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VOL. 129 | NO. 37 | Monday, February 24, 2014

 

Tart Cafe Mixes French Flair, Love of Memphis

By Andy Meek

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The business partners opening Tart – a new French-focused cafe, coffee shop, bakery and art gallery in Cooper-Young that held a preview party earlier this month – have been spreading the word through social media and in person that theirs is more than a simple coffeehouse.

Heather Pike, who’s had her own design company for the last 13 years, is launching the business with pastry chef Abby Jestis, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of New Orleans.

And together, they have big ambitions for the property at 820 S. Cooper St. that will house Tart, which will feature food with a high-end French feel.

Chef Abby Jestis, left, with operating partner and art director Heather Pike at Tart Cafe, a new French-focused cafe in Cooper-Young.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

That’s in addition to pastries baked in-house, a passion for showcasing local art inside and even classes offered at Tart, making it also a kind of mini-community center.

The goal, said Pike, is to offer the community something she and Jestis feel isn’t being offered right now – “rustic French food, hearty and simple.” The business’s name is a kind of shortened version of its tagline, “Taste the Art,” which itself reflects the range of passions, from food to art, that the founders share.

For the restaurant side of the business, there will be both stable and rotating menu items, with the latter depending on what’s available locally and on a desire to keep items such as pastries always different and often unexpected for customers. Specific planned offerings for the menu rotation include coddled eggs, breakfast antipasto and rustic tomato mozzarella salad with prosciutto.

Customers might come in on a given day and find some salad offerings, a couple of sandwich offerings, soups, then the menu will rotate, Pike explained.

“If you went to a friend’s house in France and they said, ‘Let’s have a backyard picnic’ with tablecloths and silver and all of that – what would they serve you?” Pike said. “Well, that’s what we’re going to have. It’s very, very simple French foods that are beautifully presented, and then when it comes to the pastries, it’s going to be extremely high-end. Very precisely done, very beautifully presented. Again, the same way that you might find in Paris – at least, it’s the closest we can approximate to that.”

Pike and Jestis already are thinking about an additional Downtown location within a year or so, but for now the focus is on serving Cooper-Young – the neighborhood they decided had the perfect ingredients for the literal and artistic feast they want to serve patrons.

“Midtown just really has the walking community, the biking community and the unity, period, that is not found in too many places, I think, in this city,” Pike said. “It was just the right place, and we found what we thought to be a great location. This will be a place for this neighborhood and this community to meet up and share their passions. To enjoy what we have to offer, whether that’s the art, the food or the vibe.”

As far as what’s still to come, Tart – which will be open seven days a week – may look at serving wine alongside the rest of the food offerings in the future. In a few months, the business also will roll out an iPad-based curbside service.

Most days, Tart will close at 7. That’s because in addition to the food, there will be an after-hours series of classes.

Pike said Tart is being approached by people who want to teach classes about things such as photography and “how to un-GMO your kitchen.”

“The classes will be about all kinds of things, because we asked the community what they wanted, and we’ll find somebody in our community who knows how to do these things,” Pike said. “What we had in mind was things like pastry-making and floral design. One guy came up and said, ‘I want to teach music to children here, and I’ve been trying to find a place to do that.’ I was like, ‘This is your place, man!’”

The creation of Tart – specifically, the combination of its different elements – is a result of Jestis’ long-held dream of opening a restaurant that served top-quality food and Pike’s desire to connect emerging artistic talent with an audience.

“What we intend is for somebody to walk in our door and feel – whether it’s because of what they’re looking at or smelling or about to taste or a person they see behind the counter or a friend they meet here – we want them to come in and feel so good that it’s more about the experience than any single thing we offer,” Pike said.

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