those interested in the history of restaurants in the 20th Century, the combining of technology and home-cooked meals and a trip down memory lane even if you were born too late to actually visit one. But we also cover contemporary attempts at automated food. We have included many photos, film clips, recipes, music, and related links to supplement your enjoyment of The Automat now playing in theaters and at film festivals—only on the big screen. 

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ORSON’S BELLY: Day and Night

by Julie Lindow

01 posters

Film posters of Mon Oncle by Jacques Tati and of course Citizen Kane by Orson Welles

Have you ever dreamt of opening a café or bar that would be the medley of everything you love? Have you ever worried that San Francisco is losing its creative venues because high rents demand investors who demand tried-and-true (i.e. boring) business formulas so that they can be assured of a return?

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Feast on Gold; he’s the real thing

goldfolderart6by Patricia Unterman

[Read Gaetano Kazuo Maida’s review here.]

There aren’t very many of us who actually have worked as food critics for print publications. I did it for 15 years at the San Francisco Chronicle and for about 15 more at the San Francisco Examiner. Way back when I started, no editorial wall stood between advertising and criticism, at least when it came to restaurants. If a restaurant advertised, it got written up.

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Pie for π Day: 3.14 etc.

Pi_pie2by Risa Nye

March 14 is π Day. You remember π (Pi) right? (Hint: It’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. For any circle, dividing its circumference by its diameter will give you exactly the same number every time: 3.14159…, π. Last year π enthusiasts were very excited to be able to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime epic event on 3-14-15, at 9:26:53.) In any case, on March 14, the sets of math geeks and pie lovers overlap in a deep-dish, double-crust Venn diagram, piled high with whipped cream. In honor of π Day this year, I set out to explore the art and science of pie-making with a few of the local masters — all conveniently located within a several-mile radius of my house. Continue reading