Tartine and the two coffee cakes

Remembering the weirdest fight over food I've ever had at a most precious Coronado cafe.

My roommate and I once got into an epic fight over coffee cake. I am not kidding. His mom sent him a box of baked goods for Christmas, including what he claimed was “coffee cake” and I insisted — with the full weight of my authority as a longtime pastry chef — was a tray of sticky buns.

To make a long story short, his late grandmother always did his familys holiday baking and, for whatever reason, she used the term “coffee cake” to refer to what most people call “cinnamon rolls” or maybe “sticky buns.” Somehow, my friend spent almost thirty years without anyone challenging him on this unique definition of coffee cake. Stranger things have happened — I have another friend who had never been to a Starbucks until the end of last year —but the coffee cake thing got out of control.

It culminated with my roommate screaming at me, “are you calling my dead grandmother a liar?!”

We joke about it now, especially when a bakery has both potential “coffee cakes” available.

The patio at Tartine (1106 1st Street, 619-435-4323) in Coronado is perfect for soaking up some sun and watching the world go by. The whole cafe is adorable, chicly fashioned in the best Crown City style and with a pastry kitchen to match. They make sticky buns, schmeared with honey and served warm, and also a delicious sour cream coffee cake.

Or maybe that’s the other way around....

Truly, the display cases at this gem of a cafe overflow with sweets and treats. A cooler has all the mousses, Bavarians, and pavlovas that anyone could ever desire; and the kitchen serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a prime spot for a cup of coffee, or even a beer, before getting on the ferry to head back across the bay. The service is weird, since they insist that the counter is for carryout only, so if you want to sit at a table you have to look at the display, decide what you want, and then take a seat and wait for a server to come find you. That’s flawed. There should be a menu listing every pastry on the shelves if you’re not allowed to stand and order. Still, the coffee is hot and the pastries are delightful, so much so that they’re worth taking pains to order.

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I so agree: great pastries, coffee, people watching. But that ordering snafu is so weird and kinda maddening. It must hold up the ordering all day long. And the custoimer has to sit there waiting for service muttering "third cake from the left, second row..." And interesting about one man's coffee cake is another man's cinnamon roll. Never underestimate the power of grandmothers!

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