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Al Paris going back to basics in Chestnut Hill

Heirloom, a BYOB, opens Dec. 16.

Al Paris has cooked all over this town - and at such wildly different restaurants: City Grille on City Avenue, Rococo on Chestnut Street, Oberon on Chestnut Street, Guru on South Street, Circa on Walnut Street, Zanzibar Blue at the Bellevue, Warmdaddy's on Front Street and later Columbus Boulevard.

Tells you two things. One, that he's got moves, shuttling easily among American, Southern and Asian cuisine. Two, that he's old. Not really - early 50s.

Next up: A project that smacks of something even older. He and Robert Bynum of Warmdaddy's are opening Heirloom, a 50-seat BYOB, in the trolley turnaround at the top of Chestnut Hill (8705 Germantown Ave., 215-242-2700; next to Thai Kuu) that many may remember as the old Roller's Market. Debut is up for Dec. 16.

Paris is taking things back to a pre-"locavore" and "farm to table" time, drawing on oldtime recipes and techniques (potting, smoking) for his hearty regional-American menu. When I stopped the other day, he was converting a 1930s spoonbread recipe to restaurant proportions.

The menu, which you'll find refreshingly free of goofy chef shorthand, is a work in progress. What is known in-house as "Version 11" and dated Dec. 8 is here.

The rough-hewn space is warmly lit, and seating includes a wooden communal table fashioned from an old butcher's block (with a vine-festooned reclaimed ladder hanging above). Paris himself set a distressed mirror set into a wall of Pennsylvania blue slate.

It's BYOB, but there's a State Store directly next door. Bynum said wine suggestions will be listed so you can step out to buy something to pair. People are being encouraged to bring their own bourbon to pair with housemade mixers, and Paris makes his own sarsaparilla, root beer and ginger ale.

It will serve dinner only, Tuesdays through Sundays. Sunday brunch will start in January.