August 24, 2010

Preview of 4Food

Scheduled to open after Labor Day, new burger restaurant 4Food's opening has been highly anticipated.  Why? It could be it's efforts to be green (including high-scale composting). Or its widespread use of iPads and social media. But for us (and many others), it's about the food.  After all, 4Food promises to offer customizable burgers (including Wild Alaskan King salmon and meat patties produced using fresh, all-natural, and humanely-raised animals).  These patties are shaped like a doughnut and filled with a huge selection of seasonal ingredients.  All of this, plus offering food quick at a fairly affordable price.  It's definitely an ambitious plan.

Once it opens, we know it'll be fairly crowded in its first few weeks.  So we were happy to win a couple of spots to check out 4Food during its Family and Friends preview event.   

4Food's mission is printed on the wall.  It reads "Our mission is to de-junk fast food by bringing fast, fresh, delicious, and nutritious food, made of local produce purchased at fair prices, to people of all ages, lifestyles, and ethnicities."

The space itself is fairly large, spanning 3 floors (though the main and top floor are smaller).  There are sleek wooden communal tables, counters, and static stools everywhere for dine-in.  
The menu boards are dynamic so it can quickly reflect new seasonal ingredients.  To order, you can go the easy route and choose a Chef combo (starting at $12 for a menu burger, side, and tea).  Or confront the myriad of choices and Build Your Own Burger.  We both took the BYOB route.

Faced with a dizzying array of choices, my friendly cashier guided me through the process:
Bun (made by Grimaldi's Bakery, includes bagels, brioche, multi-grain, and even a gluten-free rice bun, etc.)
+ Patty (shaped like a donut, includes beef, lamb, pork, breakfast pork, turkey, salmon, egg, and veggie)
+ Veggie Scoop (or donut hole filling, includes Avocado & Chili Mango, Dried Fruit & Nut, Shredded Brussels Sprouts, Spinach & Pine Nuts, Mushrooms & Onions, Mac n' Cheese, etc)
+Slices (Avocado, Pancetta, Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, etc)
+Cheese (Manchego, Black River Blue, Gruyere, etc)
+Tomatoes, Lettuce, Pickles, and/or Vidalia Onions
+Condiments and Spreads (Lemon Caper Tartar Sauce, Jamaican Jerk Sauce, Tzatziki, Organic Ketchup, etc.)

And then there's the various options for sides (salads and their version of fries, square roots), beverages (all naturally-sweetened and flavored, including cold tea drinks, sodas, and smoothies), and desserts (apple crumble, chocolate mousse, and chocolate-cherry mousse).  Phew!

It'll be interesting to see if this overwhelming amount of choice can handle the large lunch crowd.  It took me a good few minutes to decide on everything, so definitely know roughly what you want before you go! (Their website isn't completely updated yet, but customers will have the option to pre-order and schedule a pick-up for their meals.  There are also supposed to be self-serve machines and iPad-carrying staff around to speed up the process.  In the meantime, check out their extensive menu here.)
Since it takes a few minutes for your order to be ready, you can spend the time checking into Foursquare or tweeting about @4foodnyc (then see yourself on the big screen).  Each customer is also supposed to receive a limited-time password to access the free WiFi available (printed on your receipt).
When our orders are ready, our names are called and also appear on the pick-up screen (updated by an iPad).
Our Dine-in tray is cute, but seemed like a lot of packaging.  We did put throw them away into its designated bin that we're guessing was for recycling or composting.
I ordered the pork patty on brioche bun with the spinach & pine nut 'scoop', chopped pancetta, pickles, vidalia onions, tomato, lettuce and manchego.  I couldn't pass up selecting my favorite Spanish nutty cheese (which I've never been offered as a burger topping at any other burger joint).

The burger ($6.50) was a little messy to eat, but it was very tasty.  The pork patty was nicely seasoned and the sauteed spinach made me feel a bit healthy and added some nice texture. 
As a side, we picked the Square Roots ($2.50) which is 4Food's take on french fries.  Instead of frying, these root vegetables seemed like they were oven-baked (but still crispy).  The purple potatoes were a pleasant surprise.  
My husband chose the lamb patty on a multi-grain bun.  He also selected a scoop of mushrooms and onions, a slice of sopressata (not really needed but he wanted to try it) and goat cheese topped with pickles, lettuce and tomato.  The lamb was cooked medium and remained quite moist.  The goat cheese was tasty but it overwhelmed the other toppings (our own misstep).  (His burger would have cost $6)
We ordered our condiments on the side:  organic ketchup, hummus, guacamole, salsa verde, horseradish cream and tzatziki sauce.  I liked the ketchup because it tasted like, well, ketchup.  My husband liked the guacamole with a citrus tang and the savory coarse hummus.  He would've preferred a chunkier salsa verde.  The horseradish cream and tzatziki were both really mild.  We like spicy and strong sauces and felt that these ones would get lost in the burger.  I did appreciate the eclectic, international choices instead of the usual ketchup, mustard, and relish.
  For dessert, I chose the apple crumble ($4).  The star of this dessert is the silky smooth vanilla cream on top.  There was only a small amount of  crumble, apples, and caramel on the bottom.  The scant amount of apples were still a little hard and we would've liked them to be cooked a bit more.
Green Smoothie ($4):  We rarely have (and almost never enjoy) a green drink (outside of St. Pat's Day), but this was one of our favorite picks of the dinner.  Blended with kale, pineapple, and honey, this smoothie was sweet and so good!

Hibiscus Berry Tea ($3.50):  I liked the added fruit (I could make out raspberries and blueberries in my drink) and tapioca bubbles.  It was probably the most natural "bubble tea" I've ever drank.  It was refreshing, but less sweet than the Green Smoothie.
Since this was a Family and Friends event, our meal was complimentary.  After adding up what we could have spent (my final "bill" after tax was $18, while my husband's was only $11), we saw how easy it was to spend a lot more than usual for a weekday lunch.  (Given the area, the restaurant is certainly geared toward the workday crowd).  For lunch, we would stick with a burger and only one other item (for us it would be the green smoothie). 

Because it was a preview event and they're still getting everything ready for the Sept opening, I would probably return after it's been open for a month to experience the full operation.  (And of course, to make another burger!)

  4Food is located at 286 Madison Ave (at 40th St) in NYC.  It is scheduled to open at 7 am on Tuesday, September 7th.  But if you sign up now to their website and answer their survey (be forewarned though, questions involve weight, active lifestyle, and other questions your physical trainer or doctor might ask), you can get a $12 food credit.  By signing up, you can also create and name your own burger creation. Anytime someone orders your burger, you get a $0.25 food credit.

4Food on Urbanspoon

8 comments:

  1. is this paradise??? :P
    definitely i'll try it on my next trip to the big apple!
    ciao ciao! alessandra

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  2. oh can't wait to try it! fun concept =)

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  3. Burger heaven. That's what that place should be called.

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  4. Oh cool! A friend living in the states told me about this place recently, and it sounds like my kind of place. I love interesting burgers, and I love to fiddle with menu items if given half a chance, so this is perfect for me! Can you ask them to bring one to Perth please?

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  5. They're supposed to open 10 more locations here in NYC, so maybe world domination's next! =) And if they don't open soon in Perth, perhaps you can come visit NYC!

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  6. Can't wait to see/hear all about your experiences there!

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  7. Wow, this is fantastic, it's like the food heaven. Yummy.. yummy...

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