Heirloom Keeps It Local

The neighborhood restaurant wants to support Saint Paul and serve tasty food.
Chef Wyatt Evans and Paul Grabrick

We all like to make an effort to support our local businesses but Heirloom Kitchen and Bar on Marshall Avenue is a restaurant that’s taking the next step—supporting local businesses by sourcing as many ingredients as possible, not just from Minnesota and western Wisconsin, but from our own Saint Paul.

Chef Wyatt Evans, whose resume includes a stint as executive chef at W.A. Frost, says he wanted to create an “every-occasion restaurant” in a neighborhood “that didn’t have 25 other restaurants that were like what we were trying to do, or [have] the same ambitions.”

While some might think the ambition is simply to build a locally sourced restaurant, his ambitions go deeper into the community, and can be found in the name of the restaurant. “Heirloom kind of came about from the idea that you can create something yourself through your hard work that can become viable for another generation.” The tie-in to food (like heirloom vegetables) just makes sense, he says. “But for me, it was a personal attempt at creating something that I thought was worthwhile to extend to the next generation of my family.”

That goal seems to be going well, with rave reviews and a menu that suits a range of tastes, whether it’s a simple burger or a fancy date-night meal. And it’s clear that Evans has done this all deliberately, with a staff that supports his vision.

General manager Paul Grabrick met Evans at W.A. Frost six years ago. “Upon meeting Wyatt, some of the first thoughts I had were that I admire not only his professionalism and his ability to be direct with people, but also the care and way he led his kitchen. He did it in a way that didn’t just command respect but in a way that inspired true leadership,” Grabrick says. “And I thought at the time that if I ever got the chance to work with him again, I would.”

Grabrick works the front of the house, while Evans cooks up seasonal dishes as well as regular options, such as roast chicken, in the kitchen. “It’s sort of a dish that represents a journey—a technique of trying to perfect something over time and knowing that you won’t ever perfect it, but making the attempt,” Evans says.

The menu changes with the season and with Evans’ inspiration. “Sometimes dishes come about after a really long time tweaking and revisiting,” he says. “And some things [I think], it’s that season and you bring in a product that’s beautiful and inspiring and you just sort of make it happen and it goes on the menu.” He says Grabrick is used to hearing, “Paul, we’re changing the menu tonight!”

But that’s part of keeping the menu seasonal and local—really local. Their coffee guy’s shop is two blocks up the street, and they have collaborated with Saint Paul brewery Tin Whiskers on a saison. It’s all about “really knowing your neighbor, knowing your producer. Not just supporting local businesses but supporting other families,” Grabrick says. “I can tell you the name of every one of our producers—wine, beer and food.”


And those suppliers often are guests at the restaurant. “If we support each other, and also make really awesome product, it just continues to grow,” Evans says. Because when you know the person and the story behind the ingredient, “you want to treat it with respect.”

One place where Saint Paul pride is evident is the beer on tap. “All of our taps are Saint Paul-specific,” Evans says. “Our taps are from people that we know. The relationships are there and we just think there are enough good breweries in Saint Paul that we can have eight taps.” They also represent other Minnesota breweries outside the tap list, he says. “We pour beer that we think is really good.”

Wine gets special attention too. “From the very beginning I wanted to have a wine list that was off the beaten path,” Evans says. “We wanted to create something that was very much more a part of your experience.”

For Grabrick, having someone ask about the wine is one of the best parts of his job, because he gets to take the guest on a bit of a journey. “What do you like? Red or white? Stylistically, what do you prefer? It’s almost like you’re creating an experience with them when you’re showing them something they’ve never had before, but you’re also able to really carry the food [with the wine],” he says. Which was also very deliberate. “Every single one of the wines [we have] pairs with that season’s flavors.”

Creating the whole experience, from knowing you’re supporting local businesses to eating delicious food with a perfect pint or glass of wine to match, is what Evans and Grabrick want to do. “We want to leave an impression on [our guests]. We want them to feel welcome in our space,” Evans says. “We’re people who really like to take care of people, we like to make tasty food for people, we like to pour offbeat, fringy wines for people that we think they’ll really dig.”