A Restaurant with Room to Grow

Heirloom Thrives And Flourishes Inside Archie’s Gardenland

Photography by Meda Kessler

(left)Chef Joshua Donovan visits the greenhouse for herbs. (right)The menu changes monthly; brunch/lunch items might include a bacon-and-egg sandwich on a toasted croissant.
The kitchen on wheels sits on an elevated patio in Archie’s Gardenland

Shaded by old-growth trees, Heirloom Garden Cafe, an advanced breed of food truck, is surrounded by neat rows of potted shrubs, ornamental grasses, and seasonal flowers at Archie’s Gardenland, a 90-year-old family-owned nursery in west Fort Worth.

Custom built in San Antonio and situated on an elevated patio, it sports a smoker to one side and a service counter built with recycled cement breeze blocks near its entrance. Bright yellow cafe tables and chairs oer seating for about 40; to-go meals also are an option. e setup stands out from all the surrounding natural beauty and yet blends in nicely. Fans cool diners in warm weather; an adjacent greenhouse offers overow seating and a climate-controlled option when it’s cold or rainy.

Opened in March 2023, Heirloom has gained a following with both longtime customers at Archie’s and visitors seeking a unique experience. e menu changes monthly with the signature Heirloom & Motz as a mainstay—an inviting plate of toasted sourdough and housemade mozzarella topped with pesto, a balsamic glaze, and pumpkin seeds alongside seasonal fruit. Entrees have included a burger, shrimp with grits, chorizo gravy biscuits, breakfast tacos, and more. A sandwich or soup and a dessert usually round out the offerings, too.

(clockwise from upper left)Steak and eggs with a veggie hash; Toasted zucchini bread with blackberry compound butter and candied pecans; The nursery’s expansive greenhouse is also used as a climate-controlled dining room and can be configured for special events; Randall Archie, left, owner of Archie’s Gardenland, and Kevin Martinez, executive chef at Tokyo Cafe and Heirloom

Heirloom started with a conversation between Randall Archie, the nursery’s fourth-generation owner, and Kevin Martinez, executive chef at nearby Tokyo Cafe, another family-owned business. Archie brought up the idea of opening a small dining venue at the nursery. Intrigued, Martinez took the proposal to Tokyo Cafe owners Jarry and Mary Ho. Deliberate and careful planning characterize all involved. So, many meetings and dinners later—along with a few trips to similar concepts—new friendships and a new partnership was born: the plan for a breakfast/ brunch/lunch trailer began to take shape.

Archie, who admits he loves to eat, had tried to create a rotating schedule of food trucks at the business on weekends. “It turned out to be too time-consuming to find dependable vendors that our customers could count on,” he says.

Investing in something more permanent made sense, business-wise, and the Tokyo Cafe team agreed. For the menu, Martinez prioritizes simple dishes that take advantage of seasonal produce (the nursery also sells a wide variety of herbs and other edibles). Gina Archie, Randall’s wife, is a vegetarian, and is thrilled with the plant-based options. Heirloom works to be sustainable by using speckled enamel plates and metal utensils instead of paper and plastic. While Martinez remains heavily involved in Heirloom, he hired Joshua Donovan as the restaurant’s chef.

Donovan honed his love of unfussy food and simple ingredients at Ashten’s Restaurant & Bar in Southern Pines, South Carolina. During the pandemic, he used his free time to learn “anything about everything” and to work on culinary technique and skills. For him, Heirloom is a chance to use those skills.

(left)Prep work in the compact trailer kitchen includes everything from prepping produce to baking bread.
(left)Chef Donovan, center, with staffers Aiden Donovan, right, his oldest son, and Christopher Taylor, left, who previously worked at a garden nursery in Denton and loves to cook.

“We make our pickles, mozzarella, tortillas, and most of our condiments. I can walk out into the herb area and pick what I need,” says Donovan. “Randall, his family and the employees at Archie’s have been so supportive and encouraging.”

Donovan and Martinez go over each menu, perfecting items and honing presentation. “I like the challenges Kevin gives me along with his honesty,” Donovan says. “He’s happy to share the spotlight and his own vast knowledge of cooking and food that’s uncomplicated but uses quality ingredients.”

Donovan has also cultivated a symbiotic relationship with customers who bring him excess bounty from their gardens. “I love using their tomatoes to make a salsa or zucchini for a soup for Heirloom and giving them some to take home and enjoy.”

Heirloom’s popularity continues to grow with the addition of evening events such as the Greenhouse Gatherings, chef-inspired BYOB dinners with multi-course tasting menus. A Valentine’s Day dinner featured a giveaway of potted dianthus for each couple. The inspirational decor included containers of colorful seasonal flowers, a preview of the spring planting season. “We are also catering off-site events,” says Donovan. “People are seeking us out for our food and that’s exciting.”

Heirloom Garden Cafe inside Archie’s Gardenland
6700 Z Boaz Place, Fort Worth
FB & IG: @heirloomfw

+ posts

Meda Kessler is edible Dallas Forth Worth's art director, layout designer, and more.