In Brief

Heirloom in Saint Paul

Although the food at Heirloom in St. Paul is rustic, it’s also sophisticated, subtle, and at times cutting edge.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Heirloom is billed as a “neighborhood” restaurant that specializes in “modern farmhouse cuisine.” As these terms suggest, it’s utterly inviting and the fare is rustic, centered on seasonal and local ingredients. But the food is also beautiful, subtly complex, and, at times, cutting-edge without being the least bit pretentious. Chef Wyatt Evans (formerly of WA Frost) has our attention.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

The most unassuming dishes on the dinner menu (brunch is served on Sundays) produced the most high-fives and “hot damns.” The pedestrianly named “meat pie” ($14) turns out to be an adorable acorn-shaped cracker crust filled with a luscious, soul-warming mixture of shredded chicken and pork, cinnamon, and a layer of green tomato chutney. Accompanied by sharp English mustard, raisins, and pickled green tomatoes, the delectable pie skillfully balances textures and flavors. Hot damn, indeed.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Moving from England to Ireland, Evans’ black pudding ($11) is another stunner. Made of pork shoulder, pig’s blood and organ meat (heart and liver), and steel-cut oats (for binding), the “pudding” is really a refined, funky, and delicious meatloaf. A light puree of celery root and thin slices of tart, slightly sweet pickled apples cut the dish’s richness while brightening it. Winner winner, fancy meatloaf dinner.

“Trout pastrami” ($9) didn’t initially register a hot damn – more like a WTF? But then we tried it. Once again, the hot damns flew like Donald Trump insults. Evans cures ocean trout with pastrami spices (coriander, juniper berries, salt, sugar, and pepper), brushes it with squid ink, and then cold smokes it, producing a “meaty,” deep red product that highlights (rather than smothers) the fish’s natural flavor. Served as a sort of deconstructed pastrami sandwich, the trout comes with delicate rye crackers, micro cabbage greens, fluffy horseradish cream, and pickled onions. Where so many “deconstructed” dishes make us pine for the fully constructed original, this deconstruction works very well.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Though the four other dishes we tried didn’t lead to exuberant swearing, they generally impressed. The “interesting vegetables” ($8) are a labor-intensive winner. The dish changes constantly—even “order to order”—Evans told us, but the basic idea is to serve multiple preparations of in-season vegetables. Our dish included, for instance, beets that were roasted, dehydrated, raw, and pickled, alongside carrots (displaying subtle but stunning knife-work), parsnips, cauliflower, and more. The vegetables were also topped with a ricotta whey foam (Evans insists he’s not a “foam guy,” but liquid whey wouldn’t work on the dish) that adds a touch of acidity. The result is definitely interesting, and great tasting (even if we’d prefer a lighter touch with the kefir butter).

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

An entree of freshwater fish ($16) was nearly exceptional—the main component was expertly cooked, with crackly skin and tender flesh. A bed of faro added depth and gave the dish that farmhouse quality, while pickled celery, raw radish, and micro greens provided freshness. The mushroom broth was a great idea, but ours was too salty. With a minor tweak, this dish would ascend to hot damn territory.

We were also thrilled to see pork jowl on the menu, because we’re big fans of the fatty, super flavorful delicacy. Evans puts a lot of work into the jowl ($15): he brines it for 24 hours, cooks it in rendered pork fat, grills it, and then brushes it with barley and malt glaze, which, when put over the open flame, gives the meat a char. Unfortunately, ours didn’t have much char and lacked crispness. It did pack a major flavor punch and we enjoyed it (though it didn’t displace Corner Table’s jowl as our favorite in the area). Savoy cabbage and cranberry mostarda are ideal accompaniments, and the dish made us long for Thanksgiving (and consider replacing turkey with pork jowl). Although the bed of sweet potato puree tasted good on its own, it added unnecessary sweetness and richness.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

We’re not sure that the chestnut cake ($8) tasted much like chestnuts, but it was moist, comforting, and sweet enough to classify as dessert without knocking us out with sugar. Both fresh and poached pieces of pear and a red currant sauce give this relatively light treat additional character and seasonality—an excellent cap to a rich, savory dinner.

Modern Farmhouse

2186 Marshall Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55104
CHEF/OWNER: Wyatt Evans
Tue-Thu: 4-10pm
Fri-Sat: 4-11pm
Sun: Brunch 10am-2pm, Dinner 4-10pm
BAR: Beer and Wine
NOISE LEVEL: Amenable din

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

By Joshua Page

Joshua Page became fascinated with food as a young latchkey cook in Southern
California. He developed a passion for eating out while working in “the industry”
in college and procrastinating (and accruing debt) as a graduate student. Now a
professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, Joshua also loves to write—
when it’s not about crime, law, and punishment, his musings are about Twin Cities

One reply on “Heirloom in Saint Paul”

Great write up. Another place to try. Just a quick side note – this is the second mention in the past week or so describing the crust of a meat pie as “cracker crust.” The traditional crust for meat pies and the like (I’m looking at you pastie) is a “hot water crust” which produces a stable but flaky outer shell, ideal for holding all that goodness inside. This is purely info for the person that may want to try to re-create one of these great meat pies. Start with the hot water crust and you’re half way home.

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