Heirloom Food wins state-wide accolades

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Mon., Jan. 6, 2014
The Heirloom salad is a favorite among customers. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Noon brought a steady line of customers to the counter at Heirloom Food Company in Danielson, on Jan. 4. Chalkboard menus spelled out breakfast, salad, sandwich and burger possibilities. They included a vegan breakfast sandwich, a spicy tofu wrap, and a burger made out of beets.

The out-of-the-ordinary menu has been drawing customers and rave reviews since it opened a year ago. The latest accolades come from readers of Connecticut Magazine. In the magazine’s annual Reader’s Choice poll, Heirloom came in tops in the vegetarian/vegan category. And the restaurant made the top three spots in three other categories: best lunch, best new restaurant and best hidden gem.

Hitting four out of 35 categories in a state-wide, online vote is impressive on many fronts. That the restaurant is housed in a restored home on Route 12 in the Quiet Corner is even more impressive. Heirloom competed against restaurants all over the state and it more than held its own.

Owners Wendy Garosshen and Joshua Wojcik had wanted to open such a restaurant for years. The husband-wife team had their chance when they helped Wojcik’s mother remodel the building that used to house the restaurant Sunflowers. Wojcik said nostalgia helped them make the decision.

“We thought we’d buy it and give it a try,” he said. The couple had done their research. They looked into opening a restaurant in West Hartford. “We’d be inundated with people,” Garosshen said about the trendy area. But they thought about the building on Route 12 and the area where both grew up. Wojcik is a Killingly native and Garosshen grew up in Brooklyn. “That became part of our drive,” Garosshen said. 

The two have built a faithful following in their sunny spot overlooking Route 12. They have made mock-chicken converts and goat cheese connoisseurs of their customers. They’ve plugged into the local agriculture scene. They use as much local and organic produce as possible.

“We’re incredibly farm to table,” Garosshen said. Local artisans provide them with goat milk, produce, eggs, raw honey, maple syrup, and even cosmetics, goat-milk soap and chapstick. “We have great producers right here,” Wojcik said. “We have farmers within 5 miles of here. We’re focused on the integrity of our food.”

“We work hard to make sure everything we make has a nutritional component,” Garosshen added. “I think people are starting to open their eyes to the idea that it matters what you put into your body.”

Take the Beta burger, a beet, lentil, brown rice, onion, garlic combination that is their second best seller on the menu. It’s loaded with beta-carotene. Or their vegan egg burrito, a morning favorite made of scrambled tofu that tastes so much like real eggs it’s fooled plenty of customers.

They use organic cane sugar and natural stevia sweetener, protein boosts and bee pollen, almond milk and gluten-free bread. And there are plenty of repeat customers. 

For Garosshen, getting nutrition into the community is important. But so is creating and supporting a community that includes not only her customers but fellow business owners, local farmers, and the region’s artisans and artists as well. The restaurant features artwork on a rotating basis. A local greenhouse takes care of their plants. A local potter provides hand thrown cups. Garosshen’s aprons come courtesy of a local merchant. Heirloom, in turn, pays it back with an active Facebook page.

It’s this last item that helped them with the Connecticut Magazine survey, Wojcik said. Because the voting took place exclusively online, Heirloom’s use of social media was a factor in their recognition. “We have an active Facebook page and a good following for people seeking out vegetarian and vegan food,” he said. “Folks come from the other side of the state, and from other states.” He said regular customers come from Guilford, Mystic and Providence, R.I.

“When we were growing up, we’d go to Providence to eat,” Garosshen said. “Now they’re coming to us.”

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