Midtown Lunch’ers Liveblog: Your First Look at 4Food

Earlier this month we had a contest giving away slots to a special preview lunch at 4Food, the crazy new social-media-meets-doughnut-shaped-veggie-stuffed-hamburger spot opening in September on Madison and 40th Street.  That free lunch is happening right now, and we couldn’t help but ask the winning lunchers to send us their thoughts in real time.

Noon – The first guests are starting to arrive…  “Scene is bustling with peeps who are part of the event.” According to Lunch’er Tina.

12:15pm – And the first burger has been consumed.  Good news for ketchup lovers, bad news for environmentalists…  From Lunch’er “Mike”   “Burger is pretty good. The staff is very nice. I don’t hate the fufu custom ketchup; I’m a Heinz guy. There’s a LOT of cardboard wrapped around the food. More people taking pictures than eating. I prefer Carnegie John but this is ok. The space is nice; kind of industrial warehouse feel.

12:23pm – Lunch’er “Tina’s” order is in.  “Pork burger w/Brussels sprouts, fontina and horseradish cream in brioche. Side of Square Roots fries.”

Check out the first bits of burger porn, after the jump…

12:25pm – From Lunch’er Tina: “A tad dry but could be me taking photos.”  Ah yes.  The blogger curse…

12:26pm – That’s great and all but what about the stuffed hole!  I want to see the stuffed hole.

12:30pm – “Arrived at 1225, order complete by 1230. Its very loud in here. They could use some rug to absorb the noise. I fear for the 1st month as it will be packed. Ordering online will be key.”

12:32pm – More complaints about the packaging… From Luncher Jose: “My biggest question/”complaint”: Why all of that packaging?  And those trays/boxes only really fit into the garbage bins in ‘landscape mode’.”

12:40pm – Ladies and gents… we have innards!  (Courtesy of Lunch’er Jason)  What the hell is that?  (UPDATE: Jason checked back in to tell us that it’s “a turkey burger w/ the spinach and pine nuts as well as the avocado slice on a pumpernickel bun.”

12:43pm – “Order ready 5 min later. Name pops up on the top screen (very efficient) burger was small, but delicious! I had beef on brioche with mofongo, goat cheese, advocado, bbq sauce, ketchup, pickle and lettuce. I will be a frequent customer. With a water it comes to 6.50! (Although free today) thanks so much again. – will send a couple more comments when back at work.”

12:48pm – We’re hearing reports of “hibiscus berry tea”.  How classy!

12:50pm – Hearing conflicting reports about price.  Lunch’er Mike felt his $5 burger was inexpensive, and a “nice change from tiny seven dollar burgers”.  Lunch’er Emily… not so much.

12:52pm – And we have our first straight up pan of the place, courtesy of Lunch’er “Emily”.  Take it away…

“From the swanky iPads and screens to the meal, 4Food comes across all look very little taste. I might come back for the root vegetables and drinks, but I’m not so sure about the rest. The service was good & the menu surprisingly Chipotle-esque. Peach bubble tea – surprisingly good bubbles for midtown, not too sweet. Square roots – crispy, nice, they don’t fulfill the french fry fix, but do work. Lamb burger on brioche with chorizo hash, avocado onions & manchego – um, where’s the cheese? Or avocado? The lamb tasted lamby, but overdone and SUCH a skimpy patty. The hash was a-ok, but mushy. And the bun was fast-food standard.  Basically, I wouldn’t come back to fulfill a classic burger fix. Burgers should be simple, this isn’t. It also shouldn’t cost $12 for lunch.”

Oh, and in case you didn’t realize it… yes, you do order on Ipads.  I wonder if those things are bolted down…

12:58pm – $3.50 for a tea!?!?!  Alright… leave that off, and it’s within the ML price range.

1:06pm – Lunch’er Jose just mentioned something about employee track suits in the comments! Clearly we need to see a photo of this…

1:12pm – I guess not everybody is down with the healthy aspects of 4Food.  From a luncher in the comments: “The pork was like an overcooked fat free italian sausage… this place is kinda like Better Burger but suckier”.  Ouch.

1:14pm – Lunch’er Steve steps in and tells everybody to chill!  It’s just a preview after all…   “So I’m eating my creation right now. I don’t like it. I REALLY like it. Everything is fresh and super-tasty. I can tell they’re still working out some kinks, but that is to be expected. No chocolate mousse but I got cookies which I’ll try later.”  For the record he ordered the lamb burger, on the rice patty, stuffed with spinach and pine nuts and topped with shitakes, goat cheese and tzatziki.

1:19pm – Doesn’t look too tasty but Lunch’er Matt assures us it was…

“Plus: food is very tasty and service was quick, good seating with outlets to plug into. Minus: meat was a little dry, lines to order can be long due to indecisiveness. This is the brioche with breakfast pork patty, mofo, avocado, manchego and BBQ sauce. I couldn’t taste the cheese. The coconut rice was great. The mango chai was also great. My friend thought her beef burger was a little dry and the tzatziki got lost. But overall the quality of the ingredients shines. The  square roots (potatoes) could use more seasoning.”

1:20pm – Side note… either Matt has gigantor hands, or these burgers look kind of small.  (Or maybe he ate most of the burger.  Yeah, maybe that’s it. Nevermind.  His hands do look gigantic though…)

1:26pm – Tracksuits FTW!

1:28pm – More in the comments… Luncher Emily tried the “dirt smoothie”, which she described as a “grainy Wendy’s frosty”.

1:32pm – Another review courtesy of Lunch’er T.C.: “The burger was very average. I had the pork patty on multigrain with mac & cheese, pancetta, cheddar and sweet chili sauce. Well-done (which was an issue for others) but not too dry luckily. I could barely taste the cheese or the mac & cheese. The sweet chili sauce was forgetable. I’m not liking the middle hole. When you get to that point it’s all filling (only time I could taste the pancetta and cheese). The Square Roots side (potatoes, sweet potatoes and purple yam) were nicely crisp. I had a Green smoothie and a  Dirt Smoothie – probably the best items I had for lunch.  My meal with my first smoothie came out to be over $15 (they gave us the bill despite not having to pay which is cool for reference) and I doubt I would willingly pay that much for the meal. Their value meal has burger + side + tea for $12. Not really a ‘Midtown Lunch’”

1:41pm – Perhaps the biggest 4Food endorsement comes from Lunch’er Mike in the comments: “I was prepared to hate it and I didn’t.”    That’s about as good as it gets from this crowd…

1:45pm – And that’s it.  It’s all over.   If you were at the lunch, and have more thoughts… post them in the comments.  The official grand opening is just over 13 days away (September 7th) but we’re hearing they will be open at random times over the next two weeks as part of a soft opening.  (Perhaps maybe even tomorrow during lunch?)  If we hear they’re open, we’ll let you know.


  • “Square Roots fries” – assuming that they’re doing cubes of root veg, wouldn’t the center of the ‘fry’ be undercooked? Very curious.

  • Chris H. – The “Square Roots” are roasted. Here’s the prep according to their website:

    “4food’s French fry alternative. Idaho potatoes, sweet potatoes & purple potatoes are all diced into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes. Boiled in water seasoned with herbs, fresh garlic and spices then roasted for a very crunchy and tasty alternative to a deep fat fried French fry.”

  • NOTE: I went to the Foursquare Mayor event last week, not today’s Midtown Lunch’ers preview.

    In general, I think it’s a good concept*, however, for their concept* to truly work, it depends on their customers walking in there already knowing what they want to order, or, preferably, placing their order online ahead of time. With all of those options, “newbie” back-ups at the registers are going to be inevitable. Even the drinks have add-ons – some of which weren’t even listed on the menu board. -Oh, and the very arty presentation of the menu on those screens above the register is a bit hard to read – low contrast, small-ish print.

    *As for the food itself, well… I’ll reserve a proper judgement until after my second (or third?) visit. However, my initial impression is that more attention is being paid to the “concept” than the food. -And why do I have a feeling that all the patties are partially pre-cooked in order to speed up wait time from order to pick-up? -Oh, and those track suits – really?!?

  • I did the online ordering and the system didnt work when I arrived and it took 3 cashiers to figure out that the online ordering didn’t work.

    Ordered a Brioche, Pork, Hominy chipolte, Manchego, Panchetta, Salsa Verde, they forgot the panchetta, and manchego.

    The pork was like an overcooked fat free italian sausage. The four squares were good, but too large. The packaging of the burger required you to rip the box apart. Tea drinks were too sweet.

    My wife ordered a salmon patty with yogurt, winter vegs, avocado, on a brioche.
    My wife being a foreigner didnt understand why her salmon burger had to be mashed and formed into a dry patty.

    The brioches themselves arent brioches but denser versions of the typical hamburger bun.

    This place is kinda like better burger but suckier.

  • do we have nutritional information?

  • kcijones001 – If you go to 4food’s website, you can get the nutritional information for each component of your personal creation as you build it, and then a final tally.

  • As for the track suits, just look at the pic at the top of this post.

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    Had Multigrain/Beef/Pickles/Mushroom/Mozzarella/Ketchup/Horseradish Cream/Lettuce with Square Roots and Hibiscus Sparkle.

    When I think of how fast ordering at Chipotle and Kwik Meal is, I shudder to think of what happens when I’m stuck behind a family of 4 from the Midwest and their friends trying to figure out all the options. The IT system was down, so my preorder wasn’t there. I have no problem with that, but took forever for me to order, just because I can’t make quick decisions.

    Burger was tasty, but small. Especially since the “burger with a hole” idea may sound neat, but it’s pretty thin. The Square Roots filled me up and were tasty, but I don’t think I can frequent a place where the side dish is what fills me up.

    Neat space. Somewhere I’d actually consider eating in at. Just can imagine it filling up pretty quickly if they start doing well.

    Staff was friendly, so I hope they don’t become too jaded when swamped with annoying office workers.

    Overall, I enjoyed it, but not sure how much of that had to do with the fact that my wallet wasn’t required. Choice was good, and everything was tasty. Only problem is that the main part, the patty, was a bit on the smallish side, and didn’t fill me up until I got to the potatoes.

    Will try again, but probably won’t be a regular. More of an every now and then place to show people something new with all the different choices.

  • Yup, I stand by my comments. I will add: the Dirt smoothie was decent… Sort of like a grainy Wendy’s frosty. But it also took about 15 minutes to get it (I ordered it as dessert.) It seemed obvious the savvy Midtown Lunchers realized some of 4Food’s best bets are their drinks.

    • Also, I didn’t order on iPads, but they did walk around with them confirming you were registered on 4Foods (which I thought you had to do in order to RSVP online).

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    I’m with Steve – it’s a preview, so chilling is in order.

    The staff was super willing to hear any suggestions, and they’re obviously working out the kinks. They seemed a little tentative. They’ve been hosting a few private parties, but aren’t opening until Sept, 7. A little birdie told me they may be soft-opening tomorrow.

    What’s with the hating the track suits? They looked fine and I prefer it to the humiliating pajamas/polyester pantsuits some fast food kitchens make people wear.

    To clarify: I’m not sure a five dollar burger is inexpensive, but it definitely beats the seven dollar tiny burgers around town, in terms of price.

    The roots were fry-like enough to satisfy if you want a healthier option, though obviously not as tasty as fresh idahos twice fried in lard.

    I was prepared to hate it and I didn’t. It’s a healthier burger joint in midtown and a meal (burger, side, smoothie/fancy tea drink) can be had for about 12 bucks. Seems about average these days. I might go back.

    They were out of apple cobbler. I would have loved to try that. The cookies were the only real disappointment. Very dry and not so tasty. Though I expect it might be due to it being a ‘healthy’ cookie.

    All that aside, I’d prefer a half pound cheeseburger from Carnegie John, a bag of Baked Lays and a Diet Coke. That’s as “healthy” as I want a burger lunch to be.

  • PS I heard the lady working the door tell people they were going to be open for lunch tomorrow, 11-2. IDK if it’s free or not, but for those that work in the area and are curious, might be worth swinging by.

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    wait, today was free food?! noooooooooooooooooooooooooo! i just finished eating regular lunch, it was only 5.45 but still, FREE?! :( ill have to go on the site tomorrow at 11:01 to see if anyone knows if its free again then, ill alk the like… 15 blocks both ways for free food

  • As for the size of the patty, well…

    If you go buy the calorie counts on their website:

    Beef Patty = 200 calories
    Ounce of Lean Beef = 55 calories per ounce

    Salmon Patty = 110 calories
    Ounce of Cooked Salmon = 45 calories

    You do the math.

    Yes, it’s a small patty, although it reminded me of the regular hamburger patty at McDonald’s in size.

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    Haha, I do have big hands but I did eat about 1/3 of the burger before I took the picture. The burgers are a good amount of food for $5. I’d say about 5oz.

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    Just got back from 4Food. I had a beef burger on brioche, with chipotle hominy, mushrooms, guacamole, sweet chili and gruyere – a pretty delicious combo in my opinion. It had a zesty, tangy feel to it (which is what I was going for in the first place with the chipotle and sweet chili) and the burger overall was tasty. However, the meat itself was dry and nothing to write home about – maybe its less oily because they’re trying to be healthy or something? (I know nothing about cooking/making food, so that’s the best reason I could come up with). The burger was on the small side and did not get me full. The coconut rice side that I had ok – could definitely taste the coconut, but once again not all that special. The mango chai tea with bubbles was actually very good and I would happily pay $1 or $2 for it, but not $3.50. My friend got the green tea smoothie (or whatever the green-colored smoothie was called), which I of course tried, and that was an absolute gem. I would happily pay $3.50 for it and now I’m angry he made a better choice than me.

    In terms of service, the staff was friendly and helpful about answering questions and I like the overall decor – a little hoity-toity and modern-y for my taste, but somewhere I felt comfortable sitting down and eating nonetheless. I’ll go back sometimes when I feel like a different-tasting burger but it probably won’t be joining my regular rotation.

  • I was actually pleasantly surprised with the food. I went with pork, mofo, BBQ sauce, pickles on brioche and it was a good combo. Definitely liked the square roots as well. Service was good, but I really think it’s going to be chaos when they open because the amount of choices is overwhelming. I’d go back, but not without ordering online first.

  • All I’m going to say is that I ran home and made a 4foodahrea. I wouldn’t eat that again if you paid me. That beef patty tasted like the burger I got at the Bronx Zoo 2 weeks ago….ugh.

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    Just got back from the 4food event. I ordered a rice patty with pork, mofo, pancetta, lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa verde on the side. Got it with a side salad and hibiscus tea with fruit.

    - Very nice and super friendly staff
    - Food tasted good, didn’t feel super greasy or heavy. I finished everything and was satiated, not over stuffed and ready for a nap
    - Hibiscus tea with fruit was really good. Chinatown quality (which I know sounds ironic, but have you ever gotten a bubble tea from midtown? Chalky, whitish-yuck? This was much better; you could taste the tea) it may be a little sweet for some, but I like it that way (I think it was the fruit)
    - Kitchen looked clean and there was a lot of staff in there. There are some windows into the kitchen in the downstairs seating area so you can see how (potentially) clean your food is
    - Salad dressing was not excessive when it was there(I don’t like wet un-tastable salad)

    - Excessive packaging. The tray is a throw away card board. If you’re holding the handles, you have the be careful and make sure you food is balanced or else you run the risk of it falling out.
    - Packaging… the burger was in a box that was difficult to do anything with. You have to pull it out, which means (esp. since I ordered it to eat in) the box was a waste.
    - Did I mention packaging? The boxes and trays look custom since they aren’t the classic shapes. That means we’re probably paying a good up charge for unnecessary packaging. I would suggest that (at least for eat in orders) that they get a box more similar to white castle, but more stout so it covers 50% of the burger, put the burger on a small sheet of wax or parchment paper and slide that into the box that was it’s a functional box with less garbage.
    - Bun fail. I had the rice patty. The top was fine, but the bottom, which was sitting on top of a heat holding type of metaly thing was too soft from sitting on the heat sheet. I flipped it over and ruined the other rice bun side. If it was packaged like I suggested above, it wouldn’t have been a big deal since I’d have had something to hold it in.
    - Salad dressing tasted good, but wasn’t well distributed. The top was well dressed, but the bottom suffered from little to no dressing (and like I said, I don’t like a lot of dressing)


    I’d go again. I disagree with those who said that patty was too small. 4 oz is what you should be eating and that doesn’t include the fact your filling and topping could also be meat. I think if you’re the type to finish a meal at say applebees or tgif, you’re probably eating too much in one sitting, so you’re mistaking over eating with not enough (Sorry – I have a tiff with fatness as much as I love being a fattie) Prices are a little high ($12 for a burger, side and drink), but the drink prices are on competitive with chains such as starbucks, even on the low side, but when you consider the ingredients like fruit, it makes the drink (well at least the one I got) well priced. $6 for a burger is ok, but I like variety so I’d pay a little more for added flavors. I’d probably pass on the sides. The salad, while good and a better mix that just iceberg, was on the small side and not really work the $2.50

    • RE: The Packaging (again) – When I went, I had forgotten(?) to order my side of Square Roots, so… When I picked up my order, they placed the container of Square Roots in a paper bag – and I was still eating in. However, seeing that they had paper bags, could they just place your order – burger and side – in a paper bag?

      There was also a group of four who were sitting next to me. They all commented on the amount of excess packaging too. They even noted that all four of their burgers could have easily been placed in one of those tray-carries with room for their sides.

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    Guess I’m the first to write about the veggie burger. I am by no means a vegetarian, but had a TON of meat the last three days and needed a break. I was disappointed in the veggie burger because it was dry and tasteless when tasted without the toppings. My strange mix of toppings didn’t help much (avocado slices, mango and avocado scoop, salsa verde, and fontina cheese on broche bun) and I wasn’t very happy with the overall product. I will allow that perhaps the right mix of toppings could season the burger just right and make it taste a little better. I enjoyed my peach and rosehips iced tea (with real peach slices on the bottom of the drink), though it was a bit over sweet. The dirt smoothie (chocolate pieces, chocolate frozen yogurt, almond milk, etc.) was delicious. Staff seemed to really be pushing the smoothies. Coconut rice had a lot of flavor and was just the right amount of stickiness.

    I really did like the concept and the enthuiastic staff. The restaurant itself is very modern, spacious, and comfortable but I wonder how many people can eat in there at one time (there is a second floor with seating).

    I would definitely go back to sample the other burgers and combinations of toppings/scoops/condiments. I would recommend to pre-order or at least have in mind what you are in the mood for, because you can really slow down the line (there was none today) if you are indecisive.

  • And speaking of their website, they seem to have two of them:


    http://web2.4food.com/ – You can build your burgers on this one.

    Alas, their blog – http://4foodnyc.blogspot.com/ – hasn’t been updated since March 15.

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