If you ask someone where they can grab a cup coffee in town, you’re likely to hear the name Starbucks. Some however, may be lucky enough to hear the recommendation of Heritage House Coffee and Tea. In a town full of young, ever-changing residents without Tuscaloosa roots, it is no surprise that only the true town natives are aware of Heritage House as the first coffee shop on the block. Originating in June of 1994, Heritage House started with humble beginnings. As the years have passed, the shop has gone through various owners and now thrives twenty-one years later in a new 4000-square-foot space located at 700 Towncenter, Northport.
Current owner Rebekah Wanstall has owned the shop for nine and a half years. Under her leadership Heritage House has gone from a few packaged pastries to delectable breakfast and lunch. “Everything we have is made from fresh ingredients and made from scratch. We don’t use processed food. Our food doesn’t come in on truck frozen, and everything is made to order,” says Wanstall.
The shop moved last fall from its long-standing location in Essex Square Shopping Center to its current Towncenter home in the former Alabama Outdoors space. Upon entering the business on a cold Monday afternoon, I was taken away by the shop’s balance of feeling both cozy and spacious at the same time. The main area was dimly lit with a majority of the lighting coming from the service area. Shabby chic furniture with tables accommodating large groups and intimate parties of 2 were filled with college students, businessmen, and twinkle-eyed ladies having a good laugh and conversation. Looking to my left I noticed the large brightly lit side room attributed to the abundance of windows and accented with a large fireplace in front of a couch.
I scanned the overhead menu with amazement of the 40+ varieties of coffee beans. I made my way to the food menu and opted for a chicken salad sandwich with a cup of the featured soup of the day. As I waited on my food, I admired the various gifts and trinkets for sale. I also noticed a prayer wall adjacent to a private conference room filled with young people absorbed in conversation and textbooks.
My meal was promptly brought by the barista on an eclectic mix of fine china. The chicken salad sandwich came on a croissant that was close to perfection. Buttery and warm, the bread provided the ideal platform for an obviously made from scratch chicken salad filled with grapes while still boasting simplicity. My vegetable soup was warm, hearty and housed in a teacup.
When I think about this lunch experience, I am pleased with the satisfying portions I was provided. However, my highest praise can be paid to the atmosphere of Heritage House. Though packed with people, I found myself in a calm and collected state of mind while enjoying my lunch. I have often found myself frantic, anxious, and irritated when traditionally out to lunch on a Monday. It is true that there’s something to be said for a good cup of coffee, but there’s also something to be said for a great place for lunch.
Hours of operation, menus, and special events information can be found at Tweet us @ThePlanetWeekly and let us know where you are eating or drinking!

Sheena Gregg, MS, RDN,LD is a registered dietitian and local “Filipino foodie.” Follow her on Twitter @AFilipinoFoodie.

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