When Heirloom opened in 2015, some wondered if Lewes could support a fine-dining, farm-to-table concept.
The town rolls up the streets by 10 p.m., even in summer, and Rehoboth Beach had claimed culinary bragging rights.
Not only did Heirloom prove them wrong, but Meghan Lee’s restaurant remains fresh and inventive. Clearly, customers haven’t suffered from a seven-year itch.
And if you’re looking for a restaurant that will impress out-of-town guests this holiday season, Heirloom checks all the boxes.
A dream realized
The Lewes restaurant on Savannah Road is in a white Victorian built in 1899. However, the elegant façade did not shape Lee’s concept, which incorporates vintage china and botanical prints.
The Chadds Ford-area native had dreamed of owning a restaurant since she was 22, after starting her career in her teens, and she’d created her business plan years before buying the house.
The University of Lynchburg graduate cut her teeth working at Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square and later moved to Talula’s Table in Philadelphia, where she was the opening manager.
She also spent time in Nantucket establishments.
Her heart, however, was in Lewes, where she’d summered as a child. Rehoboth was never an option for Heirloom, and despite the Victorian’s poor condition, she knew it was the right site.
Making a house a home
The house at Savannah Road and Third Street was built for dentist J.B. Robinson from a catalog design, but it’s hard now to imagine it as anything but Heirloom.
After Lee settled on the property in December 2014, workers added a kitchen and expanded the front for restrooms. They left the Victorian woodwork—and charm—intact.
The entrance hall gives guests a peek at the nest of dining rooms beyond, including the front dining room’s angled fireplace. The bar is tucked into a room that opens into the foyer and a back dining room. Throughout the space, hardwood floors gleam.
In warm weather, many guests sit outside on the brick patio overlooking the Zwaanendael Museum, a view that firmly places you in the state’s first town.
But it was 7:45 p.m. when we arrived, and the back dining room was fine for our table of four.
A season of flavor
Heirloom has always switched the menu with the seasons; autumn was evident during our visit.
For instance, a blushing rectangle of steak tartare ($22)—studded with cornichons and shallots—rested on a drizzle of maple gastrique. It was dressed with bacon fat-Dijon dressing and served with house-made rippled potato chips.
House-made Fifer Orchards pear butter was the platform for Kennett Square mushroom toast ($17), a pistachio-and-mushroom pâté topped with a mound of late summer herbs and ringlets of pickled shallots.
Kennett Square oyster mushrooms and parsnips roasted with rosemary and maple made a cushy bed for New Jersey tilefish ($39). The meaty cut had sweet, delicate flesh and crispy skin, and the orange roe in the savory crème anglaise provided a salty pop.
Juicy organic Lancaster chicken ($37) also wore a crisped skin, and slices were stacked like a teepee over Fifer Orchard brussels sprouts, carrot gnocchi, spiced crispy carrots and a swirl of Fifer Orchard snapdragon apple butter.
Delaware’s Fifer Orchard also provided the sweet potatoes and sprouts that came with the pan-seared Hudson Valley duck breast ($39), a composed dish that sported a pumpkin puree from Magee Farms.
For the sweet finish: a small chocolate bundt cake ($13) with a lacey Castle Valley Mills oatmeal cookie, cinnamon-dusted whipped cream, and dark chocolate and yogurt crémeux dollops.
Heirloom bread for Thanksgiving
Heirloom’s dining rooms lend themselves to intimate events for groups. For a private experience, there is a farm table in a separate room with a view of the kitchen.
The restaurant has never been about takeout—not even during the early days of the pandemic.
The plates have too many components for that.
But for Thanksgiving, Lee is selling loaves of the restaurant’s famous bread with house-made butter or Fifer Orchard apple butter. Call 302-313-4065.
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