Oh, the Automat
We've also been trying to find a really good baked macaroni and cheese recipe. We tried Alton Brown's recipe but it was just a little too heavy and rich. So I thought, hey, how about the Automat's recipe from the new book? Evan ought to like that! And in fact, it's near-perfect. Quick, simple, and not too rich. But, when I went online to see if anyone had the recipe available so I could post it for you all, I discovered this Automat mystery…which is that the recipes in the book are not, in fact, authentic Automat recipes. What liars!! Ooh! The giveaway? The Automat's baked Mac 'n' Cheese famously had tomatoes in it.
Several sites have what are supposedly authentic versions, but no-one knows for sure (here's the best site, click on "recipies" which they really should fix: the Automat.com). Some discussion of the topic can be found at The Food Timeline. And several people claim that there was an official recipe booklet published by Horn & Hardart, possibly in the 1960s. But no-one seems to have actually gotten their hands on a copy. So the mystery seems unsolvable…unless this recipe book ever shows up, or even better, an actual industrial cookbook from the Horn & Hardart central cooking location. Until then, no-one will ever be sure which recipes are the "real" ones. As far as the book goes, while it certainly claims to have authentic Automat recipes, the museum's site notes that they are "Hardart family recipes" which isn't exactly the same thing.
But, in any case, the recipe from the book is excellent, authentic or not. I imagine they'll be pulling that recipe as soon as the show is over, so grab it now if you're interested. Normally I'm a big fan of Alton's Brown's recipes, but this time he got his clock cleaned by the Hardarts.