Heartland Café closes after 40 years in Rogers Park

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Heartland Cafe closes after 40 years
The Rogers Park restaurant closed Monday after 40 years in business.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After more than forty years in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, The Heartland Cafe served up its final meals Monday.

Its original owners opened the restaurant across from the L tracks on the corner of Glenwood and Lunt in 1976 with the idea of changing the world through food.

"It started as revolutionary, mind-boggling idea of vegetarian-based cuisine, there was always a little meat so everyone can eat," said owner Tom Rosenfeld.

Shifting the focus to locally organic based food, Rosenfeld bought the Heartland Cafe and the 100 year old building it inhabited six years ago. But the upkeep costs were too much, and Rosenfeld sold the building.

Today, longtime customers came back for one last visit before the restaurant and shop closed at this location for good.

"It's quite unique, I don't know any other place that offers the same ambiance," said customer Bob Sellinger.

"It's sad for everyone, because it's been here for so long," said customer Kathy Markbreit. "I started coming here in the 70s, when this was breakthrough new technology. This was grounding breaking."

But Heartland Cafe was much more than just food.

"It was always a safe space for community, conversation, both intellectual, political artistic, it was really a cultural anchor of the neighborhood," Rosenfeld said.

The café served as an anchor for progressive politics. The late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington was a regular, and the café was a launching pad for Barack Obama's Senate campaign.

Rosenfeld said he hopes to reopen at a different location, but he hasn't found one yet.

"Hopefully we'll have something to celebrate as opposed to something to look back on," Sellinger said.