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Sub shop, stores spring up in New Brunswick this summer

Nick Komandis thought New Brunswick’s bill of fare critically needed a taste of the Jersey Shore.

Komandis, owner of Hansel ‘n Griddle, chose to remedy the situation by opening Hub City Subs ‘n Grill this weekend at Hansel’s old Mine Street location.

“It’s going to be the way a sub shop down the shore is. … They slice the meat for you right when you get it,” he said.

Much like the down-the-shore tradition, customers select their breads, meats and fixings from behind a thick maple counter. Specialty sub names such as “The Easton Ave.” and “The Mine Street” add local flair.

Hub City’s menu also includes boardwalk-inspired fries — ordering by potato replaces the conventional method of ordering “large” and “small” sized items. Customers select the type of potato (Idaho or sweet), quantity and cut (regular, shoestring, wedge or curly), then watch the servers prepare their orders.

Although New Brunswick has an over-saturated market for pizza, the sub shop serves grilled pies cooked on a charbroiler. Komandis said the pizza resembles a flatbread.

The eatery’s name pays homage to the city it calls home. “Hub City,” New Brunswick’s historic nickname, reflects New Brunswick’s role as a central metropolis for business, transportation, socialization and more.

The sub shop’s logo, a hubcap with an outline of New Jersey in its middle, emphasizes this idea.

“I don't think a lot of Rutgers kids know that New Brunswick’s the Hub City. I think locals know it. I just thought it was a way to represent the town,” Komandis explained.

New Brunswick has also been the “hub” of Komandis’ entrepreneurial career. After graduating from Rutgers, he opened his first eatery at the same Mine Street location Hub City now stands.

The tiny building certainly has sentimental value. Komandis remembers his entrepreneurial beginnings when his mother and friends would work the counter while he took deliveries. Ten years later, the gingerbread house lookalike of his Mine Street origins still has a special place in his heart.

“I didn’t want to let go of the store,” he said.

Hub City Subs ‘n Grill has maintained Hansel’s original look, including the outdoor seating area and mural. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and does not deliver currently. Delivery may be an option come this fall semester and hours may be extended.

Hub City Subs ‘n Grill is among several new stores springing up in New Brunswick this summer.

The former Tido ‘n His Junkyard Dogs, located on Easton Avenue, has renovated and rebranded itself as Diesel & Duke. Its simple menu offers burgers, hot dogs and other American specialties.

Shaka Burrito, a “Hawaiian grill meets Chipotle” of sorts, opened a third location on Albany Street. In addition to burritos and quesadillas, the restaurant serves shaved ice and acai bowls.

Korean-based Caffe Bene opened its doors on George Street and offers customers a plethora of options from nonalcoholic mojitos to macarons. Two floors of lounging space provide an atmosphere for study breaks and hangout sessions.

Spina Records, located on Easton Avenue, brings old school cool back to campus. Spina sells a variety of vinyl records, antiques and vintage items.

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