(Editor’s note: THE AUTOMAT will show twice on Turner Classic Movies, Tuesday, November 22. There will also be for classics with automat scenes.)
By Gaetano Kazuo Maida
(Updated November 21, 2022; originally published April 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
Assembled by Gary Meyer
(Updated November 21, 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.
By Nancy Friedman
September 20, 2022
Fish have been swimming onto San Francisco Bay Area menus ever since there were people around to catch and cook them. And Mexican cuisine has been represented in the region ever since Alta California was part of Mexico. But until 1992, although dozens of Bay Area restaurants served a steady tide of petrale sole, halibut, salmon, and sand dabs—not to mention McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, invented in 1962—and although there were plenty of places to enjoy burritos, enchiladas, and quesadillas, one Mexican fish dish was still just a wish: the fish taco. Continue reading
by Julie Lindow
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?
by 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.
by Gaetano Kazuo Maida
[Read Patricia Unterman’s review here.]
Actress Mindy Kaling (The Office) once famously tweeted: “One slice of pizza in the Hollywood area? Don’t Jonathan Gold me and tell me to go to the San Gabriel Valley goddammit ….” Continue reading