As I noticed the new construction being done in Bel Aire Plaza near Pier 1 over the last few months, my excitement began to build. Any time there is a new restaurant launch, it always means the possibility of new vegan options in Napa Valley! Though I no longer allow meat, eggs or dairy in my diet, I am a Foodie. I love good food! And then the sign went up…Heritage Eats where Slow Meats Fast. Slow meats fast, what?! Well, let’s just say that my excitement began to dwindle a bit. But for those of you who have never met me, I am ALWAYS up for a challenge. I had a little free time this week and stopped by to check things out!
The space is large, open, light and white. Very clean and minimalistic looking with large photos of the local farmers and ranchers that are a part of their community. Ordering the food has a bit of a “cafeteria-style” feel to it where I could see all of my food choices as they prepared my feast. My first choice was sandwich, salad or rice bowl? Since I am always a sucker for fresh garden greens, I went for the salad. For those of you who love rice bowls, their yellow steamed rice is made with coconut milk so vegan-friendly. If you like the hands-on approach for your meal, the corn or flour tortilla wrap is for you. Next, I picked my “protein” – a tasty vegan, gluten-free crispy chickpea falafel. Then I added some quinoa tabbouleh (ahh, can you say super food?!), a dollop of garlic hummus and fire grilled vegetables topped off with sweet crunchy cabbage slaw. Quick caveat here – the slaw does contain honey which is typically not a part of my diet but I have to admit that the combination of sweet honey, garlic, crunchy cabbage and the smoky flavor of the fire grilled vegetables was absolutely amazing! In addition to the grilled vegetables, the pico de gallo, asian pickle and roasted corn & edamame are ALL vegan! Last but not least, are the sauces. The sauces will really allow you to customize your meal and 4 of them – pineapple habanero, heritage BBQ, salsa roja and harissa are animal product free!
The Co-Founders Ben Koenig and Chef Jason Kupper were kind enough to chat with me about their inspirations for Heritage Eats. Ben is an avid traveler that spent much of 2014 backpacking through the Middle East and Asia drawing inspiration for the restaurant from his experiences. He literally wrote their business plan in Goa (I had to Google that one – it’s in south west India) and refined it in Bhutan, Vietnam and Thailand. After graduating with a degree in Economics from New York University, Ben worked for Goldman Sacs in New York City. His career then led him to hospitality and concept design with AvroKO before becoming the Assistant General Manager for The Thomas in downtown Napa. Jason is an advocate for small farms and loves the blending of local and global flavors in a “street food” style. Like Ben, Jason hails from New Jersey but their partnership began after meeting at The Thomas where Jason served as the Chef de Cuisine. This experience was a huge inspiration in the creation of their menu for Heritage Eats. Jason’s vast experience in the food industry includes Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Yountville, Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg and Charlie Palmer at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas. Combining their fine dining experience, travels abroad and appreciation for the bounty of food California has to offer, they formed a gastronomic match made in heaven!
My meal was really incredible but what will keep me coming back is their for-purpose business plan. For-purpose is a growing trend that applies business principles to social reform. Ben and Jason have partnered with the Washington D.C. based charity Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry. With the staggering statistics that 1 in 5 kids in America do not get the food they need and 16 million children in the U.S. struggle every day with hunger, this philanthropic organization works to ensure every child in the U.S. has access to a healthy meal. With schools out for the summer, this is truly the hungriest time of year for many of our children. For the many children who rely on school meals, SOS/NKH is working to improve the way our country feeds our kids! Click here to see Share Our Strength discuss their No Kid Hungry campaign! Kind, philanthropic and vegan-friendly? Consider me a regular!
Heritage Eats is located at 3824 Bel Aire Plaza in Napa serving local food to the locals (non-locals welcome too!) Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday & Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Though they have only been open since May, they already have a large and loyal following. I asked my husband to stop in on a Wednesday evening while running errands to take a few more photos for me and Heritage Eats was packed full of happy diners! Always a good sign that the food is good and the prices are accessible! Welcome to the concept of fast fine dining!
Together, let’s support our local businesses who not only make a profit but give back too! And as always…eat, drink & be vegan!