Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Evening at UFood Grill

On Monday evening I attended an event for Boston Food Bloggers hosted by UFood Grill at their Landmark Center location in the Fenway area neighborhood. UFood Grill provided attendees with a complimentary menu tasting as well as treated us to an open bar of beer and wine. While I'm typically reviewing upscale restaurants and enjoying meals of great culinary prowess, I've never been one to hide the fact that I enjoy a Wendy's Chicken Nuggets and French Fries every now and again. I figured it couldn't hurt to check out what this healthy "where delicious meets nutritious" fast food franchise had to offer. Turns out, it's quite a lot, and the foods actually pretty good! Make no mistake, I'm not about to forgo some greasy McDonald's as my fast and cheap go-to hangover cure; but for a healthy alternative on the go, the folks at UFood Grill are definitely onto something. So far they have eight locations in Boston, Dallas and Cleveland. The Boston franchises are located in Downtown Crossing as well as Logan Airport Terminals B and C.
Tom Mackey, the senior VP of Operations was on hand to explain the "fast casual" concept upon which UFood builds their business practice:
1) It has to taste good
2) It has to be nutritional
3) It has to be ready in 3 1/2 minutes
4) It has to make money
(UFood is a publicly traded company)
Tom explained that they actually focus 15% on being healthy and lean and 85% on being better for you than down the street. So in an effort to be as healthy as possible, sometimes that simply means less calories than the competition. In a nutshell; the dressings are lite, the meats are lean, the cheese is low fat, the rice is brown and the bread is whole wheat. The food is always baked, grilled or steamed, never fried and no trans fats are ever used. Tom also mentioned they source locally and use organic ingredients when possible.Okay, now that you have the facts, lets get to the food (and drink! and atmosphere!) Signature colors of bright green and orange set the scene at the 201 Brookline Street location (closed to the public this evening on our behalf.) I appreciated the Under 500 Calories Menu hanging on display. While I'm not in the business of counting calories, this is a welcome point of attention for those who are. In addition, every item on the menu lists next to it the number of calories it contains. I sipped on a Corona Lite while mingling with other bloggers and chatting with the super friendly UFood team members. Around 6:30 we were instructed to take a seat and shortly after we began our meal with a Bistro Salad. This salad contains organic field greens, tomatoes, feta cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries, topped with a blueberry pomegranate dressing. The dressing was light and zesty with hints of sweetness that didn't overpower the fresh ingredients. A plate of french fries - appropriately named Unfries accompanied the salad course. Unfries because they are baked, not fried! The oven baked crispiness as well the lower calorie count gives them a unique appeal. They have definitely succeeded in creating a healthy, non greasy fry without compromising on taste. Up next was an entree of Fire-Grilled Sirloin Tips. (Pictured above is a full size order displayed on the tabletop spread.)These 100% USDA choice sirlion tips are locally sourced from Burlington, Vermont. They are cooked to order in a light balsamic dressing giving them a nice burst of flavor. For a steak tip fire-grilled in 3 1/2 minutes, these are actually very tasty. (I'm not comparing them to the steak tips you'd cook up on your backyard grill, but for what they are, I was impressed.)
The simply prepared sides included Fresh Steamed Broccoli and Sweet Potato Mash. They don't cook with salt so the vegetables lacked seasoning, the point being that the decision to add is up to you. I could have used some salt on my broccoli, but the creamy sweet potato mash stood up well on its own.They offer Personal Pizzas made with organic whole wheat crust and skim mozzarella. We sampled a slice of the Turkey Sausage and later the Pesto. Overall, I wasn't a huge fan. The paper thin crust lacked crispiness and probably would not satisfy a typical pizza craving. And while the pesto itself was good, the spices in the turkey sausage were rather abrasive for my taste. The Fired-Up Burger menu offers choices from ground lean beef, turkey, veggie and all natural free range bison on a multi-grain or sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles and ketchup.
Pictured is the Chipoltle Turkey Burger made with lite jalapeno jack cheese and spicy chipoltle mayo. The turkey was surprisingly juicy which was a positive aspect, however the multi-grain bun, cut a little too thin on the bottom was left rather soggy by default. The veggies, especially the pickles were welcome additions and the burger did present a spicy kick that I enjoyed. Rather full at this point, but the food kept coming! The signature UBowl served was the Chicken Tinga boasting slow cooked chicken in adobo sauce and tinga salsa. The chicken was tender with a balanced spice complimented by cool tomatoes. I definitely liked this dish, of the few bites I could manage, especially when accompanied by a glass of red wine!The Grilled Paninis are a job well done. Actually, this might be my favorite menu item of the evening. Chicken Pesto lives up to expectations with tomato and skim mozarella on ciabatta bread. They also offer a selection of Wraps, the Fresh Falafel is made with baked falafel, pickled beets, lettuce, tomatoes, roasted red pepper hummus and spicy tahini sauce. The falafel squares didn't really compare to my standard ideals of falafel, and not unlike the pizza, I'm unsure if this would satisfy a true falafel craving. That being said, it was a well made wrap with an ideal amount of hummus spread and tahini sauce coating crisp lettuce and tasty pickled beets.
The below are even more menu items that were on the tabletop display but not sampled.Chipoltle Chicken Sandwich chicken breast, lite jalapeno jack, chipoltle mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles on ciabatta.Seems I captured the description of this one in the photo - one less thing to type!Tofusion organic tofu and veggies over brown rice with a ginger soy glaze.
Mighty Chicken Sandwich chicken breast, romaine mix, lite mayo, almonds and caesar dressing on a sesame roll. Okay, so maybe I just had a grand old time photographing the food on display. Wrapping it up, no menu sampling would be complete without sweets! We were also treated to dessert in the form of UBerry Soft Serve Yogurt. Flavors of Original & Wildberry Tart Swirl and Fat-Free Vanilla & Chocolate Swirl hit the spot after many filling dishes. UFood by way of healthy sweet options also offers smoothies, sundaes and parfaits. I was excited to learn more about UFoods concept behind healthy fast food, especially from a well rounded group of genuinely nice individuals. When the fast food nation craves a healthy alternative, UFood Grill is committed to making it easy for people to eat smart while enjoying good food. I want to thank each and everyone of the employees who put on this event for welcoming us into their Landmark Center Franchise and treating us to a generous, well executed sampling of their menu.
UFood Grill on Urbanspoon

22 comments:

Elizabeth Jarrard said...

it was great meeting you yesterday daisy! love the recap. and want those fries, though i think i'm still full from last night!

Jen said...

My stomach is quite literally growling right now.

The baked fries look so good - I didn't know it was possible to eat fries and not feel guilty about it!

And the grilled paninis - especially with pesto! - look delish. Mmm.

I am so jealous of your culinary adventures!

this free bird said...

technically i could eat some of this while on the 30 day shred. where's an airport?

xo,
c

MelissaNibbles said...

I've been to UFood a number of times and really liked it. It's nice to have a healthy option.

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

I've been to UFood a few times and have the same opinion as you - it won't replace my greasy fast food habits but it is a good alternative from time to time. I love that you gave a really honest review of the different menu items!

Meghan@travelwinedine said...

I am bummed I missed this. Great review!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I saw UFood in Logan this weekend and was curious. Thanks for the review! It's great that they have an eye on nutrition but also kind of funny that a priority is to just be better than what's down the street.

Kinsey Michaels said...

yum, those soft serve desserts look good, as do the fries and everything else in there!
they have more on the menu than i would have thought. nice to see some healthier fast food alternatives coming out!
glad you had fun at the event!

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

wow so much food! i've never been to UGrill. I always wonder about it when i go to the fenway theater.

featherfactor said...

Thank you for sharing this...I'm ALWAYS at Logan and usually just get a smoothie at UFood..I never know what else to try. I'll pick a panini next time.

www.featherfactor.com

Ameena said...

The unfries look very fry like to me...everything looks amazing actually. I love the fresh clean concept and the simplicity of everything. I wish we had a UGrill in LA!!

Elizabeth said...

Love your pictures of the space. Wish I'd gone along!

We Are Not Martha said...

Whoa, that is a lot of food!! I can't believe I've never been to UFood... I think I tried to order it delivery a few weeks ago but their website wouldn't work (and I was clearly too lazy to get off the couch!). I'm totally craving a nice big burger now :)

Sues

Megan said...

Great recap!! They did give us a ton of food--I almost had to be rolled out of the restaurant. But what a great event!

Amber Blue Bird said...

you did a great job with this review. I cant believe how much food they served you guys. It all looks tasty although I am not convinced about those fries :)

Elina (Healthy and Sane) said...

I used to live across the street from this location and we ate there probably once a week. Adam is still obsessed with their chipotle chicken sandwich - it's really good! Sorry I missed this even, I ended up being too tired and bailed out. It would have been fun to try so many things at once! :)
PS - fun fact - we loved the place so much that or a while we were shareholders. Unfortunately the stock lost a lot of value over our holding period so now we are purely all about the food :D

Megan said...

I love that you are sticking with McDonald's for your hangover cure. :) That panini looks quite good.

Alicia said...

Never been to UFood - but it definitely sounds like a decent option to kick a fast food craving in a healthier way!

Kelly said...

What a great place...quite an impressive selection!!

Jen said...

I've never had their food, but it looks tasty. I was bummed to have missed the event

gowshika said...

Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!



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