All-Vegetarian Automated Restaurant Opens in Downtown DC - NBC4 Washington

All-Vegetarian Automated Restaurant Opens in Downtown DC

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    Automated Restaurant Opens in DC

    People who walk into a new restaurant in D.C. are likely to see no workers, only a row of iPads and cubbies. News4's Tom Sherwood takes a look at Eatsa, which harks back to the old automat restaurants of New York and Philadelphia. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016)

    I’ll take a Cantina Kale Salad, hold the human interaction.

    A new restaurant in downtown D.C. lets customers order and pay without ever speaking with anyone. 

    “The process is weird though," one customer said. "I’m so used to interacting with people.” 

    Eatsa opened its first location in D.C. Tuesday, at 16th and K streets NW. The automated restaurant serves quinoa-based vegetarian meals that are delivered through LCD-lit cubbies. 

    “That is brilliant,” customer Genevieve Hanson said. “It almost seems like a Japanese or European concept.”

    Customers order from in-store iPads or straight from their phones and then pick up the meals through "pure magic."

    It was amazing,” Christina Curic, another diner, said. “It was very new age, very different from anything else I’ve experienced.”

    The Eatsa model is reminiscent of automat dining.

    Horn & Hardart Automats served meals through coin-operated, chrome-and-glass machines that dispensed coffee, hot dishes, dessert and more starting in 1902 in Philadelphia and 1912 in Manhattan, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

    Actor Gregory Peck reportedly loved the Automats.

    “I have always thought that the Automat in New York has the best scrambled eggs in the world," he is quoted as saying in the 2002 book "The Automat: The History, Recipes, and Allure of Horn & Hardart's Masterpiece."

    Dick Clark reportedly was a fan, too.

    “I lived at the Automat. They had the greatest chocolate milk. When I moved to Philadelphia, I apportioned less than two dollars a day to eat on, and the Automat was the only place I could do it," the book quotes him as saying.

    The authors of the book, Lorraine Diehl and Marianne Hardart, spoke in a segment on NY1 News about why they loved the restaurants. 

    The last Automat closed in New York in 1991, according to Smithsonian magazine.

    Eatsa offers a kind of high-tech version of this experience. 

    The meal offerings all are under 800 calories and include the Smokehouse Salad with toasted red quinoa, and a bento bowl with portobello and edamame.

    “It’s pretty good,” Hanson said. “I think you need to add a lot of sauce to it.”

    All bowls are priced at $6.95 or less. No cash is accepted.

    The D.C. restaurant is the chain’s fifth location and first on the East Coast.