Lunch Hour NYC, now on view at the New York City Public Library until February 17, 2013, looks back at more than a century of NYC lunches. The exhibition shows how New York City reinvented the midday meal.

Now a Citibank on the
Upper West Side, this was
once an Automat.
Most Automats had

a sort of Art Deco facade.  
A highlight of the exhibition is a reconstructed Automat machine. The Automat, once a fixture in most American cities, was a fast food restaurant where food was served by coin-operated vending machines. You could get anything from a complete turkey dinner to a bowl of soup. As a child, the high point of going downtown with my mother was stopping for lunch at the “futuristic” Automat. Nobody who dropped a quarter in the slot ever forgot the thrill of an Automat. I never did.