37 St. Mark’s Place (btwn. 2nd & 3rd Aves.)
BAMN reinvents the concept of the Automat with self-serve fast food, amidst the nocturnal bustle of St. Mark’s Place. Owners David Leong, Nobu X and Robert Kwak, enlisted Chef Kevin Reilly (The
Water Club) to consult on the on the menu after he answered a Craig’s List ad
for the best kroket recipe (a true story). Squint as you pass under the neon pink signeage into this giant food vending machine, dealing in modern American and Asian-inspired fast food. Come equipped with quarters or get change from the coin machine, then head directly to the heated fare of your choice. No tipping or talking necessary, unless you want fries or a drink, both requiring a counter order.
Gimmicky, yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you’re craving a quick midnight snack. Think hot dogs, mac & cheese krokets, pizza dumplings and grilled cheese. And that’s just the American offerings.
I sampled the gamut: an undercooked grilled cheese, an overcooked teriyaki burger, and a pb & j with frightening similarity to a microwaved hot pocket, filled with saccharine sweet peanut butter mousse and grape jelly. I did take great comfort in thick Yukon gold fries, not to mention a tasty selection of thirty dipping sauces: a savory truffle aioli (code for garlicky mayonnaise), and a lively salsa verde – rich with avocado, tomatillo, avocado and cilantro.
But the worthy investments are the Asian-inspired dishes – roasted pork buns, Japanese donuts, and Musubi. Bite and ask questions later when it comes to the musubi, a slice of mirin-glazed spam, yep spam, atop sushi rice. The roasted pork bun was a satisfyingly, doughy bun with savory chunks of pork tucked inside. As far as dessert goes, I’d skip the green tea ice cream, which left a bitter aftertaste. Instead, snatch up the scrumptious Japanese donuts, pleasingly puffed-up funnel cake of sorts, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Despite the shortcomings that often come with the fast food territory, the Japanese dishes and bargain basement prices make this Automat worth a visit. The best part: nothing sits in a vending machine for longer than fifteen minutes. I taste a chain in BAMN’s not so distant future.
Until we eat again,