New restaurant opens on Easton Avenue
After catering for the Emmys and inventing 139 flavors of peanut butter, Andrew Schiff is ready to take his culinary talents to Hub City.
The Los Angeles and San Diego-based chef is opening a sit-down taco shop and bar, called Criminals and Tacos, in the spot where organic restaurant Barndoore used to stand. New Brunswick's Barndoore closed during the summer, but a location is still open in Millstone Township.
Criminals and Tacos, located across the street from Hidden Grounds Coffee Shop, is currently being renovated and will open within the next 30 days. The restaurant will also feature a tequila and mezcal bar in addition to serving tacos and burritos.
"He has an amazing concept that he's putting in there," said Morgan Tracey, the building owner. "He is an amazing chef. His food is fresh, and the flavors are great."
Schiff has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years, and in that time he has catered for the Golden Globes, Emmys and Sundance Film Festival. He has also been owner of a plant-based restaurant in San Diego called Spread. The restaurant's menu was based around locally grown, organic produce from San Diego farmers markets and as a result, was continually changing.
"This isn't my first rodeo," Schiff said. "This is my first time coming to the East coast to bring a whole new experience, culture and fun to food."
Moving forward, he believes the authentic Mexican cuisine of Criminals and Tacos showcases “true flavors” that will be “unlike anything this city has seen before.”
“(Tacos and burritos) are the second most popular food on the planet. Burritos are about as Mexican as Snow White is an American icon,” he said. “(I want to) bring real Mexican food to the East Coast.”
The University's student population has been calling for genuine Mexican food for a long time, he said.
Having been a college student surviving off of Ramen noodles in the past, Schiff said his product will be affordable for the Rutgers population without sacrificing quality.
"(Certain) sayings exist on purpose. Are college students broke? Of course," Schiff said. "The way (my) restaurant has been designed is 100 percent focused on mind-blowing quality, simplicity, putting the value on the students' plate and not charging them for things people always charge for."
The tacos will be composed of organic ingredients, while tortillas will be hand-made with masa harina, a traditional Mexican flour.
Schiff said students can rest at night knowing his tacos will be "the most fairly-priced food you can find from any Mexican restaurant." The price of a meal will float around the $5 mark.
Chipotle, a popular Mexican food chain, is located on George Street and is a short walk from Schiff's new shop. But Schiff said he does not consider Chipotle to be competition for two reasons: Chipotle is a corporation and the food is not as authentic.
"(Chipotle) is completely different. For one, it's American food, not Mexican food," he said. "(Chipotle) is in a business environment. It's a corporation that is probably charging two to three times the price point for their meals."
"There's a whole brand and science behind this. It's something students will be very pleased to discover on their own," Schiff said. "I've been creating environments for more than 20 years ... it's going to be one of the most unique places on your campus."
Criminals and Tacos is not run on a corporate formula that lost its inspiration, Schiff said. College students live on a budget, and Criminals and Tacos has been customized as an alternative to chains like Chipotle.
"It's about culinary love," Schieff concluded. "The flavors will call you back."