I love a good taco - and nachos - and quesadillas - and, well - you get the picture. So I was really pumped up when I found out about Pure Tacos - everything, absolutely everything on the menu is Gluten Free. I knew there had to be a Celiac in there somewhere. Sure enough, Co-Founder, Celiac and New Jersey boy Ted Schroeder was willing to take a break from taco making to chat with me.
- Good news for you NYC G-Free Foodies - Pure Tacos is set to open a location in the Big Apple this Spring.
Tell me about Pure Tacos! Chef-quality eats at street food prices? Really? Pure Tacos serves premium authentic and fusion tacos and tostadas with all ingredients gluten free. As a celiac, I've always wanted to find a restaurant where I didn't have to worry about cross contamination and never really found a great place. So, I guess I decided to open one myself because I saw a huge void in the marketplace. We picked tacos as the primary food medium because authentic tacos are naturally gluten free and we were able to pair wholesome meats with high quality, gourmet garnishes. As a bonus, tacos can be made quickly, which allows us to serve quality products at less cost than a table service restaurant would typically charge.
So all your products are Gluten Free? How about Dairy, Nut, & Egg Free options or Vegetarian? Correct. Because the business model is tied so closely to a gluten free diet, we have worked really hard to be accessible to customers with other allergies. Our current recipes do not include any nuts, and we have a number of menu items that are dairy free or egg free. Our vegetarian option is our vegan-friendly black bean tacos, which is topped with fresh cilantro, white onion, housemade citrus guacamole and housemade tomato-chipotle salsa. In other words, we have many options for customers that have these other strict diets. Our managers are fully educated on these issues. So, any customer should always feel free to ask or make changes to menu items to accommodate these issues.
When guests who normally eat Gluten find out your food is G-Free, what’s their reaction? My favorite reaction was from an 18 year old girl who professed her love for me on the spot because she was newly diagnosed with celiac disease and hadn't had good food since diagnosis. However, in all seriousness, most celiac and gluten intolerant customers are initially in disbelief that all menu items are fully gluten free and are pretty excited to actually have a meal out with sauces and flavor.
What’s great about summer on the Jersey Shore? I’ve been getting my information from MTV & the Real Housewives. Our first location is located in Ocean City, NJ, which is a great family resort town in southern New Jersey that is probably similar to most seasonal beach towns on the eastern seaboard. Jersey Shore is based an hour north of Ocean City, and the environment is pretty different. Instead of Yankee fans, most of our customers at the Ocean City location are Phillies fans. So, it feels a bit more like a suburb of Philadelphia than what people tend to associate with New Jersey.
Got it. So the Philly Phanatic is big around your place – Snooki, not so much. You were a lawyer before you started Pure Tacos – got any legal advice for me? Not unless you happen to be applying for a mortgage loan. I was a real estate finance attorney prior to opening Pure Tacos and still consider myself an attorney by trade. However, I always wanted to open a restaurant and came across the opportunity to open Pure Tacos with another guy who is actually an architect in his professional life.
After a long day, what’s your favorite easy meal? If it is morning, I'll make myself a fried egg tostada. If it is lunch, I'm probably eating packaged Indian curry of some sort. At night, I get a little more adventuresome but tend to stay in cuisines that have more naturally gluten free options -- Indian, Thai and Mexican.
Got a food or beverage you can’t live without? Hmmm... it's gotta be some type of ice cream. Probably chocolate chip.
Can you give the G-Free home cooks a tip to get restaurant flavor? Two tips, one general and one specific. When I cook food, I always try to create a balance in my dishes. What I mean by this is to balance the salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (that Japanese word for savoriness). For example, in a Mexican dish, I may combine the following ingredients with chicken or steak to create the balanced dish: salt, brown sugar, chili pepper of some variety, lime juice and achiote paste. Take any of these items away and something will be missing from the dish.
The other tip is specific to corn tortillas. I'm sure most of your readers have eaten store bought corn tortillas and vowed to never again eat them because they were dry, chalky and cardboard tasting. My guess is that they made the same mistake I used to make: not using high, dry heat to roast them prior to eating. Put a pan on your burner turned up to its highest setting and wait for the pan to get extremely hot (preferably 500 degrees if you have an infrared thermometer). Roast each corn tortilla on each side for 8-10 seconds. The tortilla should have wonderful brown markers and a nice chewy texture. A great naturally gluten free option for people craving a chewy bread substitute.
If we opened your refrigerator, what would we find? Lots of cheese, eggs, orange juice and, in all honesty, food similar to the food I serve at Pure Tacos -- corn tortillas, leftover cooked meats and bottle salsas. Maybe some salad making ingredients and a batch of homemade lemon vinaigrette.
If you had to eat the same item from your menu every day, what would you choose? Our BBQ Pulled Pork taco special. It's topped with a corn salsa we made this summer with corn purchased at the local farmer's market, and I've told many people it would probably be my last meal if I could choose. If I had to pick from our standard menu, it would be our authentic steak taco, which is an achiote-marinated hangar steak taco topped with citrus guacamole, tomato-chipotle salsa and fresh cilantro and diced white onion.