As the name suggests, this place started out serving up excellent sophisticated Southern fare. For the first couple of years, it was, all things considered, our favorite restaurant in Athens. Then a few years ago, it took a turn in a fusion direction with Asian accents in many of its offerings. Think kimchee mac and cheese, for example. That was a big disappointment to us because we aren’t into fusion cuisine. So we stopped coming here until recently.
We’re delighted that the restaurant has returned to its roots, serving the sort of food that drew us to it originally. At our latest lunch, I had possibly the best reuben sandwich I’ve had anywhere. It rivals the one I’ve had at the James Beard Award winning General Muir in Atlanta. The standout feature of Heirloom’s is the house-made pastrami. Often in my experience the pastrami is dry and sort of crumbly. But here they leave enough of the fat on to keep the meat moist and very flavorful. Good stuff!
My wife had one of her favorites, the pimento cheese sandwich. The cheese is laced with an onion relish that she really enjoyed.
For dessert, we shared what they call s’mores in a jar, which was a chocolate pot au crème, with graham cracker crumbs and Italian meringue. The pot au crème was a little stiffer than the best we’ve had but that was a minor lapse. The dessert menu included about half a dozen items, all so appealing that we had a hard time making up our minds.
Athens is the kind of place where farm-to-table really works. It’s surrounded for miles around by thriving small farms, several of which sell at the weekly Athens Farmers Market, recently named by Southern Living Magazine as one of the South’s best. Local restaurants benefit from all those growers and Heirloom partners with them to very good advantage.
Unlike some reviewers, we don’t find the restaurant especially pricey for what it offers. Our two sandwiches, two glasses of tea and a dessert came to $33 and change before tip. That’s not at all out of line with what we’re used to paying at comparable restaurants here and elsewhere.
We’re very pleased that Heirloom has gone back to its original concept. We look forward to being regulars again.
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