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French-Moroccan Bistro Catches On In Croton

Craig Purdy
Craig Purdy Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Tagine has been in Croton for almost four years.
Tagine has been in Croton for almost four years. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- If you find yourself in one restaurant on Grand Street in Croton, you might think you wound up in Paris. Or Fez.

Tagine, a French-Moroccan bistro, has been winning over customers  in Croton with its unique take on the two cuisines for almost four years. The restaurant is run by Craig Purdy and Jonathan Pratt, who also own Peter Pratt's Inn in Yorktown and Umami Cafe in Croton.

Patrons can expect to see on "le menu" a cassoulet, Moroccan chicken, and tagines- individual meals served with couscous, carrot ginger salad, and harissa.

Purdy and Pratt are both natives to the area, with Purdy's family having substantial roots in Croton and Ossining. Pratt's grandfather was French-Canadian and when Peter Pratt's Inn was opened in 1965, it featured French-trained chefs and a French menu.

Purdy and Pratt first met in 1971 when Purdy got a job working at Peter Pratt's Inn.

"The experience, the people, the ambiance of the place- it really made an impression on me," Purdy said. "I looked forward to coming to work every day.

With the success of their other two restaurants, they heard the building was open and decided now was the time to realize their dream of running a French restaurant with a Morrocan flair.

"We wanted to create this ambiance and feeling," Purdy said. "We want people to feel like their at an old time French brassiere. We're a little retro and tongue in cheek. There are some things here you just don't see anymore."

The two are committed to making sure they serve the highest quality ingredients. For the french onion soup, Tagine makes its own stock and Purdy says the difference is noticeable. It takes three days to make the soup.

"It's crazy good," Purdy said. "Our competition doesn't bother doing that. We want to make good food before we make good profits. We're not here to make a bundle. If you deliver good food, the word will get out and you will build a clientele."

Purdy has a come long way since he helped open a restaurant in Washington, D.C. and was spending so much time there that he slept in the stockroom. He later lived and worked in Kuwait, Germany, and Hong Kong. He first visited Morocco when he was hitchhiking through Europe and a British man drove him from Spain to Morrocco.

"I have always traveled as much as I could," Purdy said. "I've always been curious about the rest of the world."

Purdy decided to move back to Croton to be closer to his mother. He initially was planning to open a restaurant with Pratt in Tribeca in fall 2001 but decided Croton would be a better fit. The two dodged a bullet and Purdy says he likes being restauranteur in his hometown.

"I know a lot of my customers and it's nice to know everyone," Purdy said. "This is a social business."

Running three restaurants can be a challenging lifestyle. Purdy is often running back and forth between the restaurants, getting supplies or now with the holidays approaching- putting up holiday lights.

"I'm more of a supervisor," Purdy said. "The staff does it all. We have stable employment, there's very little turnover. We've spawned a dozen restaurants."

While Tagine was under construction, Croton residents buzzed about what Purdy and Pratt were cooking up next.

"We sent someone to a Hudson News and bought a bunch of copies of Le Monde," Purdy said. "We papered the windows with French newspapers, we were having fun."

Tagine is at 120 Grand Street in Croton-on-Hudson. For more information, visit www.taginecroton.com .

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