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the automat
A New York City automat

We don’t usually associate libraries with good food, but the New York Public Library’s newest exhibition--“Lunch Hour NYC”--satisfies both our intellectual and culinary cravings.

The homage to the renowned Big Apple meal takes visitors through 150 years of midday eats, which curator Laura Shapiro distinguishes as a distinctly New York phenomenon.

Stop in (it’s free) to check out life-size replicas of early 20th-century carts that once peddled oysters and pretzels (formerly one cent a pop), as well as restored automat machines and menus from classic women’s power-lunch spots. (Apparently, the Terrapène à la Maryland was quite popular at Delmonico’s.)

The coolest part might just be walking around and browsing the library’s own collection of more than 40,000 historic New York menus offering everything from pastrami to fried plum pudding.

Still hungry? You can also opt for a more edible education: As part of the “Lunch Hour NYC” initiative, there will be a member of the NYC Food Truck Association parked outside the library every weekday. So far the future lineup includes the Red Hook Lobster Pound and Milk Truck, among other favorites.

Pencil in a midday date with your coworkers or lunch-ready friends, and write the next chapter of your own New York food story.

“Lunch Hour NYC,” Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Gottesman Exhibition Hall, Fifth Ave. at 42nd St.; or 917-275-6975

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