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We Wanna Be Friends With: Nick Balla + Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine

Photo credit to Chad Robertson

Our city is chock-full of interesting people and wild personalities. Overwhelmed by the coolness? Every week we'll pick one standout local we'd love to be friends with to answer seven essential questions about their life in San Francisco.

Nick Balla and Cortney Burns are the co-chef couple masterminds behind the beloved Mission eatery Bar Tartine (sister restaurant to Tartine bakery). If you've snagged a seat at B.T., you know the menu is tough to classify. There's an Eastern European vibe, but the chefs are also fiercely loyal to using local produce and making anything - and everything - by hand.

When reading about Nick and Cortney, we were awe struck by the amount of experience in difference types of cooking these two bring to the (proverbial and literal) table. Cortney is a Quince alum who spent time in Nepal and India studying the Tibetan language and cultural anthropology. Nick was born in the US but moved to Hungary for high school, and after culinary school traveled extensively in Japan learning to make fishcakes, udon nobles and kamaboko by hand. He also worked at Michael Minna's Nobhill Tavern in Las Vegas before moving to SF to work at Ozumo, O Izakaya and then open Nombe.

But where Nick and Cortney's experience and passion meet are around artisan techniques for Old World preparation, like making their own sausage, cheese, dried spices, fermented beverages, and pickling and preserving in-house. It sounds like a ton of work, but given how wildly popular and truly delicious the food is that they serve - we definitely agree the time spent is more than worthwhile.

Want to give Bar Tartine a try but can't spring for dinner? Their "Sandwich Shop at Bar Tartine" is the author's favorite pop-up in SF. If only it was still open weekends...

In a We Wanna Be Friends With Q&A first, Cortney and Nick answered the questions together (too cute). Thanks for taking the time guys! 

1. What neighborhood do you currently call home? Would you ever move or are you happy in your 'hood?

We currently live in Glen Park and love it. Most days we walk to work which makes for a nice way to start the day.

2. What's your hands-down, absolute favorite thing to eat in SF?

Our favorite thing to eat is an extensive spread of cheese, meats, smoked fish and pickles from the Eastern European markets in the Richmond.

3. What's your perfect night on the town?

Our perfect night would be an early evening walk through Golden Gate Park and a dinner at Spices on Clement.

4. When you need a low-key afternoon, where do you go for down time?

We like to run from home out to Ocean beach.

5. What's your favorite place to go on a day trip from the city?

We honestly don't get out much, but our most recent trip was up to Yountville to Full Table Farm to harvest vegetables from the fields and cook a feast over an open fire pit. We'd definitely do that again! We also love visiting the Marshall farm store in Tomales for oysters.

6. Quick-fire round: 

Burrito or Burger?

Burger.

Presidio or Golden Gate Park?

Golden Gate Park.

Birite or Mitchell's?

Birite.

Bike or Muni?

Bike - but preferably walk.

Fort Mason or Dolores Park?

Fort Mason.

The Independent or the Fillmore?

The Fillmore.

Baker Beach or Ocean Beach?

Baker Beach.

7. Three words that describe your life in SF?

Creative, lively, and swift.

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