He certainly wasn’t from the same category of eaters as James Beard, yet both Beard and Andy Warhol celebrated American cuisine, even in its more humble pancake/sandwich/barbecue forms. Warhol was a typical American eater in many regards. He was conservative about his food, preferred simple dishes, and was happy eating in front of the TV.
As for restaurants, he explained in his 1975 book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol that he stayed thin by ordering things he disliked in restaurants — even fashionable and expensive ones such as La Grenouille. While his companions ate, he picked at his plate and then had the food wrapped up so he could leave it somewhere for a homeless person to find. He called this the “Andy Warhol New York City Diet.”
He much preferred “good, plain American lunchroom[s] or even the good plain American lunchcounter” to chic eateries. His favorites, already vanished by 1975, were the “old-style” Chock Full O’ Nuts and Schrafft’s. “The days were carefree in the 1940s and 1950s when I could go into a Chocks for my cream cheese sandwich with nuts on date-nut bread and not worry about a thing,” he wrote. He felt that people could not handle many challenges to their food habits without becoming upset. As he put it, “Progress is very important and exciting in everything except food.”
He came close to becoming a restaurateur himself when he announced the coming of the “Andy-Mat,” an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant serving homely comfort food at reasonable prices which was slated to open in fall of 1977 on Madison Avenue at 74th Street in NYC, perhaps launching a chain. (See photo with Warhol and his partners, [standing L to R] architect Araldo Cossutta, developer Geoffrey Leeds, and financier C. Cheever Hardwick III.) Described as “a tinker toy for sophisticates,” Warhol’s concept included pneumatic tubes through which customers’ orders would be whooshed into the kitchen. The meals served in Andy-Mats, in keeping with the times, were to be frozen dinners requiring only reheating.
For some reason — poor location or failure to raise capital or maybe because the whole plan was cooked up over “twelve stingers at El Morocco” — the restaurant did not materialize.
© Jan Whitaker, 2010