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.


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    Forgot to mention in my comment above that the place looked very clean. Only suggestion would be to have the two ladies making smoothies wear gloves, as they were definitely not.

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    Oh and the salsa verde was good, not too spicy, but thick so you could spread it well

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    Overall, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being amazing), I would give this place a 6.5. [As a measuring stick, I'd rate five guys 7, haven't found anything above 7 in the burger world, yet...]

    Perhaps I am biased because it was free, but to sum it up, I’d give it a 6.5 based on variety, healthy innovations, and price. I docked points for over-packaging and messiness of eating my burger.

    I’ll start with the positives. You can literally make hundreds of burger combos, with meats ranging from beef to salmon, and add-ons that range from sliced avacados to mac and cheese. Not only is there a lot of variety in the choice of toppings, but they range in healthiness as well. You can go nasty-time with a beef and a scoop of mac and cheese or go light with salmon with sweet chili. Their sides are “healthfully thoughtful” with square roots and coconut rice being a couple of the side choices.

    However, in their attempts to be health-concious and innovative, it did not come without some sacrifices. First is the hole in the burger. Perhaps they did this to control portion size, but it made the burger eating experience relatively difficult. Traditionally, the patty would generally keep the burger together when assisted with your hands, but since this patty had a hole in it, the burger’s structural integrity is challenged when you’re taking adult-sized bites! I finished my burger using my sfork to pick up the remnants of my burger-mess. The packaging at first was great, but soon found it to be quite wasteful when throwing away my trash. So much to throw away and im not even that “green”

    Overall, endless amounts of variety coupled with health conscious undertones make this place worth checking out, as long as you dont mind getting your hands and the environment a bit messy.

  • Order #27 – Beef patty on brioche with Mofo, goat cheese, avocado, pickles, lettuce, BBQ sauce & ketchup. It was very good. Burger was small and a little dry, but hey, it’s fast food! It’s cheap (considering all the extra’s you get with the patty), healthier (everything organic etc), and plenty of options. I can see it being a twice/month option. Especially if I’m really going for a healthy (turkey, salmon) meal. (Famous Halal & Trini Paki boys are not good for the gut!)

    The noise level was high. When it gets crowded the place will be a cluster F. They should make the line like the weave at Chipotle with a separate area for pick-ups (the screen can also show online orders that are ready). They should add some rugs and wall fixtures to absorb the noise.

    My friend ordered something similiar (his scoop was spinach & pine nuts) – enjoyed his as well.

    I will go back. Hopefully they open for breakfast. I can think of an awesome breakfast sammi – perfect for Friday morning hangovers. Thanks Zach!!

    • RE: The Online Orders – Even though you can build your burger in advance – and I did – your/my burger was not assembled until after I got to 4food and checked in. -Which makes sense from a “freshly prepared” standpoint, however… I’m guessing that they will probably offer an “I will pick up my order in 15 minutes” option, but you’d still have to get in line, check in and pay (unless online pre-paying becomes available).

      • I actually didn’t order in advance, but I hear what you’re saying. My ticket was #27, that’s all I meant. In case anyone was around me, they could put a face to my taste!

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    Just came back from this and here’s my 2 cents:

    I had a salmon/mac and cheese/gruyere/lettuce/tomato on pumpernickel – the burger was tasty. It’s about the same size as a Shake Shack burger. The salmon patty was thin, and they say it’s wild king salmon.
    The square roots vegetable was tasty and crispy. I had the lemon caper tartar sauce and that was yummy. Their fresh ketchup tasted good too.
    The hibiscus berry bubble tea had a great fruity taste with some whole raspberries.
    Space had a warehouse-like feel to it, and plenty of flatscreens all around.
    Service seemed efficient.
    My friend and I both had requested avocado slice on our burgers, but it wasn’t there (maybe they ran out but didn’t tell us)
    The box packaging to carry the food is excessive and wasteful.

  • Totally dug the entire meal.Had the Lamb Burger, spinach and pine nuts, pancetta, gruyere cheese and horsradish cream and LOVED it. Someone said it was a “lamby” burger but I thought it was really well seasoned. It’s definitely not the biggest burger in the world but that’s what the toppings are for right? If you want a thickburger go to Spotted Pig cause this is not that. But the Lamb Burger is definitely worth a try. Love that there were different types of potato (sweet, purple and ?yukon?) in the square roots box. Also, in regards to all the packaging, if you noticed on the trash can it said that all of it was biodegradable. Not that that automatically makes it alright, but at least it makes it better. Definitely nicer than carrying a Wendy’s tray or some piece of junk plastic tray around when you have sauces for the fries, drinks, burger, etc to carry.

    Picture of the meal: http://bit.ly/bdLBxZ
    Really really enjoyed it. Thanks again.

    • Oh and I had the Dirt Smoothie too. I mentioned I was going for the fat kid meal and she said, “Actually, there’s no sugar in the drink.” I didn’t question it so there’s that. Was also super tasty. Kind of like a chocolate shake with “dirt” aka cookie crumbles in it. Great summer go to.

    • I meant ‘lamby’ as a good thing. Lamb should taste like lamb, not beef or anything else. So I will give them a plus on having lamb quality enough to taste like the real stuff. :)

  • I’m still stuffed from the Dirt Smoothie. I like the setting of the casual ambiance and friendly staff but there is definitely room for improvement with the pork patty & mac & cheese burger I had. I might just go back to eat the beef or lamb burger another time since it’s close-by. I don’t want to write them off yet but do feel the meal I ordered isn’t worth the $15. Maybe just a patron them for a burger and smoothie since it was cool of them to treat us.

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    I don’t see the nutrition information for the sides, drinks on the site. I don’t like that. I’m trying to lose a few pounds and I log almost everything I eat. I have no clue what the nutrition values are for the roots and the kick start smoothie. The cheeseburger with mac and choose scoop was 560 calories. Not bad. I REALLY want them to have the full information available. Seems like if you were opening a “healthy” fast food place you’d have that info available.

    Or maybe I missed it on the site?

    • I think there are still a few kinks they need to work out with the site. Hopefully they do include every item.

    • I doubt healthy means it’s okay to have a dirt smoothie at 790 Cals!!!! HAHAHA.

      They just don’t stock up on preservatives, chemicals and sugars like other fast foods, which is already healthy in itself. BUT it’s not as bland tasting as Energy Kitchen so there’s plenty of doubt on protecting any waistlines here.

      They also believe in composting their waste and recycling. Environmentally friendly is cool.

      Cardboard no. Delicious not completely there yet.

  • I got my full write-up completed on my visit to 4Food today. I had the Brioche, Pork Patty, Egg, Pancetta, Cheddar, and Sweet Chili with the Coconut Rice and Mango Chai Tea.


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    Thanks to all the Midtown Lunchers that came to our sneak preview today. We truly appreciate all the (very honest!) feedback. Our team is going to further evaluate the feedback and consider ways we can improve.

    Wanted to take a moment to clarify some of the more common sentiments shared here:

    -Packaging: all of our food and packaging is compostable (we will be able to turn 400 lbs of food and packaging to waste water within 24 hours). In fact, our restaurant will be close to zero waste (outside trash and food delivery packaging will be recycled where possible). The packaging used for burgers/Square Roots/etc was constructed to ensure that your food remains it’s heat and integrity. For in-store diners, we will be offering re-usable trays (as the trays you received today were prototypes and won’t be a final 4food product).

    -Wait times/lines: We offer our customers several ways to beat the midtown lunch lines! You can pre-order your food online, pay for it, and schedule a pick-up time (our current website is in beta mode, but upon Sept 7th, you’ll notice this change). You can also place an order with one of our Hawkers via an iPad. Or you can use one of 6 iPad’s we’ll have tethered to a table near our entrance for self service ordering. Of course- you can do things the traditional way and order from a cashier as well!

    -Pricing: We believe we charge reasonable prices, when the rights of farm workers to earn a living wage, the integrity of our food preparation, and the quality of our ingredients are taken into account.

    -Nutritional info: Once we launch, this will be provided on our website and also on your receipt!

    -We aren’t open for the public for lunch tomorrow, sorry! But – if you follow us on Twitter (@4foodnyc) or facebook (facebook.com/4food) we’ll be sending out tweets for more taste testers and soft launch openings.

    We really appreciate the feedback and welcome any additional thoughts/comments. Of course – we also hope you come back and visit us when we open. Though if you’re looking for another taste testing session, pay close attention to our Twitter account!

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    In general, I like healthy food, and I LOVED my burger. I had turkey with the multigrain bun, mango salsa, avocado, mustard, lettuce, tomato and pickles. I thought it was incredibly delicious. The patty had so much flavor, which isn’t always the case with turkey. Was it small to some? Perhaps. But I think that’s what a normal portion should be.

    Fresh, healthy ingredients and fast service. The tea I had was too sweet (they need unsweetened options), but the side salad hit the spot. I loved sitting overlooking Madison – fantastic people watching!

    If you’re looking for a greasy, unhealthy burger, this is definitely NOT your place. If you want a fresh, healthy lunch that’s not a salad, then this is it!

    I can’t wait to come back!

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