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New café cooks up healthy food in Wex

Mitch Andrews / Lantern photographer

The Wexner Center for the Arts welcomed its newest eatery on Sept. 12, a café offering healthy breakfast and lunch items made with local and organic ingredients.

Husband and wife, John and Kimberly Skaggs cooked up the idea for Heirloom Café, an organic restaurant with seasonal menu options, a few years ago, and when the opportunity to open a restaurant in the Wexner Center presented itself, they jumped at the chance.

Menu items range from $1.50 to $13. The menu will vary seasonally, offering salads, sandwiches and snacks. The breakfast menu will be served all day and features burritos, quiches and egg sandwiches. The menu also features vegetarian and vegan options.

Students, faculty, as well as the public can enjoy the Heirloom menu, which also serves local Stauf’s coffee, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Heirloom’s opening brought a bigger crowd than the owners expected. One employee, Justin Gardner, has worked there since the opening, said the fist couple of weeks have been a positive experience.

“I love it and I’m not just saying that. Everybody is so friendly,” Gardner said. “We get all the Wexner Center employees who are awesome. The food is amazing so that’s a great benefit.”

The effort put into making all of the food original and organic might be why the food is so tasty, but sometimes organic food comes at a cost to the customer. John Skaggs said this is not the case at at Heirloom. Even though organic ingredients tend to be pricier than non-organic, John Skaggs is not concerned about students on a budget being able to enjoy the menu.

“We determined that we could reduce some of the cost of organic by buying directly from the grower or producer, whether it’s me picking up ingredients at farmer’s markets or I have relationships with some farmers, so I’m able to get some preferred pricing,” John Skaggs said.

Depending on your level of hunger, the menu offers a large variety of options. If you’re looking for something small on the way to class, you can try their homemade granola. If you’ve got time to sit down, John Skaggs recommends the Gila Monster sandwich, a meatloaf sandwich with a southwestern kick.

Combined, the Skaggses have more than 50 years experience in the restaurant business and they took their know-how, some family recipes and influence from John Skaggs’s upbringing in Arizona and created a menu that they feel is a good fit for the Wexner Center.

“The Wexner Center has been interested, especially within the last few years, with all things ‘eco.’ We have a program thread surrounding environmental issues and access to healthy food,” said Karen Simonian, director of media and public relations at the Wexner Center.

The name Heirloom has a double meaning to John Skaggs. First, the word “heirloom” refers to a specific type of vegetable. It also refers to things passed down from previous generations.

“It’s my grandmother canning honey or just having a really great cinnamon roll or chocolate chip recipe that’s kept alive through verbal tradition. It’s a connection. And as a chef, it’s important to pass these on,” John Skaggs said.

The Skaggses are so committed to freshness that at some point in the future, they would like to cultivate a small garden somewhere on campus where they can grow their own ingredients to be used in their dishes, making them as fresh as possible.

“[The Skaggses] are very passionate about this concept and they really have a vision for the Wexner Center. They’re really excited to experiment in the kitchen and the Wexner Center supports innovation in all ways,” Simonian said.

The Wexner Center offers a farmer’s market every Thursday afternoon from May 5 until Oct. 27 in which local farmers bring fresh produce, meat, dairy and breads to sell to the public on the plaza.

Heirloom is not the Skaggses’ first business venture in the culinary world. They also own a catering company called My Catered Table in which they make and deliver heat-and-serve meals to customers’ homes. John Skaggs was also head chef at another restaurant focusing on organic and local ingredients, The Northstar Café in the Short North.

The university meal plan swipes will not be accepted at Heirloom but BuckID is accepted.

Heirloom has replaced Abbondanza, whose owners decided not to apply to renew their contract.

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