Healthy options at Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park

February 17, 2010 10:16:54 AM PST
Following the indulgences that come with Valentine's Day, Fat Tuesday and the Chinese New Year, ABC7's Hungry Hound thinks eating vegetables isn't a bad idea.

Between the paczkis and the Chinese food and the sweets for Valentine's Day, not to mention the gumbo and po-boys from Fat Tuesday, it's time we all hit the collective "reset" button. Vegetarians and vegans have a lot more options these days- and one legendary spot in Rogers Park has been proving there's plenty of appeal in a healthier meal.

Healthier eating has always been the mantra, rather than some kind of marketing term at the crunchy-yet-cozy Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park. For more than 30 years, hummus and brown rice have been part of the fabric of this well-worn neighborhood institution.

"I never used the term 'health food' or 'vegetarian'. We certainly cater to that, but we call it good wholesome food for the mind and body," said Michael James, owner of the Heartland Café.

Naturally, there's a hummus platter here- but also a macro plate, featuring steamed kale and brown rice. A rich mushroom gravy is ladled over the top of the rice, then comes beans, seaweed and gomashio - a kind of Japanese sesame seed. Veggie chili is thick and hearty, made somewhat richer with the addition of cheese. The Heartland Salad Supreme contains all sorts of veggie-friendly ingredients: from colorful peppers and sprouts to avocados and raisins; yet another way to keep the diet in check.

"There is certainly a lot of discussion in the national press and in the country about obesity and people eating a healthier diet. On the other hand there are many more restaurants that serve a vegetarian option," said James.

It's not all vegetarian here, of course. A lean 'n beefy buffalo burger arrives on a wheat bun with jack cheese and grilled onions while a "three scoop" salad keeps it interesting - yet light - with a trio of guacamole, hummus and tuna aided by some soft pita wedges.

"We've always mixed it up. We wanted to be a place that if you wanted to eat really clean, you could do that. If you wanted to bring your friends, your parents who were meat eaters, we would have something for them too," James said.

The Heartland also makes an assortment of healthy juice and veggie smoothies and they also offer delivery.

Heartland Café
7000 N. Glenwood