Signs heralding the opening of Press It Bistrot & Automat (935 Gravier St., 800-928-3960; www.pressitbistrot.com) appeared quite some time ago, stoking curiosity about just what it would look like and how it would function. The "automat" references a type of coin-operated food dispenser, and cheap, quick-serve eateries that once used them were a fixture of American cities, starting in 1902 when the company Horn & Hardart opened the first one in Philadelphia.
Press It Bistrot & Automat is now open in the CBD, and it does feature some automation, though don't expect any vintage apparatus of chrome-framed, food-dispensing compartments. Rather, this restaurant has a contemporary look, with flat-screen TVs and menu displays, a lounge-meets-coffee shop ambience and a number of different service styles, most of which are familiar.
Pre-made lunch items like wraps, salads, personal pizzas and panini are stocked in a corner of the room for people who just want to grab and go, but customers can also get the same items prepared fresh at the deli line by entering an order at self-serve kiosks. There's an online ordering function on the restaurant's website and a smartphone app as well. Press It also has a selection of gelati, pastries and other sweets from Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-2277; www.shopsucre.com).
The automat part of the operation is limited to beer and wine. Beer is sold by the bottle from vending machines, and wine is dispensed directly from the bottle using a card-operated system. You pay for your drinks at the register, where a cashier verifies your age and issues tokens (for beer) or a prepaid card (for wine) to operate the machines. Wine can be purchased by the glass or by the ounce for sampling. Press It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.