Long gone are the days of the beloved Horn & Hardart automats, but a trace of their influence can be felt in the current iteration of vending machine food. We're not talking about your average Doritos-filled machine -- instead, picture mason jars filled with vegetables and grain bowls. The Chicago-based startup Farmer’s Fridge has been rolling out their vending machines across the city, not that you'll notice anytime soon, as there are only a few public ones on their locator map.

Recently I asked myself, would I eat a salad out of a vending machine? You know, food-borne illnesses and all... But I ultimately accepted the challenge, and hit up the one in the lobby of Mount Sinai Beth Israel on 1st Avenue. There it was, awaiting me in a waiting area where a typical vending machine night have been, absent of Snickers, and beaming with healthier options.

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The touch-screen interface was user-friendly and felt a lot like a self-checkout at a drugstore: easy, simple, fast, no human interaction. I had the option to select from a variety of classic salad options, all $8—Asian Chopped Salad, Greek Salad, Harvest Salad. There were also some grain bowls, all coming in at $6.50 or less, these included a Sesame Noodle Bowl, a Pesto Pasta Bowl, and a Southwest Quinoa Bowl. They also sell sandwiches and wraps priced at around $5 to $6.50, including a Smoked Turkey Sandwich, and a Baja Chicken Wrap. Snacks included Dark Chocolate Trail Mix and hard-boiled eggs, which run from $3 to $5. There’s a compartment in the side of the fridge stocked with napkins and silverware.

Yes, eggs.

Now is a good time to mention that, according to the NY Times, the machines "have more food-safety features than many traditional vending machines... The internal temperature of each is taken every five minutes and uploaded to company servers. Should a refrigerator reach an unsafe temperature, it automatically stops dispensing food. The machines also track how long food has been inside, and will not release a product after its sell-by date."

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

They are also treated like a restaurant by the city's Department of Health (with the exception of not having to have a bathroom at each one). Because of this, Farmer's Fridge didn't have the easiest entry into New York, and late last year had to shut down their machines while the DoH figured out how to deal with them. At the time, they underwent a period of negotiations with the agency over whether or not these fridges should be graded as restaurants or vending machines. Thankfully for consumers, they landed on the former.

Now, every machine needs its own permit (with an application fee of $280 per machine); they will also undergo inspections, and receive "the same kind of letter grade posted everywhere from McDonald’s to Le Bernadin," the Times reported.

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

If all goes smoothly, they hope to bring these “distributed restaurants" to more public spaces here—founder Luke Saunders expects that, “By the end of 2020, there will be more than 100 new Farmer’s Fridges across the city.”

So, how was my salad? It came stacked in a plastic mason jar-like container, making it difficult to mix everything together. That being said, my first crunch of lettuce was deliciously fresh—nothing fancy, probably on par with Sweetgreen. The guacamole I also purchased from the machine was the kind you might buy prepackaged at a supermarket—more of a cream with chunks of tomatoes thrown on top. Neither gave me food poisoning, so not a bad last minute, affordable option when you're in a place like Newark Airport (where you'll also find a machine).

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

As for how the vending machine salad sausage gets made, they lose some points for not making the items in NYC, or anywhere near NYC. The items are shipped in refrigerated trucks from Chicago overnight, but the company says they plan to set up an east coast kitchen in the future. They have a predictive inventory management algorithm that tracks menu items in each Fridge and monitors the Fridge’s sale patterns, so through this technology they can ensure each location is stocked to fully optimize demand and minimize waste.

When surplus food does arise (i.e. when a salad goes uneaten for two days), it’s donated daily to community members in need. Farmer’s Fridge is currently working with the Secaucus Food Pantry for NYC-area donations. The company has also composted more than 1 million pounds of food to date. And those plastic jars are 100% BPA free and can be recycled anywhere.. at least in theory.