Softly open in a former printing plant is Vive La Tarte
, a fairly enormous bakery on Howard Street run by the Belgian husband-and-wife team of Julie Vandermeesch and Arnaud Goethals. It’s shocking to find out that there are still spaces of this size available in Soma, so bully for them.
If the word artisanal is quickly hemorrhaging all meaning to become a contentless buzzword, Vive La Tarte is doing all it can to stanch the loss of blood. Croissants here emerge from the oven every 30 minutes from 8 a.m. until they’re sold out, along with twists and Danish, caramelized hazelnut sweet tarts, and chocolate gateau. It’s probably a nice thing for the bakers, too, seeing as they tend to clock in before the rest of us are getting ejected at last call.
In keeping with the overall humongousness, the focaccia pizza (radicchio, lemon ricotta and grana padano, in my case) was double-sized. If it’s quiche you prefer, there’s a spinach-and-chevre, as well as one with asparagus, ramps and pecorino. With the caveat that Vive La Tarte is still only softly open, the one awkward aspect was the seating. There are bleachers that look like an objet d’art that isn’t meant to be touched, and a severe, ring-shaped table centered on a support pillar. It’s lower than the stools — so low to the ground, in fact, that the only way to eat at it is to balance your plate on your knees. But the rhubarb tart is delicious enough to forget all of that, and Vive La Tarte is also serving Sightglass Coffee (whose mothership is essentially around the block), so the foundations for success are solid. Given a couple of weeks, this place will surely come into its own.
Vive La Tarte
, 1164 Howard, 415-891-9743.