Heritage Restaurant & Caviar Bar

Since overfishing began driving up prices of the most prized types of caviar – that is, roe sourced specifically from a few select sturgeon species – several decades ago, it has been viewed as an expensive luxury food available only to the rich and fabulous. It’s a stereotype that certainly still rings true, as the fishy specialty recently made waves as part of a $2,000 omelet at a Manhattan restaurant and was topped with 24-karat gold at the Oscars.

But at Heritage, a restaurant and caviar bar in Chicago, executive chef Guy Meikle gives caviar a makeover, ditching its grandeur in favor of a more casual experience and presenting it as an affordable food that guests can enjoy from brunch to dinner for as little as $10.

Adventures in Caviar

“I feel like everywhere you go, the caviar experience is held up on a pedestal,” says Meikle, who worked with caviar at a catering company and at a Michelin-starred French restaurant before opening Heritage. “You’ve got to pay hundreds of dollars and it’s this small, petite experience [where] you take a couple bites and you’re done. Or it’s part of the larger fine dining experience as part of a dish, and then you’re not really truly enjoying the essence of the caviar or the roe.”

Heritage’s relaxed approach to caviar is made possible by its diverse menu, which lets people “explore and have fun” instead of allowing the cost to create a barrier for those interested in trying it for the first time or having it again. Meikle notes that sustainable sourcing is an integral part of offering so many types of caviar and roe; in addition to more expensive caviar sourced from farm-raised fish imported from Germany, Uruguay, and China, the menu includes roe sourced from American sturgeon species like spoonbill in Tennessee and hackleback in Illinois.

“There’s an affordability scale when you move from roe all the way through caviar, and we have all of that available, so if people want to come in and spend $10 for a good, generous portion of roe, then they can do that,” Meikle says. “So our goal is kind of demystifying that by having all of those options available and then letting people choose their own adventure.”

The 15- or 30-gram portions of caviar are served chilled, presented on ice with platters of housemade rye bread, pickles, and butter, as well as potato chips, chives, capers, and other pairings.

“We always want people to try it first just by itself because the texture of the eggs when you pop them against the roof of your mouth is really the experience and the true way to taste the true nature of the caviar,” Meikle explains. “[Then] see how all the different garnishes affect the flavor. They might mask certain bitternesses; they might bring out other flavor qualities behind the caviar. Each caviar is going to have a different flavor profile depending on where it was raised and how it was raised. Learning about that aspect of it is what’s the most fun for everybody, including us.”

“[Caviar] shouldn’t just be for white tablecloths and fanciness. We want it to be part of your everyday life. Enjoy it any way you want.”

– Executive Chef Guy Meikle

With more than a dozen items, the diverse caviar bar menu can sometimes be intimidating to diners ordering caviar for the first time, so Heritage staff members are trained to help narrow it down.

“I think when first-timers are faced with the menu and there’s a lot of decision, it’s up to our staff to kind of say, ‘Pick a price point and pick the kind of experience you want to have. Do you want a lot? Do you want a little?’ And let us start to guide you.”

No Rules, Just Roe

Although Heritage staff is available to help guests decide which caviar they’d like to order, they’re encouraged to enjoy the caviar however they’d like.

“Our whole goal is to dispel that there’s any right way to do anything with food,” Meikle says. “It’s all about what makes you happy and giving you enough of a jumping-off point to just enjoy it.”

The only rule Meikle recommends following? Don’t use spoons made of reactive metals or stainless steel.

“We use bone or gold spoons,” Meikle says. “Stainless steel or silver can kind of oxidize the caviar in a funky way, so other than that, there’s really no wrong way to do it.”

Meikle says Heritage’s approach to caviar has helped translate the specialty food from an out-of-reach luxury into more relatable fare that diners are comfortable ordering at any meal.

“No one was more shocked – pleasantly shocked – that people got it right away and that we see a lot of people coming into the door,” Meikle says. “I think that’s the really enjoyable part is that it’s not just a one-time experience and then you never come back. People are truly making it part of their dining rotation.”

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English. Passionate about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and all things geeky, she spends her free time playing tabletop and video games, collecting beer caps from craft breweries around the country, and celebrating the Cubs' 2016 World Series win. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.

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