The food: Chef Clark Barlowe, who began his food career in his hometown of Lenoir, returns to North Carolina – but not before cooking at both the French Laundry and elBulli, plus stints managing for the Clyde’s restaurant group in Washington and appearing on “Chopped” (he lost after the entree, featuring blue foot chicken).
His focus, and his background, since his family owns a farm in Gamewell in Caldwell County, is local and seasonal. The result, on our visit, was delicious: velvety beef cheek; delicate black drum with a matching consomme, plus bok choy and roasted oyster mushrooms; fried oysters with a marvelous sweet potato puree – and nearly everything sporting its provenance by farm/provider name: Lucky Clay’s (aquaponics in Albemarle), Salem Hills, Happy Valley (caviar), New River Organic Growers (ducks, rabbit, produce), Rosemary Pete’s, Orrman’s Cheese Shop and more.
Servers’ everything’s-from-N.C. bit needs to adjust in spots (Anson Mills = S.C.) but there’s enthusiasm aplenty, and you can go the usual menu route or try a multi-course tasting menu. Worldliness is mixed in, along with a whole-animal perspective (Dominican pupusas with beef tongue conveys both points on the tasting menu). Desserts from pastry chef Joselyn Perlmutter (another detail you might not expect) range from tiny eclairs to fresh nut brittles.
The look: A sprawling big building in the Coulwood area, the place shows off salvaged barn wood and painted furniture, vintage textiles, an assortment of plates and pottery and serving ware and white linen. The overall effect is interesting: rustic tempered with a little frilliness.
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The service: Oh-so-polite, ours was effusive if a bit stiff, but we got every detail we could ever ask for, from preparations to availability. Both chef and pastry chef spoke with diners occasionally, the advantage of a slow night.
The details: Dinner (entrees about $20-$28) Tuesday-Saturday, with menus tweeted by @HeirloomRestNC; brunch Saturday-Sunday ($7-$17, and you don’t find ebelskivers just anywhere); 8470 Bellhaven Blvd.; 704-595-7710; heirloomrestaurantnc.com.
NOTE: April 23 will be Heirloom’s first artisan dinner (a series is planned, monthly), a five-course meal with alcohol pairings for each (yes, those are from the area, too), attended by producers who’ll talk about their products in each course. Cost is $55.