ToniAnn Ulses, Executive Chef, 4Food: Skills and Enthusiasm!
Yes, it is possible for a gluten-free vegetarian to eat and eat well at a fast food joint in midtown Manhattan. But only if it's the sophisticated purveyor of quick meals, 4Food, which is located on 40th and Madison, just south of Grand Central Station and down the street from the lions at the steps of the Public Library. Convenient yet healthy, or, as 4Food says, "Our mission is to de-junk fast food."
To further set this place apart from the mainstream, there's a hook, a gimmick, something which differentiates it from all the new healthy dining spots popping up in the city. In this case, it's nothing.Or rather, the absence of something. A void, a hole in one. Emptiness.A burger without a center, to be clear.
At first I thought, whatever is the point of this affectation? But then I read the mission statement and it's pure logic. A device to promote precise, even cooking, avoiding an overdone edge and underdone center of whatever burger you choose. Genius!
And if you're not a burger fan, how about the rice bowl or salad bowl, each made to your specifications, of course. Whether you order a salad bowl or a meat burger topped with cheese, you will know the stats as soon as you pay: each receipt breaks down your meal by calories, fat, carbs and protein. If you're on WeightWatchers, ask to speak to the chef or manager and say you'd love a fiber count, too. I did, and they are SO friendly and helpful!
True, there's only one vegetable burger for you, if you're vegetarian, but if you're starting to feel slighted (there are many meaty ones), don't be, because the possibilities for sides and toppings are numerous, and feel almost infinite. Although changes are made to the menu monthly, in order to reflect seasonal availability of products, here are only a FEW of the delicious choices for toppings or sides that were great for a gluten-free vegetarian during my last visit:
Mushrooms & Onions
Red Lentil Dal
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
and a Choice of 7 Cheeses!
My veggie patty was topped with mushrooms and onions, plantains, chutney and lettuce. For sides I chose Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Braised Fennel. My drink was English Breakfast tea with fat-free milk and truvia. Fantastic lunch! The real feat, though, was the existence of something wonderfully gluten-free to sandwich all these goodies into a deliciously portable meal: surprisingly, rice! It is sushi rice, cooked, spread on a baking tray, browned a bit, and cut into circles. Not only unusual, but unusually tasty, and, of course, totally gluten-free.
4Food is fast food marinated in many levels of culinary AND technological invention: order at the counter, or from the ipads available, order online to have food delivered to your office. Take advantage of the wifi, or bathe in the bright lights of floor to ceiling digital projection screen (the 240 square foot media wall) on your way to the uppermost level.
Check out the Events Calendar to see if it's movie night or perhaps your group wants to organize an event of its own at the space. That's possible, too, and as well as use of the media wall, and customized foods for the event! Just speak to Christine deVita, General Operations Manager, pictured below.
Here's the inspiring mission statement from 4Food, told as the Founder's Story. BE SURE to click, at the top of the page, for an entertaining animation about the ideas that inspired this spot for delicious guilt-free dining.