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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—When Executive Chef, Richard J. Zukowski had the opportunity to open the Barndoore restaurant late last year, he knew it might fill a niche within the popular “fast-casual” category of restaurants.
Located at the corner of Mine Street and Easton Avenue, in the 2,200 square-foot storefront that was home to King’s Pizza for many years, Barndoore is off to a good start.
“The location here is fantastic and the response that we’ve gotten from the township and from the kids that are here in the area is phenomenal,” said Zukowski.
“From day one when we opened up the door people were waiting for something different here — so I think we are really filling a niche.”
Zukowski, 50, has been in the food business all his life. He spent 8-years working for Landry’s Inc., a globally-recognized restaurant brand, first as an executive chef, then as a regional manager for the company.
“I assisted the divisional vice president who oversaw the entire east coast of Landry’s restaurants helping with menu development; plus helping the chefs with food costs, policies, and how to create specials,” he said.
“[I taught them] how to work with local vendors so they were not working only with produce from their typical Sysco [vendor] house.”
So, when it came to creating the menu for Barndoore, Zukowski simply kept his “Real – Fresh – Local” concept in mind.
Everything is handmade, including all of the seasonings, pickles, french fries, daily soups, and tilapia fish tacos, he explained, adding that he’d be willing to put his food up against anybody’s, in a taste test.
“It is comfort food that is really kicked up and made with love,” he says, proudly referring to the small batches of food offered. “You can taste it anytime you take a bite of it.”
Zukowsky and store owner Diana Morgan Tracey are planning to open a second Barndoore in nearby Millstone, but actually delayed the build-out at that location to focus solely on the Easton Avenue business when it took off and cash flow looked good.
“We have been received by the community excellently because of the fact that we don’t serve pizza and we don’t serve cheese steaks and fat sandwiches and stuff like that,” said Zukowsky.
“There is a niche that needed to be filled. There’s really no artisanal, handmade, or handcrafted food here, up and down Easton Avenue; it’s all pizzas, bar food and fried specials.”