The Wexner Center for the Arts is known for its art, music and film exhibitions, but don’t be surprised to see a line forming for something a bit more mouthwatering.
Opened in 2011 in the basement of the Wexner Center, owners Kimberly and John Skaggs created Heirloom Café with the vision perfectly stated on their website — “to provide tasty, healthful, and seasonal food that tells a story.”
The cafe has attracted Wexner Center patrons, but also Ohio State faculty, students, and people all over Columbus.
With signature dishes all made with ingredients sourced locally and made from scratch, Heirloom’s loyal following recently led to the opening of a Grab and Go option to cater to customers who don’t want to wait in line.
Grab and Go dishes include a turkey cheddar sandwich, an edamame-hummus wrap, Greek salad and yogurt with granola and fruit.
The restaurant scene was not new to Kimberly and John Skaggs. John had worked in various restaurants as a chef, including Northstar Cafe, and Kimberly had mostly worked as a front-of-the-house manager for various establishments. However, when the opportunity arose to open a cafe at Ohio State, John and Kimberly did not throw away opportunity.
“We happened to be at the right place at the right time and we had the skill set when it became available and so since we have always been in the [restaurant] business throughout the years, we always say, if we ever had our place we would do this or that, so we always had these ideas,” Kimberly said.
The location of Heirloom at the basement of the Wexner Center was offered to the Skaggs through an Ohio State bid system in early July 2011. But the couple only had about 30 days to come up with a restaurant concept and be open to the public.
“There was already kitchen equipment here and there was a shell of a restaurant in a sense, we didn’t have to start from square one, but we did have to design and do a lot of our own branding,” Kimberly said.
Although the price point of Heirloom is a bit higher compared to other eateries on campus, it hasn’t stopped customers from coming in. Over the years, Heirloom has become a distinct spot on campus that offers farm-to-table options at any time of the day.
For example, at breakfast, one can find an egg sandwich made on homemade sourdough bread. At lunch there’s a seasonal tomato salad, with tomatoes only from Ohio or even from Kimberly and John’s home garden –– only available in the summer. On the dinner menu is a coconut plate, made from Ohio free-range chicken and organic tofu, with a homemade coconut lemongrass sauce topped with almond apricot brown rice and fresh vegetables.
“I think there are a lot of different options, if you want to eat something healthier, you can get a salad that is really simple and that has good protein or if you’re feeling like you want to pig out you can get mac and cheese, you have a lot of variety in the menu but everything is whole ingredients, it’s not going to be full of preservatives,” said Jillian Wagenbrenner, a third-year in art history and an Heirloom barista and server.