Where Around the World Meets Home - Heritage Eats
by Kathleen Reynolds
The motto of Heritage Eats restaurant in Napa’s Bel Aire Plaza is “Where Around the World Meets Home.” Owners Benedict Koenig IV and his wife, Ali, believe in the motto when it comes to serving customers at all their establishments.
“In 2014, I traveled to Israel, Thailand and India, which is when I conceived the idea of serving the food I’d enjoyed in each region,” says Koenig. “Both Ali and I have multicultural backgrounds and grew up with varied culinary traditions.”
Heritage Eats was so successful when it opened in 2015 that the pair soon decided to expand the business to Walnut Creek.a
“Once COVID hit,” says Koenig, “we temporarily, then permanently, closed the Walnut Creek store. We doubled down on Napa.”
When they realized the pandemic was long-term, they wanted to do more to serve the Napa community.
“We had to think creatively and develop business opportunities to grow. We purchased a food truck, came up with a chicken wings concept and developed a lobster company brand.
Now they have four different businesses: Heritage Eats, Best Food Truck Ever, Haven Napa, and, most recently, Napa Valley Lobster Co—all of which have catering options. Heritage @ Home offers meal kits Thursday through Sunday for folks to whip up Heritage Eats dishes in their own kitchens.
The Best Food Truck Ever offers breakfast, burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries. They can be found at the Napa Farmers Market and soon on Soscol Avenue. Haven Napa on Industrial Way specializes in chicken wings with a myriad of sauce options. Napa Valley Lobster can set up for six or 600 in a customer’s backyard with a full lobster boil—including all the vegetables, bibs, wipes and instructions or staff to cook for you. Each of the businesses have their own social media, work with DoorDash or Uber Eats, and take online orders.
“The restaurant was going well, even in COVID, because we had outdoor seating already set up to care for our customers. People want to get out of the house and have ‘normal experiences’ again.”
They brought on Charles Whittaker as their business partner and General Manager of the restaurant.
“Charles is the driving force of our culinary influence. The concept hasn’t changed, and we still have our original recipes in use. Our initial spear and spark remain.”
While they were unique when they opened six years ago, Whittaker says, “Now the rest of the food culture has caught up with us. Over time, Heritage Eats rounded out its menu, repackaged itself and now it’s part of our whole line.”
Koenig and Whittaker say that customer favorites are the Spicy Jerk Chicken Tacos, Lemongrass Pork Bao Buns and limited time offerings like the Papa K Burger.
Whittaker estimates that about 50% of the diners are loyal repeat customers. “We recognize the faces and know we don’t have to introduce the concept.”
Koenig agrees. “We’ve always wanted to be a ‘locals first’ place with a community-centered brand. We’ve worked with the Rotary, Little League and the school systems. On weekends and holidays, we may see unfamiliar faces, although many of those become repeat Heritage Eats customers returning when they next visit Napa.”
“We’re proud of how the business has sustained itself, especially after last year. I see kids now entering college who, when they first came in, weren’t even in high school. It also speaks volumes, I think, to be able to hire local people who’ve grown up with the community. We have one young woman who went from this being her first job to now managing our food truck.
“We’re part of their lives,” he continues. “Last year, everyone’s world ended. We were extremely nervous in those tense moments, but we have the strength of our team character. The community embraced and supported us. Here we are a year later and are optimistic and feeling gratitude to the community.”
In 2015, Heritage Eats was named Napa Chamber of Commerce Small Business Member of the Year. The following year, Zagat listed them as one the 10 Hottest Restaurants in Napa Valley. In 2020 Senator Bill Dodd recognized them as Small Business of the Year.
Koenig is humbled by the accolades.
“We have angels watching over us,” says Koenig. “Travis Stanley of the Napa Chamber has been a strong advocate. Linsey Gallagher, CEO of Visit Napa Valley, has been great. The Napa Register folks give us a platform when we have news to share.”
We at Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine wish Heritage Eats and its sister companies much longevity.
3824 Bel Aire Plaza, Napa | 707-226-3287 | Serving Napa daily, 11am-8pm | heritageeats.com
Best Food Truck Ever - bestfoodtruckever.co (not .com)
Haven Napa - havennapa.com (takeout & delivery only)
Napa Valley Lobster Co - napavalleylobsterco.com