The official opening according to the restaurant website is December 7, when it will serve dinner only, and full, all-day service begins at Automat on December 8. But as Eater spied Tuesday, the place is open with a limited menu as a "neighborhood sneak preview" from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., now through Friday. [Update: The restaurant got overwhelmed with daytime customers after Eater's and SFist's coverage, so they announced on Instagram that they're "regrouping" and will just open for real on Dec. 8.]
Kirk conceived of Automat as a family-friendly, all-day neighborhood restaurant and cafe, and it grew out of a pop-up he did in recent years — as well as his pandemic-era, Instagram-based bread business. As such, Automat features breads and baked goods, with some early offerings including Garlicky Pretzel Focaccia, Everything Bagel Sourdough, and some roasted strawberry cheesecake doughnuts that look pretty divine. They're also doing a spin on Wonder Bread for sandwiches, called Wondermat Bread. And have you seen the squid-ink sourdough loaves they've previously turned out for the bread business with smoked mozzarella and jalapeno?
The baked stuff is being led by Tartine alum Casey Wentworth, who is now Automat's head baker, according to Instagram.
Also, via Automat's Instagram, we have some previews of what may be to come on the dinner menu, with some delicious-looking stuff like an 'nduja and fontina pizza bun, a pastrami tamale with black garlic and aged cheddar, and a sourdough pancake served atop "chowder fondue."
And there appears to be a smashburger happening, as well as square pizza and sourdough fried chicken. But don't quote us — those could just be experiments that only made it as far as Insta. There is, reportedly, also a Nashville hot chicken sandwich in the mix with seaweed Green Goddess sauce.
While it's not a proper Automat with food in little warmer boxes, the idea I think is to be as casual and easygoing as a restaurant can be.
"Anything I wanted to do in the future was something my kids could go to and would be accessible to families," Kirk told the Chronicle in September. "I think that’s something you don’t see too much in the city."
The keywords here are "indulgent" and "convenient" according to the restaurant's reservations page, with food served all day via counter service, seven days a week — and the indulgence is obvious because of all of the above.
Dinner is going to be a unique prix-fixe situation, with diners choosing between a few entrees, and the kitchen will then send out small plates to complement whatever entree you choose. Kirk said in the Chronicle piece that he expects the prix fixe to be between $35 and $70, depending on the entree.
Reservations are currently pretty wide open for the opening week of dinners next week, but that will likely change quickly!
No reservations are needed for daytime, and they will be open again tomorrow for a daytime preview, breakfast sandwiches and all.
Automat - 1801 McAllister Street (the former Green Chile Kitchen) - Open December 8 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., with dinner starting at 5:30.