May 2008 In Our Backyard

Mimi's Plate

Mimi Platas’ warm smile and easy manner are enough to draw you into her tiny take-out shop in Tappan, but the food will bring you back again and again. Opened just 7 months ago, Mimi’s Plate is the outgrowth of Platas’ 25 years in the food business; 18 spent honing her catering skills at the toney East Hampton cookshop, Loaves & Fishes, the rest either managing health food stores, or creating the food for Northvale’s Organica when it expanded it’s kitchen in 2003. Platas wanted a place of her own, however, and having grown up in nearby Closter, she was drawn to historic Tappan’s 18th century scale and small town vibe. She admits she’d been eyeing her present space (the former location of The Baker’s Wife) for about 5 years, and when it became available, jumped at the chance to give it a go.

As unpretentious as Platas, the food at Mimi’s Plate is uncomplicated, but with distinctively tasty twists that make old favorites new again. Imaginative sandwiches, delicious soups, fresh salads and delectable desserts are designed for easy breakfast, lunch and dinner take out, and ingredients are seasonal and organic whenever possible. Fresh breads are delivered daily from the Balthazar Bakery, and Platas works with baker, Tamika Adjemin, to create homey pastries, pies and cakes. Did I mention that everything is yummy?

This would be enough for some, but for Platas it’s a warm-up for what she considers her forté; intimate catered dinner parties for 12 to 20 people. “I can handle up to 150,” says Platas, “but I love the small dinner parties.” She likes to present a few sample menus to a client, get their reactions, and taking into account any dietary restrictions, design a customized meal around what is seasonal. “Food should be simple,” Platas attests. “It doesn’t need a lot of fuss, especially with good ingredients.” With that in mind, she plans the meal so that each course will compliment the others, believing “the food should speak for itself.” And so it does. With a growing following of repeat customers, word is out that Platas is a real find.

Mimi’s Plate 33 Old Tappan Road Tappan, NY 10983 359-6464 Mon. – Fri. 8:30 - 7:00 Sat. 9:00 - 5:00 Closed Sundays

Village Grille

If you prefer a delightful dining experience outside your own home, but still close by, you can’t beat the warmth and welcome of Khaled Elkady’s Village Grille. Consistently good since its opening in 2002, dinner at this 45 seat restaurant is like falling into a divinely overstuffed sofa at the end of a tough day. One is cosseted by soft light and comforting aromas as Elkady walks the line of masterful host — attentive without hovering, solicitous without anxiety. His self described Modern Mediterranean/American menu is just varied enough to have something for everyone, and is complimented by a truly fine wine list featuring choices from Lebanon, Greece, South Africa and Chili.

A self-taught cook, Egyptian born Elkady is inspired by a love of simple, wholesome food. In 1992, shortly after arriving in New York, Elkady drove by Henry Kennell’s abandoned gas station on 9W. Within two months he was serving up the best falafel in town out of a truck equipped with a grill, a cooler and a hot plate. Six successful years later, he opened the quaint Oasis Grill in Nyack where he continued to refine his favorite dishes. “You want people to like basic food, quality food, so you practice, you learn on the job,” says Elkady, who now oversees the loyal staff of employees he’s trained to meet his exacting standards. “It comes from inside you,” he says, careful to add that he makes all the soups and sauces himself because “no one knows my little secrets.” Lucky for us, he’s willing to share the fruits of his labor so we can enjoy them — right here in our own backyard.

Village Grille 65 Old Tappan Road Tappan, NY 10983 398-3232 Tues. – Fri. 5:00 – 9:00 Sat. & Sun. 5:00 – 10:00