Since its inception in 2018, Heirloom has provided visitors a morning and afternoon refuge in the midst of the bustle that is Downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District, serving well-crafted beverages alongside Laotian and Taiwanese dishes for breakfast and lunch.
As a coffee shop, Heirloom earned the admiration of locals with its selection of traditional espresso drinks and Asian-inspired offerings like the Xieng Khouang Lao Fog Latte, a delectable combination of Lao tea with both condensed and steamed milk.
As a restaurant, it enticed diners serving meticulously crafted breakfast treats like chicken rice porridge and mochi doughnuts, plus flavorful lunch offerings like the Char Siu pork belly sandwich in a sophisticated and tranquil environment.
After years of daytime service, Heirloom felt the pull to provide its experience and quality to diners in the evening hours as well. General Manager Thai Phommavong left behind an accounting career to take the reins of Heirloom from owners Chuan Tsay and Anna Phommanvong — her brother-inlaw and sister — in April of 2022. She knew that in order to expand to dinner service, Heirloom would have to present a dinnertime atmosphere.
“Daytime people connect through coffee, tea, and working,” Phommavong said. “Dinner is more face to face — a personal connection to each other.”
In late October, Heirloom made the leap, transforming in the evening hours from a cozy coffee shop into a full-service restaurant, complete with wine, sake cocktails, and a specialized dinner menu.
But before it could offer dinner service, Heirloom needed to find a chef to run the kitchen in the evening hours. Phommavong admits to being picky, looking for a partner who “does justice to Heirloom” — and finding it in Chef Josh Young.
If his name sounds familiar, it just might be. Young ran the kitchen at beloved Raleigh institution Humble Pie for over a decade until it closed in September.
Not one to take comfort in being idle, Chef Young didn’t settle into a sabbatical when the Warehouse District fixture announced its closure. Instead, he found himself rekindling a connection he had made years prior with Tsay and Anna Phommanvong. The previous project under discussion didn’t materialize, but in a bit of serendipity, Chef Young’s newfound availability synced with Heirloom’s push to create their dinner service.
As a chef who finds fulfillment in doing exciting things, the opportunity to build a new service from the ground up enticed Young to join Heirloom — and embrace a new culinary tradition. Young had a bit of a learning curve in developing the menu of Laotian and Taiwanese dishes.
“It was not pork larb; it was taco meat,” Thai Phommanvong playfully said of an early attempt at a Laotian specialty.
With his undeniable kitchen skills and a persistence to learn, Young kept at it until he created dishes that sparked Phommanvong’s childhood nostalgia — like the Thai Crispy Shrimp with spicy and sour jeow som sauce.
With regard to the menu, Chef Young takes a straightforward approach. “Heirloom’s food will never piss you off,” he promised.
As ambiance goes, he believes that at its core, “Heirloom is comfortable,” whether for a morning coffee break or an intimate dinner chat.
That comfortable ethos extends to the menu itself, as evidenced by the fried flounder. After initially envisioning a delicate steamed preparation of the fish, Chef Young came to the realization that the fried offering was truer to Heirloom’s comfort food character.
Despite the change of cuisine from his previous restaurant, Chef Young maintains his focus on local produce and ingredients at Heirloom. Suppliers he worked with at Humble Pie, like Wendell’s Blue Sky Farms and Raleigh’s Locals Seafood, have followed him to his new digs.
Heirloom aims to “curate an experience that represents quality and intentionality,” according to Young, which includes the intentional difference in atmosphere from morning wakeup to evening wind down spaces.
“Maybe daytime Heirloom fits some people and then nighttime Heirloom will fit some people, but both are special.”
Heirloom serves beverages, breakfast, and lunch daily. Dinner service runs Wednesday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m.
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