Tom McKenna (LEFT) with son and sous chef Patrick McKenna.
Stop in at this organic slow-food haven in early spring when Oceana County’s coastal farms are spiked with thousands of asparagus shoots. Chef Tom McKenna will craft you a green feast of spring greens, snapped-that-morning asparagus, grilled hook-and-line-caught Alaskan salmon with Parmesan, balsamic dressing and fresh lemons.
Your cooking philosophy? A lot of our customers are seeking organic food–that’s the way they have chosen to eat. Some of our customers don’t care about organic, just great flavor. What I am trying to do here is create a place everybody can eat and it is all good, healthy food.
Favorite ingredient? Academia Barilla balsamic vinegar. It’s tart with a wine flavor, aged in oak barrels. We use it in our house dressing with first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and 13 herbs and spices.
What’s the most delicious dish you make with local asparagus? My favorite thing is asparagus guacamole. You steam your asparagus, chill it, blend it to a somewhat chunky consistency and add half a fresh lemon, some cilantro, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper. I also make wild rice, porcini mushroom and asparagus soup.
Your burger is a new Ludington classic. It’s made with natural beef raised with no hormones or antibiotics. I can go to the farm and meet the cows if I wanted to–but I don’t want to! Our special burger is a triple with cheese, onion, mayo, ketchup, banana [peppers] and jalapeño peppers on an onion roll.
How does a meat eater know how to make such fab vegetarian and vegan food?My daughter, who’s 12, is a vegetarian, and my wife has been a vegetarian since about that same age. This is how we eat at home. The veggie nachos are a favorite–I love when corn chips taste like corn.
What’s for dessert? My wife makes a 100-percent organic cardamom cake that’s our signature.
Find The Plaza Cafe at 110 North James Street, Ludington, 231-845-7600.