This ad for Horn & Hardart’s automat in Times Square survives in midtown, but the automat itself is pretty much part of restaurant history. It was a terrific machine-age idea: Pop a few coins in the slot, select the dish you want, and out comes your food from one of the many compartments.
Dozens of automats thrived all over the city. But after the 1960s, fast food outlets multiplied, and, well, you know the rest. The last Horn & Hardart’s, on Third Avenue and 42nd Street, was shuttered in 1991.
The Times Square automat was a big hangout for Beat writers. In Lonesome Traveler, Jack Kerouac writes, “Shall we go down by the automat and watch the old ladies eating beans?”