7217 Perrier St.
New Orleans, LA 70118
Napoleon's Rating - ***/*****
People headed to the Tuesday edition of the Crescent City Farmers Market may have heard the buzz about Tartine first. This new bakery and lunch spot is right around the corner from the Tuesday market location at the Tulane University Square complex, though even when you know that it's still a little hard to spot. It's worth seeking out, however, for exquisite bread, the traditional French sandwiches made on it and any number of sweets and confections.
Tartine is housed in small, neighborhood storefront that had previously been a salon. It has a homey feel with its collection of bare-wood tables and boxy chairs, its exposed fireplace, colorful art and its open prep area where you can see the staff busily preparing lunches or tending to racks of baked goods. There's a small, covered patio off to the side that makes a nice spot for a meal on temperate days.
Order at the counter and a few minutes later someone will deliver your meal to the table. Service has always been friendly and polite, and the owner is often the one ringing up your order or preparing your lunch.
The highlight item at Tartine is also its namesake: tartines are essentially open-face sandwiches made on dense, chewy, crusty, traditional French baguettes. Savory spreads and jams are applied first, then comes the meat. At Tartine, this could be thick-cut triangles of house-made pate, which is studded with pistachio and chopped dates. Sharp Dijon mustard and sweet onion jam tie it all together. Another tartine is topped with a luxurious portion of pork rillettes, which are also made in-house. The restaurant makes more conventional sandwiches too, including a combination of Italian meats and fresh mozzarella on crusty ciabatta. Sandwiches come with ramekins of lentils or black eyed peas as little side salads, which help round out a meal. The entrée salads are classics in their own right, especially a beautifully oily tuna Niçoise piled with roasted peppers, hearts of palm and salty sardines. The breakfast is brief but there are still some interesting quick options. There's a breakfast tartine with butter, jam and cheese, for instance, while the most substantial item is a whole brioche roll, hollowed out as a vessel for baked eggs. Like all the breads here, the bagels are baked in house. They standout as some of the best examples in a town where there aren't many convincing bagels to be found.
Since this is a bakery, it's nearly impossible to leave without tasting something sweet, or at least taking something of the sort home for later. I'm particularly fond of the dark chocolate bark with whole cashews, the peanut butter fudge and the chocolate mousse.
Tartine has a self-service coffee bar with the standard Community Coffee office set up, plus a few especially refreshing juices and lemonades served in big mason jars.
Tartine is a good deal considering the significant quantities and the exceptional quality of what's served. Most sandwiches are $9 and the salads follow suit. Most breakfast dishes are $5.50.
Tartine is a specialty café that is truly special. It takes a little looking to find the place, and its open-faced sandwich format might seem a bit unorthodox at first, but give this promising new bakery a chance and I'm confident you'll come away a fan. The aroma of baking bread that fills this small space is enough to stimulate the appetite all on its own, and the café's earnest, honest, precise approach satisfies that anticipation beautifully.