East Coast Nostalgia in the Netherlands

An automat in Eindhoven, Netherlands of all places.

One of my biggest thrills as a kid in the 1950s when we visited New York City was to go to the Horn & Hardart Automat. The last one closed in 1991—and I haven’t seen anything similar in the U.S. since. But: Walking around Eindhoven, Netherlands, there was the automat concept visible in the doorway of an eatery. Why here in the Netherlands, but not in the U.S.? Perhaps it results from substitution in the U.S. toward low-skilled, relatively low-priced labor as food dispensers, leading to fast-food restaurants rather than automats. Or perhaps our preferences have been altered by the ubiquity of fast-food restaurants. I don’t know.

Contest: Automats were a neat bit of (East Coast) U.S. culture. They even made it into musical references: Name three of them, and if you’re the first person to do so, I’ll send you a copy of the 4th edition of Economics Is Everywhere next December.


Jimbo

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend
Hair - Colored Spade
Automat - John Squire

Jimbo

Makes me nostalgic. I ate at Horn & Hardart's in Manhattan on my 3rd grade field trip in 1978.

Allen

Seems like it closed not too long ago, but there was one on St. Marks Place in NYC.
http://www.bamnfood.com/

Sylvester

Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
Hair – Colored Spade
Automat – John Squire

(It doesn't say that I should name songs no one has yet named. So assuming these are right I look forward to a free copy!)

Swintah

I WANT THIS IN MY LIFE!!! I hate going to fast food places and getting my food manufactured in front of me and pawed to oblivion by the poor soul who has to take my order. Automats feel so sanitary, and none of that undesireable human interaction. I yearn for this! Extra bonus points if the serve on actual plates and use metal utensils! Capitalism, make Automats!

Andrew Krause

You have no idea what the poor souls pawing your order are doing to it on the other side of that wall.

"He was *the* guerilla terrorist in the food service industry. Apart from seasoning the lobster bisque, he farted on the meringue, sneezed on braised endive, and as for the cream of mushroom soup, well... you get the idea."

Tysonf

Nothing says 40s nostalgia like the Automat.

I wonder if there's a market for a reemergence. Certainly the Hipster crowd would go nuts for it

Jules

Irving Berlin - “Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee”
Hair - "Colored Spade"
John Squire - "Automat"

Molly

I'm an American expat in The Netherlands. I'd argue that the prevalence of automats has more to do with the Dutch love of sandwiches, which is ideal food for automats.

PaulS

Add the Peter Schickele (PDQ Bach) Concerto for Horn and Hardart, which has sound effects of coins dropping and the little bells dinging...

Mark

Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1960s, I was fascinated by the automats there.

Mascha

Automats are very common in the Netherlands for 'snackbars'. They usually serve typical Dutch snacks such as 'frikandel', 'kroket' (deep-fried meat-bars) and hamburgers for low prices (1 euro). We usually call it 'snack-out-of-the-wall'. It's usually not for serving sandwiches.

So funny that it's nostalgia for Americans!

Unfortunately here we see that the old-fashioned snackbars make way for the big names such as McDonalds and KFC too, where - in my opinion - you get more expensive but less quality food.

Kris

They are popular in the Netherlands also because they avoid the service tax associated with selling food as no one "serves" you, hence the lower prices.

But the food coming out of them is questionable (especially from Febo), but that's my opinion (as an Australian)

mayra

I was just on a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam and decided to leave the airport and walk the city a bit when I came across one of these automats and totally fell in love. It was a bit daunting at first as it doesn't seem to give you change but i thought it was a better concept and much cooler looking then our typical U.S. vending machines.

I even took a pic to put on my wall alongside beautiful images of some of my meals from all of my travels.

Max E.M.

Well I am convinced the quality of the food is just as questionable as if you buy it over the counter. The incentive of the snackbars who own this kind of automat are less long queue and less tiring service (as Dutch is one the most complex consumers in the world), and CASH.

LKS

There is an automat in Manhattan on St Marks Place in the East Village. I love the corndogs!

Shane

How cool-looking!

In Japan I found restaurants where guests placed coins into a vending machine and bought a ticket for their desired meal with it. They then handed the ticket to the waiter and waited for it to arrive. Really it was no more convenient than TELLING the waiter what I wanted, but I enjoyed the novelty!

Frans pieter

Ate at one of these all the time(not too good for you) growing up in Zwolle, holland