There's something sinfully delicious about sitting at a sunny sidewalk table in the middle of a weekday eating a pastry. In addition to affording those who don't work normal hours (and people like me who just have the week off) the ability to eat in the sun, Tartine also happens to have simple, delectable lunch fare.
Tucked in the border between the mission and the Castro, this little French bakery is tiny and homey, but it is hardly the undiscovered neighborhood gem. They open at 10:00 AM on Sunday, but if you want a seat, you better get there at 9:30, because by 9:55 there's a line stretching down the block and around the corner. Of course it doesn't help that chef/owner Elizabeth Pruitt was recently named by San Francisco Magazine as the best pastry chef in town, and husband and co-owner Chad Robertson is acknowledged as one of the worlds best breadmakers. In my experience, these reputations are well deserved.
But let's return to the mid-week lunch, which I had there today, and which I can recommend as both a perfect solution to the crowds on the weekends, and super tasty treat. Tartine is modeled after a French patisserie, which means they serve pastries, coffee, and small hot dishes for lunch only, along with a small selection of wines to complement the food. Today, Ruth had their Croque Monsieur with broccoli rabe and fromage blanc, which was so light and airy I could easily see myself eating two of them, despite the substantial size. I opted for the provolone and tapenade grilled sandwich that came loaded with cheese and was one of those dishes which I can eat in a single bout, without stopping to breathe, drink, or converse. Delectable is the main word that comes to mind.
The food is prepared simply, and is either handed to you across the counter or brought briskly to your table if you ordered something that required a little preparation. Diners grab their own silverware, napkins, and water as they make their way to one of the several interior or sidewalk tables. The staff is cheery, and very knowledgeable about what goes into their food, but don't expect them to pay much attention to you beyond what you need to order and sit down. Its a busy place.
The real reason to visit Tartine is not their lunches, however delicious they may be, but their pastries, made so perfectly and with incredibly high quality ingredients. They are known for their Meringue and for their lemon desserts, but I've found nearly everything there to be amazing: dark dark chocolate eclairs; black cherry tarts; double Scharfenberger chocolate croissants; and bread puddings. Today Ruth got a lemon cream tart, and even though I am not a fan of lemon desserts in general, I had to admit that it was amazingly good-- not too sweet, not too acidic, and to top it all off, simply gorgeous: daubed with fresh cream and delicately topped with the petals of a yellow rose.
The wine list of a few French wines is designed to really only complement the food and not hold the interest of anyone determined to have a great wine experience. However, the couple that I have tried were very good.
Tartine is not someplace that you should go for a lunch date with someone special, its someplace you should go to take care of your soul on a lazy sunny morning, no matter whether its Sunday or Wednesday. Grab the Times, pull on some sweats, and go get yourself a slice of Paris.
How Much?: Lunch for two with a glass of wine and 2 pastries will run you $35
600 Guererro Street (@ 18th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
No reservations accepted, no phone orders except for large take out or catering requests.
Hourly parking during the weekday is fine, weekend parking is nonexistent.
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