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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Fresh Food at Fresno’s Heirloom Eats

Dec 26, 2019 11:00AM ● By Melissa Mendonca

Local on the Menu

January 2020
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos courtesy of Heirloom Eats

OF ALL THE POSSIBLE issues a new restaurant can have, Heirloom Eats in Fresno has one that none of its three owners are complaining about. “We just need more seats,” says Justin Shannon, the chef-owner of a group that also includes Brandon Smittcamp and Kevin Koligian. “It’s a great problem to have.” It’s also an issue soon to be remedied with an expanded all-weather patio.

The trio of owners have filled a niche for health-conscious customers seeking fresh, local fast-casual food in a beautiful setting, all while celebrating the bounty of home. “We wanted to do a restaurant that was just about the Central Valley,” says Shannon. “We grow food for the whole world here.”

Heirloom Eats sources between 55 and 70 percent of its offerings from the Central Valley and hopes to reach 100 percent as relationships with area producers grow. “I myself drive around all day every day visiting farmers markets and getting vegetables,” says Shannon. “It’s all fresh. A lot of this stuff comes from within a 10-mile radius. You can definitely taste it.” Of the baby lettuce he finds in the valley, he says, “There’s more life to it.”

Shannon describes the restaurant as an everyday place, saying, “You can’t eat a hamburger or a big steak every day.” While the menu does include burgers, it’s vegetable-forward in its offerings. “We’re very diet-specific,” he says, noting that dishes are identified when vegan, vegetarian or keto. “We took a lot of the sugars and extra fats out,” he adds, noting that everything is made in-house, from sauces and dressings to pastas and breads. He describes the menu as California style with heavy Mediterranean touches. Staples include house-made hummus, pita and loom breads.

“We change the menu quite a bit,” he says. “A lot of the proteins stay the same but we change up our pastas every couple of weeks.”

With the valley currently steeped in citrus, the local fruits are finding their way across the menu, from dressings to desserts to drinks. “That ethos of fresh transfers over to our cocktails, which are all local infusions,” says Shannon, who enjoys working with the various varieties of citrus from local producer Citri-Care in Orosi. “We’re lucky here in California because our seasons are long.”

In the summer, the restaurant took in peaches from one owner’s family farm. “We went through about 40 cases of peaches a week,” he says, noting that the inside connection gave them the pick of the harvest. The fruit found its way to the wood grill and paired with burrata, as well as into margaritas and summertime desserts.

Heirloom Eats celebrates its one-year anniversary in February and is not the first successful area restaurant for the trio, nor will it likely be the last. The three met when Kologian and Smittcamp, friends since childhood, found themselves looking at the same location as Shannon for their first restaurant ventures. Having all agreed that the place of interest would work well, they realized that they should be working together. The things they had in common were uncanny. “We’re all from the Valley,” says Shannon. “We’re all exactly the same age. We graduated the same year. My dad was a butcher. They come from farming families. It was natural to do a farm-to-table restaurant.”

Their first venture together, however, was Butterfish California Poke, which now has three locations in Fresno. Two more restaurants are in development, including a Mediterranean-concept and high-end Mexican featuring seafood.

Shannon, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City and worked for five years at a few Thomas Keller restaurants, says he was excited to return to his hometown. “I always wanted to come back and bring some new stuff to the culinary scene,” he says. “It’s a great place to be a business owner here. You can support your family and have a good business”. Shannon and his wife have two sons, ages 6 and 8, who enjoy helping out when they can.

Whether ordering from the Heirloom Eats app to get food to go, or dining in to enjoy the light and airy open-kitchen ambiance, the restaurant’s owners hope the community will connect to the Central Valley through its abundance of food offerings. While Shannon is proud of the whole menu, he does admit to being partial to something. “I like everything to come off that wood grill,” he says.” •

Heirloom Eats • 8398 N. Fresno St., Fresno
(559) 228-9735 •
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 Melissa Mendonca is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.