Bar Tartine’s daytime concept, which includes a sandwich counter in the front room and a brand new 15,000-pound bread oven in back that had to be custom-installed for master baker Chad Robertson, is finally nearing an opening. The temporary wall separating the new service area and the right-hand part of the front dining room has been removed, and we’re told Robertson will be firing up the oven for the first time as soon as he returns from a vacation. The concept remains a fun one, modeled on St. John Bread and Wine in London, and the plan is now to allow people to sit anywhere in the existing dining room, but with counter service only during morning and afternoon. At night, the front dining room will transform again into part of Bar Tartine’s dining room, and the counter will close.
In addition to standard sandwich fare, there will be smorrbrod, a kind of open-faced sandwich popular in Northern Europe and Scandinavia made with grainy bread which chef Nick Balla has already been serving at brunch and dinner in various forms in the restaurant. Also, there will be a larder stocking various preserves and pantry items for sale — like Balla’s house-made paprika perhaps, or some of this other fine stuff?
The enormous new bread oven is part of the reason for the delays. Not only will operating it entail a new set of tasks and a learning curve, but it turned out to be so heavy that a separate foundation had to be poured to support it and keep the floor from collapsing. The oven is larger and more modern than the existing one at Tartine Bakery that only gets fired up once a day (hence the bread only going on sale at 5 p.m.) and will allow Robertson ultimately to start running a 24-7 bread-baking operation, to meet the ravenous demand for his fantastic bread.
Morning and afternoon counter service should begin in April or early May, but this date has been a moving target since last fall, so stay tuned.