METUCHEN — A Southern California-style taco stand is now open on New Street.
Laughing Jack’s, which opened in the beginning of September, boasts fresh Mexican food and fruit smoothies inspired by Southern California and Texas, said Michael Stern, the owner of the restaurant.
"In Texas and Southern California, [Mexican food] is pretty much what people make," he said.
Stern spent time in both areas of the country when he served time as a Navy pilot, he said. He received great lessons in how to make Mexican food from the locals there.
Stern took many of the lessons he learned and experimented to make some of the items found on Laughing Jack’s menu.
The Baja egg roll, one of the favorites among Laughing Jack’s customers, was created after a backyard barbecue by mixing Mexican influences with Eastern influences, Stern said.
The Baja egg rolls are served with an original chipotle ranch dipping sauce.
The creation of the establishment’s tequila salsa was purely accidental, Stern said. However, the end result is mouthwatering, in his opinion.
The salsa is sold with most of the meals and Stern is thinking of selling bottles of it in the restaurant, he said.
The meat in the tacos and burritos is seasoned with a secret recipe spice rub that only the restaurant uses, he said.
There are also vegetarian choices on the menu, such as the Karma Crazy Veggie Burrito.
"We tried to offer an alternative," Stern said. "A little bit for everyone."
Most of the menu is made at the restaurant, which means the food is fresh and healthy, he said. The salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips are all made on site. Most of the food is not fried.
The smoothies are made from real fruit and either fat-free frozen yogurt or soy milk. There are a variety of combinations that are designed to affect people differently, Stern said.
Smoothies like the Immuno Punch help people with colds, while Stress Zappers reduce anxiety.
The food is quick and inexpensive, but still healthy, according to Stern.
"There’s nothing like a quick taco around here," Stern said, adding that the restaurant is the only quick, healthy Mexican restaurant in the area.
The restaurant is also full of charm and character.
"I really tried to make this place a mix of Southern California surf culture and Tex-Mex," Stern said.
The colors on the walls are very vibrant, the decor does not match, and it has all been done by design, Stern said.
Business has been booming in the short time the restaurant has been open, Stern said. He even went as far as to call some of the regular customers