Tart, a highbrow concept marrying art, coffee, pastries and French cuisine, finally is open after a lengthy delay.
Heather Bryan-Pike and Abby Jestis have managed to merge seemingly disparate dreams and a corporate casino background by converting a former duplex at 820 South Cooper into a quirky coffeehouse that couldn’t be more individualistic.
Based on customer feedback, Bryan-Pike told me during a recent visit, Tart has placed a heavier-than-anticipated focus on the food.
The Instagram-friendly tarts stand out in the display case, no explanation needed. But the food menu begs for an explanation even for the most ardent foodie.
I cannot pronounce the dish I ordered — salmon rillette — despite two years of French courses in college. I ordered it upon Bryan-Pike’s recommendation, but to try to regurgitate her crash course of the way it’s prepared would be an exercise in futility.
From what I gathered, though, the small glass cup at the corner of my plate contained a chilled paste made from shredded fish meat, which I spread on the half dollar-sized slices of bread along with pieces of juicy pepper and a sweet jelly. My plate also included a moist side of peas accentuated with spices and vegetables.
I also ordered a croissant and my friend, a cute Brazilian girl, graciously let me taste the cherry tart she ordered.
I was distracted by her smile (that’s my excuse, anyway) and failed to grab photos other than a pair of absentminded shots of my plates after I had nearly finished eating, but Tart features gallery lighting, local art on the walls and tables wedged into corners of the several rooms that give the venue a homey and private feel.
Dubbed the “CooperLoo Gallery,” a rotating street art installation provides a sort of odd motivation to stand inside the door of the restrooms and have a conversation.
As Tart is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, to 10 p.m. on Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Bryan-Pike and Jestis practically live there. Bryan-Pike serves as the outgoing spokeswoman chatting with most of the guests and Jestis bustles around greasing the gears of the machine.
One of Tart’s strengths is the duo’s combined intelligence, experience, and attention to detail, all of which converge in the venue’s layout, visual seduction, and the unique and nuanced menu.
The concept will feature community events, classes and collaborations with local artists, and a seasonally-based menu unlikely to grow stale.