An East Village dumpling shop that’s banking on the re-popularization of automats is finally here — well, at least the automat part for now. While Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, at 131 First Avenue, near St. Marks Place, is still waiting to open, Eater now has a first look at the automat in action.
The glass lockers will dispense 32 different kinds of dumplings and spring rolls along with a selection of beverages like frosé and beer when the restaurant is up and running. Owner Stratis Morfogen says he’ll be ready to open the restaurant as soon as Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifts the existing 10 p.m. curfew on establishments, allowing his restaurant to operate 24/7, as he intends it to.
Customers can either place orders on their phone by visiting the restaurant website or by using a digital panel inside the dumpling shop, where diners can simply hover their fingers above the screen to place the order — all part of Morfogen’s effort to make the restaurant a contact-free space.
Orders will be accompanied by locker numbers indicating where customers can grab their food. Red lockers indicate hot food like the dumplings and spring rolls, while the blue ones are for drinks and dessert dumplings. Customers then scan their phone on a screen located along the automat wall to access a locker once their order is ready. Diners can expect dumpling fillings like bacon cheeseburger, lamb gyro, and pastrami or as Morfogen describes it, “party food,” catering to the East Village crowd that he expects will be out late once the weather gets warmer and COVID-19 restrictions are gradually lifted.
Eventually, the restaurant will be able to seat 18 people inside at tables separated by plexiglass, and 70 people outside with streetside seating. There won’t be any kind of table service, however, Morfogen says, as the goal of the restaurant is to be contact-free.
Even before the slated East Village opening, Morfogen says he’s already received interest from many franchisees wanting to bring the Brooklyn Dumpling Shop to at least eight different countries, along with a major push in North America as well. Morfogen already has plans to open another location at the Oculus Transportation Hub later this year, and a third outpost in Hoboken — not to mention several franchisee-owned operations in the New York area that are also set to open this year.
Horn and Hardart popularized automats in the early part of the 20th century, and the company saw massive growth in New York following the 1918 Spanish flu. They began to fade in popularity in the 1970s and 80s with the rise of fast food chains. A few restaurateurs have tried to bring them back in the past decade and failed, but Morfogen is determined to give it one more shot. Take another peek at Brooklyn Dumpling Shop’s automat below: