For Gerry Coakley, the concept was simple: Open a restaurant to produce well-balanced meals with locally-grown ingredients that nearby residents could take home, heat up and enjoy with one another to recreate the old-fashioned family dinner.
But while simple, Coakley put a considerable amount of though into the concept before opening Heirloom Kitchen in Dedham last month.
"The point is to take it out, get it home and not to be here," Coakley told Dedham Patch. "The reality is we're all so busy with work, and kids, and school activities, we're being pulled in a million directions. My wife and I were feeling pulled, we both grew up in families of siting at the table, and we wanted to bring that to our kids as well. We never had any good options because we were always working late. We would come home and we'd want to eat with the kids and you only have time to do so much. We thought this was a great opportunity to do that. We feel like a lot of people have the same problems."
The Heirloom Story
Coakley, a Westwood native and now Boston resident, served as an attorney for more than a decade, but initially worked for a year in the kitchen of the Augustus Snow House in Harwitchport, where he worked under the guise of an executive chef who hailed form the Culinary Institute of America.
"He really brought me under his wing and taught me a lot about cuisine, cooking, all that stuff," Coakley said. "From there, I went into law school and became a lawyer."
Having followed in his father's footsteps as an attorney for about 11 years, Coakley said he couldn't ignore the itch to get back into the kitchen. That drive, along with a growing need and desire to feed his own family with healthy meals, eventually led to the idea for Heirloom Kitchen, which he runs with Sioux Chef Nick Bradley and Executive Chef Ed Hoffey, who previously worked as a chef at Lucca in Boston's Back Bay and Sel de la Terre in Natick.
"I approached [Ed] with the idea," Coakley said. "He and I started working on the design and the concept that was healthy and low-cost and could provide people an option they could use a few times a week."
The logo for the restaurant evokes the image of the classic heirloom tomato, Coakley said, but has a bit more meaning behind it.
"When I came up with the name, I wanted to have two meanings behind it," he said. "One is heirloom vegetables; the tomatoes are high-quality, they evoke the sense of organic, wholesome. Heirloom also has the sense of bridging generations, and I wanted to have those meanings come through."
What's on the Menu?
Vegetable soup, creamy parmesan pasta shells, quinoa cakes atop winter succotash and slow roasted Pistou chicken are just a few of the items on the Heirloom Kitchen menu.
Food cooked at the restaurant features ingredients from local farms and purveyors; Coakley and crew regularly work with Allandale Farms in Brookline, Eva's Garden in Dartmouth and Ward's Berry Farm in Sharon, among other local farms. The restaurant plans to be nut-free to accommodate dietary restrictions, with all foods clearly-labeled. The menu also features vegetarian and vegan options. Customers can even design their own custom meals with the Heirloom Kitchen staff to suit their dietary needs.
While only having been open for about a month, Coakley said the Wild Mushroom Tart – a dish of wild New England Mushrooms tucked into a house-made tart shell with cauliflower and Westfield goat cheese puree – is already a hot-menu item.
And yes, Heirloom has designed its menu with kids in mind as well.
"Sometimes it's hard to get kids to eat, so we created something like the Shepherd's Pie Cupcake," Coakley said. "It's where they think they're getting something fun but it's mashed potatoes and vegetables."
Heirloom's home base is located on Washington Street in Dedham, adjacent to the entrance of the Dedham Mall. The restaurant is designed as take-out, but offers kitchen-to-door delivery service to Dedham, Westwood, West Roxbury, Roslindale and other surrounding neighborhoods in the Boston area. Patrons can also order online, and are encouraged to do so a day ahead of their planned mealtime to give the staff time to prepare and cook the meals.
Taking the sustainable approach a step further, Heirloom Kitchen delivers and packages their food in containers made of biodegradable sugar cane.
"They can go right in the oven," Coakley said. "They're biodegradable for 150 days. You throw it in the trash and it turns into sugar."
In addition, the restaurant provides a gift-giving alternative offering the opportunity deliver fresh, home-cooked meals to friends, family members or others instead of other gifts.
A Little Something More
With the idea to cater to busy families, Coakley and Hoffey also sell a number of family-friendly games designed to be enjoyed at the dinner table. The idea is to have families bring the games home to make dinnertime fun, unique and enjoyable and to promptdiscussion, as opposed to battling the distractions of TVs, computers and smart phones.
"We struggled to sit down at the dinner table with our kids, and we found by getting little fun things to get their attention to the table, the kids had more of an incentive to sit at the table," Coakley said.
Around the corner from the take-out counter is a "retail area", shelves upon shelves lined with unique games that families can play while enjoying dinner, including unique sports-style placements to conversation-prompting games, to heirloom designed tee-shirts and hats.
To see the full menu and to order from the restaurant, visit the Heirloom Kitchen website, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @HeirloomBoston for updates and behind-the-scenes look at goings on and speciality menu items.