David Chang’s new delivery service, Maple, has yet to make it up to the chef’s stomping grounds (it’s currently available only in the FiDi), but the Bedford + Bowery zone just got a few new delivery options that could give services like Seamless and Delivery.com a run for their money (or if not a run, a maniacal wrong-way bike ride). This week, Caviar added a service, called Fastbite, that promises to deliver restaurant meals to you within 15 minutes. It goes head-to-head with the recently launched Uber Eats, which promises meals in 10 minutes or less. Yet another new service, Munchery, gives you the option of ordering from chefs rather than restaurants, up to a week in advance. In short, there’s never been a better time to be lazy and hungry. We tried all three services to see how they compare.
Delivery zone: From about 35th Street to Grand Street, river to river. More neighborhoods coming soon.
Cost: Meals are generally $15 and under. Delivery fee $2.99. No tip necessary.
Hours of operation: Weekdays from noon to 2pm for now.
Estimated delivery time: 15 minutes or less. A spokesperson said that in San Francisco, where the service has already been active, the average delivery time is about 7.5 minutes.
Actual delivery time: 4 minutes the first time we tried, 4 minutes the second time.
Menu options: Currently 2 or 3 a day, nicely photographed. Yesterday it was cold noodles from Ivan Ramen and a sandwich from Faicco’s. Today it was a falafel platter from Taim and a shrimp dish from Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Couriers have their own heating and cooling devices, so there are hot and cold options.
User experience: This couldn’t have gone better. During the lunch rush, you’ll find the Fastbite option built into your Caviar app. Just press it, select a menu item, and hit “Order” – but make sure to put your pants on first, because if our experience is any indicator the food comes fast. A map lets you see the courier’s location in real-time, and a text alert tells you when they’re there and requests that you “meet them downstairs / lobby for fastest service.” (The courier will also give you a ring.) A spokesperson said you can request that the courier walk up to your apartment (there’s room for special delivery instructions when you’re ordering), but it seems to be frowned on – when we made the request, the courier called to ask if we could meet him downstairs.
Gut reaction: Good portions for the price. The cold noodles from Ivan Ramen were exactly what you’d expect. The falafel balls from Taim were maybe a little soggy but not terribly so. Of course, menu options are extremely limited vs. Seamless, but this is perfect for one of those days when you’ve forgotten to eat and need food now or you’ll wreck something. The problem is, that usually happens around 4pm, when the service is unavailable.
Delivery Zone: Manhattan between 14th Street and 59th Street, river to river.
Cost: Prices vary, but today’s noodles were $9, plus tax and a $4 delivery fee. No tip necessary.
Hours of operation: Weekdays from 11am to 2pm for now.
Estimated delivery time: 10 minutes or less.
Actual delivery time: The food never arrived during our test run.
Menu options: There were two options today, the world-famous Ramen Burger as well as a chilled chicken noodle bowl from Bonmi. Photos show you what to expect.
User experience: Our stomach was rumbling as we logged on. First disappointment: “Ramen Burger: SOLD OUT.” Our hand was forced. We ordered the chilled noodles at 1:37pm. Our driver, Hunter, appeared to have 4.8 stars – a good sign. But after 14 minutes, we got a text message: “Unfortunately your driver had to cancel the trip…” A minute later, we got a text from Hunter: “Hi sorry, have to cancel not gonna make it by 2. You can try ordering from someone else.” But when we tried to reorder, at 1:56, we were told “All nearby EATS drivers are busy…” Our heart sank to the bottom of our empty stomach. How could Hunter let us down when we needed him so bad? “We’re legally not allowed to sell food after 2, sorry…” he explained over text message. “Has to do with health regulations.” So much for “from hungry to happy in 6 minutes.”
Gut reaction: We’ll never know. We’d probably give this another shot, but as they say: fail to feed me once, shame on you; fail to feed me twice, shame on me. Also, it’s kind of a deal breaker that they don’t come up to your
Delivery Zone: Click here to see the coverage area. It includes the East Village and Lower East Side and, unlike the other two services, extends into Brooklyn, including Williamsburg but not yet Bushwick and Greenpoint.
Cost: Entrees are generally $9 to $15. Delivery fee is $2.95. No tip necessary.
Hours of operation: You can order on-demand weekdays between 3:30pm and 9pm, or schedule for later delivery. Delivery hours are weekdays from 4pm to 9pm.
Estimated delivery time: On-demand orders arrive within 20-40 minutes, according to a customer service rep. Orders that are scheduled in advance arrive within a chosen 1-hour window.
Actual delivery time: We didn’t try the on-demand service, but the pre-order came within the hour window as promised.
Menu options: Of the three services, this has the widest array of options by far, depending on when you order (dishes often sell out). Rather than drawing from a couple of partner restaurants each day, the service employs experienced chefs who all work out of a commercial kitchen. Menus change daily; today’s menu features recipes from seven chefs, adding up to 14 entrees, seven sides, and seven desserts. Another nice thing here: you can filter items to show which are vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, gluten-free and so on.
User experience: Ordering from here is a real pleasure. The chef profiles offer photos, reviews, and bios (they tend to be alums of fine-dining spots like Daniel and Aureole). Heck, you can even shoot them questions. The service gives you the option of ordering on-demand a la Seamless, but the real novelty here is being able to schedule a delivery up to a week in advance. On Thursday around 2pm, we set up an order to arrive between 4-5pm that day. At 4:15 we got a text message giving us a heads up that the order was arriving soon. It arrived at 4:18pm, within the promised window.
Gut reaction: Here’s where Munchery might not be as satisfying as a service like Seamless, where your food arrives (ideally) piping hot. Munchery’s meals are prepared the morning of delivery and then chilled. If you want a hot meal, you’ll have to heat it up in a microwave, according to the instructions provided. Our sag paneer was pretty good and the portion was generous (they even threw in a free cookie), but the potatoes had that sweatiness of reheated leftovers, and the microwave didn’t completely warm up the center of the tofu. We’d recommend mostly if you’re suffering from restaurant-delivery fatigue.
Additional reporting by Rob Scher.