NYC folks: What happened to the BAMN! automat?
June 7, 2009 4:26 PM   Subscribe

NYC folks: What happened to the BAMN! automat? I'm curious why it didn't work out for them...

Wikipedia says it's been closed since March, but I just saw them featured on a TV show the other night (it could've been a re-run though); have they re-opened or re-located?

If they're totally done, then I wonder what happened to them/what went wrong. Maybe the lack of customer service? I think many fast food restaurants can be turned into vending machines, but at the same time, people want customer service; a face, a smile, a real person in front of the machine.
posted by querty to Food & Drink (16 answers total)
Well, I think the only reason people went there was for the novelty value, which eventually wore off. The food and the space itself wasn't anything special, and the rent in that area is pretty expensive.
posted by nasreddin at 4:28 PM on June 7, 2009

They are totally gone, I really don't know why, cheap fried food should go over well in the area, there are tons of bars. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that (if I recall) you had to dump tons of quarters into the machines (that had people filling them from behind). There was a change machine, and the concept was cute, but really? Three dollars in change? When there was someone standing at the counter?

I did learn one thing, though: Fried Mac n'cheese? YUM.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:32 PM on June 7, 2009

the food was meh. its a crapshoot whether you got the nice grilled cheese, or the grilled cheese that was sitting there for hours under the heatlamp, and now hard and stale. it was also a pain to get change to pay, and the lack of upfront people lead to a lot of garbage laying about.
posted by Mach5 at 4:37 PM on June 7, 2009

The food was kind of gross and overpriced for what it was.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:37 PM on June 7, 2009

the food was kind of pricey but more than that the experience of calculating how much money you needed and then dropping quarters kinda sucked! i liked the fried food but passed by bamn probably 20x more than i ever went in. and yeah, second the expense of st mark's—that block gets super high foot traffic and has correspondingly high rents.
posted by lia at 4:39 PM on June 7, 2009

Also, now that I think of it, there are also a lot of other cheap food places (pizza and falafel come to mind) that serve fresher and more food for about the same prices in the same area, a lot of these are still open, so maybe the competition was just better or preferred.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:06 PM on June 7, 2009

Good news is it's been replaced by a place that serves some passable Banh Mi north of Delancey!
posted by stvspl at 5:42 PM on June 7, 2009

and the lack of upfront people lead to a lot of garbage laying about.

What ? No garbage cans?
posted by patnok at 5:59 PM on June 7, 2009

No one knew how to pronounce the name -- bamn like bam, or bamn like salmon. So half the people who went there were actually going somewhere else, which meant that they were only getting 50% of the traffic the owners projected.
posted by Damn That Television at 6:03 PM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

More generally, the book Going, Going, Gone (subtitled "Vanishing Americana") explains the demise of Horn & Hardart (the pre-eminent NYC automat) thusly:
Although Horn & Hardart operated in just two cities, the firm was one of the world's largest restaurateurs well into midcentury. But management was slow to respond to changes in America’s eating habits. Horn & Hardart clung too long to their old downtown locations while their former customers moved out to suburban malls. The Automats maintained a large and varied menu that required talented cooks and elaborate preparation. Fast-food chains specializing in burgers, pizza, or tacos relied on unskilled labor to heat up, package, and push out a very limited choice of items to people on the rune. By 1978, the restaurant on the corner of Forty-second Street and Third Avenue, which had opened twenty years earlier, was the only Automat left in New York.
That last location (which I remember going to & loving as a child) closed in 1991. While obviously many of the problems which felled H&H aren't applicable here (like suburbanization), at least one of them - the apparently greater expense required to operate an automat, compared to the (fast-food) competition - might have been a factor here.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:05 PM on June 7, 2009

Paul's around the corner does a better burger, and it's always fresh. Pomme Frites, not far down the street, has amazing fries that don't cost a lot and are always fresh. There are simply better options for food in that area that are at least as convenient.
posted by Mikey-San at 6:07 PM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Obviously that's "people on the run," not rune.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:07 PM on June 7, 2009

What Mikey-San said. There are simply better options for food in that area that are at least as convenient.

As someone who lives around the corner, I can confirm it is 100% gone and replaced by Baoguette, which has many more customers in there, on a regular basis.
posted by kathryn at 6:34 PM on June 7, 2009

2 brothers pizza is across the street from where the Sutomat was. The pizzeria's slices cost a dollar each. This is probably why the Automat went out of business. Plus the very fact that they had employees manning the counter didn't make any sense. Why have salespeople at an automat?
posted by I-baLL at 9:43 AM on June 10, 2009

They were, as far as I know, the only place in the city where you could get real shaved ice, and I am very much mourning the loss of that.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

@ThePinkSuperhero: Really? I've heard you can get it at various places in Chinatown and Koreatown, and most Japanese Bakeries. Singapore Cafe, Jobee, Vivi, Panya Bakery, Cafe Zaiya, Chikalicious Dessert Club, Otafuku, Pinkberry, Koryodang, TKettle, Beard Papa, Ten Ren, etc.
posted by kathryn at 2:17 PM on June 15, 2009

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