Heartland Cafe | Roger's Park, Chicago

With a new owner and menu, the Heartland Café is back on its feet

New managing partner Tom Rosenfeld isn't kidding when he describes the Rogers Park mainstay Heartland Café as "a pretty complex animal."

Yes, he notes, "it involves politics and community and arts," but it's a place that also prides itself on dishing out vegetarian classics as well as meatloaf and buffalo chili.

Rosenfeld recently joined the thirty-plus-year-old restaurant to clear up financial and management setbacks, bring in a new chef, revamp the menu and renovate the dining room. And, maybe more importantly, Rosenfeld owns Earth First Farms in Michigan, so he comes to Heartland with a farmer's perspective.

"Vegetarian food in the past was a focus on what you weren't eating," Rosenfeld explains. "Now we're focusing on all the great things you can eat."

That means more fresh vegetables, quinoa and kale, as well as a few staples (that meatloaf is still great). The faux Mexican food is gone; eat your fill of buttermilk-fried chicken, buffalo burgers and maple-glazed tofu instead.

The food isn't fancy–the fish we tried was downright forgettable–but for a hearty meal that you can feel good about eating, Heartland Café satisfies.

And, some other things haven't changed. There are still open-mic nights, protest music blares from the stereo, and you can still get herbal teas and political 'zines in the gift shop (as well as Rosenfeld's Earth First Farms apple cider.)

Rosenfeld laughs, "It's still an unapologetically lefty place."