Central Taco & Tequila, the newest and 23rd restaurant operated by PJW Restaurant Group, opened today in Westmont, New Jersey. The modern Mexican eatery, located at 350 Haddon Avenue, marks the restaurant group’s fourth concept on the same half-mile stretch of the avenue. Central joins: P.J. Whelihan’s (700 Haddon Ave., opened 1995); Treno Pizza Bar (231 Haddon Ave., opened 2006); and The Pour House (124 Haddon Ave., opened 2007).
Pictured from left to right: Bill Love, Chief Financial Officer; Jessica Breslow, Director of IT and Marketing; Randall W. Teague, Mayor of Haddon Township; Chris Webb, Director of Operations; Donna Platzer; Rich Friedrich, Culinary Director; Bob Platzer, Founder and Executive Chairman; Jacky Platzer, Assistant Culinary Director; Remo Croce, Regional Manager; James Mulroy, Haddon Township Commissioner of Public Safety & Public Affairs; Sean Harris, Central Taco & Tequila General Manager
“When the opportunity presented itself to open on Haddon Avenue, we couldn’t say no,” says Jim Fris, CEO, PJW Restaurant Group. “We love our customers and the community we’ve been a part of for over two decades. Because the Avenue is already home to three of our concepts, we knew it was the perfect place to dive into something new. Central Taco and Tequila is the result of countless rounds of margaritas, tacos and tequila tastings by a truly dedicated staff that pushed to make this concept as seamless, fun and friendly as the last 22 restaurants.”
The 150-seat-plus restaurant is a new concept in design and décor, as well as cuisine, for PJW. The space is open and boasts an industrial feel. The PJW team raised the roof of the building, formerly The Irish Mile, to create an airy atmosphere and provide a plethora of natural light via multiple sky lights. Designed by Stokes Architecture, the result is exposed wooden beams and rafters, where string lights hang to create the fun, festive atmosphere that is typical of PJW. Exposed brick walls juxtapose corrugated steel panels, while two cinderblock walls in the rear of the restaurant feature one-of-a-kind murals by local Philadelphia artist, Gibbs Connors, who also created the exterior signage. The sturdy wooden tables were made by Pennsylvania Amish carpenters from the remnants of a Lancaster barn. The large, three-sided bar frames the impressive collection of tequilas and a window into the kitchen shows off the whole process.
The menu is comprised of starters like the Shrimp Coctel, chilled shrimp in a spiced tomato sauce with avocado and cucumber, $8 and Mexican Street Corn, sautéed off the cob with jalapeno, epazote, mayonnaise, cotija cheese, chili and lime, $5; two soups Chicken Tortilla, $5 and Pozole Rojo, a smoky red broth with tender pork and hominy, crispy tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, radish, cabbage, oregano, and onion for $6. Also included are chips and dips with traditional salsas and guacamole; and salads such as the Mercado Ensalada, made with a blend of roasted vegetables, farro, arugula, goat cheese, toasted pecans and a chipotle vinaigrette, $9. Burritos are offered with multiple proteins and the option to serve in a bowl, $11; ten varieties of tacos from $3-$4 each, the main feature; and traditional Mexican sides and desserts – Churros with dipping sauce, $4, and a Shortbread Skillet Cookie with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon sugar, $5 – round out the menu.
PJW Restaurant Group’s culinary director, Rich Friedrich and assistant culinary director, Jacky Platzer, developed the menu over six months of tastings, research and travel to Mexican restaurants around the country. “We committed early on to embracing true, authentic and fresh Mexican flavors through traditional preparations like dry-roasting chiles, braising meats over long periods of time and layering delicate flavors,” says Rich Friedrich.
Central’s lengthy and impressive tequila list, cocktail menu and beer and wine lists were established by PJW’s beverage director, Jake Karley and opening general manager, Remo Croce. There are 118 agave-based spirits available at Central: 91 tequilas, 26 mezcals and one sotol. Tequilas range from $8 for a two-ounce pour of Espolón Blanco to $130 for two ounces of Gran Patrón Burdeo, a luxury añejo made from the finest blue agave and aged in Bordeaux wine barrels. Five flights are available: a Mexican Spirits flight features a tequila, mezcal and sotol for $18 while the Single Village flight highlights three mezcals by Del Maguey, $27. The cocktail menu is comprised of ten margaritas ($8-$11) and nine cocktails ($7-$9.50) and the beer list stays true to theme featuring multiple Mexican lagers, a tap dedicated to gose and a selection of local South Jersey beers by Tonewood, Double Nickel and King’s Road.