Opened 19 years ago in March by three friends, Ann Heinz and Kate Rooney remain the dynamic duo behind the Northfield operation, while former business partner Mari Coyne has since moved on to other projects. It’s always been in the same location, a cozy yet cheerful shop that seats between 30-35 people.
“(We’ve) clearly settled in pretty well since it is going on 20 years,” Christina Ito, webmaster, told DailyNorthShore.
Rooney is the creative force behind Three Tart’s garden cakes, popular for almost any special occasion.
“There will always be garden cakes. That is the Three Tarts’ signature,” Ito said.
Each garden cake is custom designed, either in a wreath style or an on-stem pattern as the base. The wreath style literally boasts colorful flowers around the cake in the shape of a wreath, while an on-stem pattern has flower stems that appear to grow out of the base of the cake. Rooney keeps the cakes seasonal, decorating with the flowers and plants that grow in season.
Customers can always find slices of best-ever banana cake, county fair chocolate cake and a coconut cake at the cafe.
“They all have their proud and loud fans, but the banana cake is the most popular,” Ito said.
The kitchen always has about 30 pounds of bananas browning on hand for the cake, which includes sour cream to keep it extra moist, and is topped off with a vanilla buttercream frosting.
On the savory side, the caper tuna salad sandwich on olive rosemary bread is very popular. “We use a nice albacore tuna and just enough capers to make it briny. People love it,” Ito said.
The combination of the tuna salad with the bread is what makes it a big hit.
“It’s really about the totality of the flavors coming together. All together it makes this really satisfying sandwich,” Ito said.
At breakfast time, the weekly quiche special is a favorite, as well as the Three Tarts Start, two eggs your way, served with toast, potatoes and choice of ham, sausage or bacon. The cafe’s eggs are sourced locally from C&D Family Farms, located in Knox, Indiana.
Increasingly, Three Tarts is partnering with Midwest farmers for its vegetables, fruits, eggs and other ingredients. In the summer, Rooney will peruse the Skokie Farmer’s Market for fresh ingredients to include in the weekly quiche and breakfast specials.
Three Tart’s focus is on wholesome ingredients and homemade preparation. “Everything we make, we make on site. All of the cookies, cakes and breads are made fresh daily,” Ito said.
The kitchen staff likes to try new things and tweak recipes to ensure they remain delicious. “The food is prepared with a lot of care with recipes that have been honed to perfection,” Ito added.
While Three Tarts remains a favorite on the North Shore, Heinz and Rooney are always thinking of ways to improve the business. In the last couple of years, Three Tarts has increased its online presence through savvy website design and social media accounts, which means the cafe draws more customers from all over the region. The website includes a photo gallery of special occasion cakes, wedding cakes, cupcakes and decorative cookies, which all can be special ordered.
What makes Three Tarts such a popular destination is its attention to fresh ingredients and well-honed recipes.
“Most of the recipes are tried and true. We make (our food) with good ingredients that people would have in their pantry and make it so that we would love it as much as our customers,” Ito said.
Three Tarts Bakery and Cafe is located at 301 South Happ Road, Northfield. More information can be found at www.threetartsbakery.com.