New Orleans native Cara Benson studied pastry at the French Culinary Institute in New York and was later pastry chef at Muriel's Jackson Square before opening Tartine (7217 Perrier St., 866-4860; www.tartineneworleans.com) in 2010. Tartines, the specialty of this tiny cafe and bakery, are essentially open-faced sandwiches piled with charcuterie, which is prepared by Benson's husband Evan, a chef at the catering company Joel's Grand Cuisine. Tartine also makes baguette sandwiches, traditional French salads, a few breakfast dishes and sweets. As of July, Tartine is open daily and has new Sunday hours, when it serves a brunch menu with items like croque monsieur sandwiches.
How did the idea for Tartine come about?
Benson: We were in France at this cafe having huge cups of coffee in the morning and tartines with pate or Camembert. We thought, "New Orleans needs a place like this where you can have pate for breakfast if you want to." But people do still call in and order ham po-boys. You have to tell them, "Well, they're not really po-boys." But that's just what a lot of people grew up with. You show them something a little different, and they experiment and try new things.
Your location is almost hidden down a side street off Broadway. How did Tartine end up here?
B: I wanted something that was zoned correctly for what we wanted to do because you hear all these horror stories about people who get caught up in the zoning thing. There were only two places correctly zoned for us, and the other place was twice as big.
We all hear about the early morning hours most bakers keep. How do you manage it?
B: We start at 4:30 in the morning because you need about three hours to make the breads. You do have to structure your life around it. I've been training other bakers and we have a great staff now, but in the beginning we'd eat dinner at 5:30 p.m., and it was hard to stay up past 8 p.m. We have a son who will be three in August, and in the beginning I'd put him to bed and then I'd be in bed 15 minutes later. — IAN MCNULTY