You join the constant crowd of customers shuffling over the worn wooden floor, and eye potential places to sit among the orphaned chairs that rest against walls, float in the middle of the room, or are tuck tightly into the corners of the half dozen indoor tables. When you peer over the counter, through the stacked racks of industrial-sized, glass-fronted refrigerated cases, you see the frenetic choreography of pastry chefs and bakers in jeans, t-shirts, and backward caps. When you stare into the non-descript display case, you find work-of-art pastries—the frangipane tart, for example, baked with almond cream filling and seasonal fruit, posing as the delicious alternative to the aforementioned croissant—bathed in a familiar, comfortable fluorescent glow.
“It is a gathering place,” says Liz, recalling how people flock to the bakery when they are celebrating, or even grieving. These days, the warranted acclaim usually renders Tartine Bakery more chaotic than quiet, yet the neighbors still view it as vital to their daily routine. It is a comforting touchstone. “No matter what is happening in the world, people still like to have their cup of coffee and a treat.”