I live right behind the Heartland, and am there a LOT - even though the food is, indeed, bland and pricey. But my biggest complaint has always been the sloooooooooow service. I'm really keeping my hopes up that this new partner can help solve some of the problems without causing new ones. Ideally, the food quality will improve, service will speed up and prices WON'T go through the roof. And I really hope they don't change the tenor/ambiance of the place. I like the old hippie. lefty feel of the joint. We don't need another snooty, pricey, upscale, trendy "bistro" - there are plenty of those in Lincoln Park, Andersonville, Gold Coast, etc. etc.
Mike AllLocal Stand Up Comic and avid Roger Park Lover!
I am excited about this announcement but I will wait for the reviews to come in before giving my hard earned money to them. The service and food has been so bad for so long that I am kind of gun shy. That being said I hope they turn things around because I love concept.
Let's hope it will be better than the new, improved, revamped, grandly reopened Aqua - same old same old. High quality, organic produce has to be matched with similar service, variety, value and menu items. Fingers are crossed.
My favorite thing there is the stuffed quesadilla. It is stuffed with cheese, black beans, and avacado. There have a scoop of chunky brown rice in the middle and also sour cream and salsa. Two people can share it if you eat like I do.
This place is AWFUL. Has been for years.. BUT!!! If this is the same Chef from Cafe Voltaire on Clark St. in the 90's and he brings back his nachos, Caesar salad, and milkshakes, I'll be all over that. I MISS that stuff, it was so good. If that is the Chef, I'll give Heartland a chance. And ditch the hippie stuff. This is 2012.. move on. Also, make sure the place smells less and looks clean more.
Agree with everyone else. My wife and I are really health conscious and Heartland was one of the few places we could go and find quinoa, brown rice and veggie options but the high prices and bland taste pushed us away. Really hope this turns things around as I would love to start patronizing them again.
Great place but for me what unfortunately keeps me away is chemical sensitivity. When washing up for a meal or after wards, entering the men's bathroom leaves me with a tongue sensitivity and tingling not to mention a cherry-pink flavor from just breathing the ambient air shared with the chemical-laden urinal blocks that lasts for hours. These paradichlorabenzene blocks are so out of date. There are now plant based products available. I spend my 2x-3x per week dinner budget elsewhere. A lesser issue is I'm looking for food prepared w/o canola oil (eggs fried on butter, baked potato, no sprayed oil on my veggies).
Hope they are reading this tread and taking note. Its not like people WANT them to fail. I think everyone would love a kick-arse restaurant on Lunt with cool outdoor seating. People are just asking (and have been asking for a long time) for Heartland to get with the times. I believe there was a fundraiser some years ago asking for $50K to stay in business. I commented then as I am doing now, innovate or die. It doesn't mean that you are bad people, it not personal. It means your food sucks, you're cleanliness leave much to be desired, and it smells funky. You're out of date and out of touch and I pray god that you are about to turn this around and that the Chef IS that guy from Voltaire and that you fix the smells, the creatures, the quality, and the ambiance because if you've got those nachos and salad going on, I promise you, I'll be there almost everyday and anyone else I can drag. No more "dirty" hippie!
It seems like this is a restaurant that already has a ton of people truly wanting it to succeed and knowing exactly what needs to get done for them to become regulars. I do hope they read this and embrace change, I've never seen so many people want to collectively support a business. Your market is right here Heartland Cafe, do what Pillars did and observe and listen to your market. It could mean lots of business on a regular basis :)
@Helen With "do what Pillars did" I mean listen to the people speaking up. Pillars has a whole different vibe to it but its very clean and the food has been good so far from what I have had there, service is faster and no rodents walking around and especially that chemical smell that Chester was referring to. I didn't mean (nor say) to actually "turn into Pillars" we want variety in our hood of course, but we do want them all to have clean, timely service with decent quality food. THAT'S what I was thinking ;)
Very exciting development! In spite of some challenges (and, yes, they've had challenges), I really like Heartland. I hope to see their quirky-alternative vibe on that corner for a long time, and am looking forward to some improved menu options.
Keep the "hippie" lefty vibe (I have a "hippie", lefty vibe myself!); let go the dirt & smells. I've always found the food hit-or-miss, but the quesadillas that Christine mentioned & most of the breakfast foods (my favorite meal) are pretty good.
I'm really looking forward to this. I've been going to Heartland since it opened, before a lot of our Rogers Park residents were born, and have seen it grow. This is the next phase of that growth. Keep it alive; keep it vibrant.
Love, love, love the Heartland, but yes, have experienced most of the above. IMHO, the main key to running a smooth and efficient kitchen is an expediter. A great chef is paramount, so are great servers, but when things get busy it's the presence of an expediter that makes or breaks good service and food in a restaurant. Without a reputation of good service and food, a restaurant can't thrive. Lately, understanding their struggles through these tough times, people, like me, have had low expectations of the Heartland. It's like they've been on this long extended forgiving hall pass, because we love them so much. Is that, however, what any owner really wants? Of course not, they have tried and tried, but when the economy sucks this badly, it's been hard just to keep the doors open. It's must be a huge relief for her to get a partner. Very happy! Now the place can get the help she's wanted for it. Mostly, Katy deserves kudos' for never giving up!
I really REALLY really hope this new chef comes in and turns things around. I have always loved the "vibe" of the Heartland but the food, the cleanliness and particularly the service have kept me away for years. One would hope that the new partner will read through the Yelp reviews and institute some changes...
Kim BrownWriter, Activist, Rogers Park native since 1999
I love the Heartland Cafe. My favorite things are not the food though as a vegan, I love that there are many delicious options for me there. The Heartland is important as a community landmark. They have wonderful political events, music, the radio show, poetry readings and the staff are very friendly and welcoming.
I am so happy they survived their financial crisis and have welcomed a new partner with some exciting changes ahead. I look forward to seeing an updated menu which I hope will draw more people in.
I've lived in the RP for four years and have never been to the Heartland because a friend in the beverages biz has a colleague that serviced the Heartland, and they reported that the kitchen was roachy and nasty. Online searches revealed lots of really disgusting health-code violations. I hope the new ownership/chef cleans things up, because this would be a great place to go. if only they would stop serving buffalo...*sigh.*
Maybe. But the Heartland had a consistent pattern of filthiness. I was also at a fair where the owner had a stand and was selling food. he was eating something, licking his fingers, and handing food. There seemed to be a lack of basic hygiene sensibility. As for the buffalo.... I don't eat critter, but thanks.
Tomorrow, I am going to Heartland to experience Presidential Debate #1 in a communal setting rather than to become involved in any media event. I have not been to Heartland for years and years. I will look forward to having some food with eyes more open not only to taste but cleanliness, service, and price.
For me, a personal debate about Heartland will also be taking place.
Yeah, if it gets its act together it has such potential to be a great neighborhood spot. I might be going to the debate-viewing as well. Oh, FYI, I've met Tom, the new co-partner -- he runs his own consulting form as well, and he's a pretty smart business man. I'm optimistic he'll do a good job getting things turned around.
Reflections: my dining experience of Heartland Cafe, last night while viewing Presidential Debate #1 projected on a big screen in main dining area. 1 - Large crowd no excuse for slow server service. Was quickly directed to share a table. Throughout evening, hostess a proven veteran. 2 - Ordered only steamed vegetables over rice. 3 - By the time I finally received my order fresh, colorful vegetables, done to a perfect consistency were cold; rice, barely warm. 4 - $8, serving size small. Dish area included stainless steel container with a tasty dressing. Without the dressing, I would not have found the rice in combination with the vegetables as flavorful as I have tasted elsewhere. 5 - My empty plate was quickly cleared while I was not looking. Again, no server interaction as to my opinion or desire to further order. Not presented with bill. 6 - After the debates, I stayed for many but not all of the announcements. Noticed my server busy at the cashier's counter. Line forming. To her credit she immediately recalled my order; left to write-up my bill. Quickly returned but line longer. 7 - Processing payments needs overhauled. Patrons generously patient. Cashier burdened clarifying bills, apparently not complete and accurate. Question why someone didn't move through line to determine bills ready for processing. 8 - Informed cashier my cash included a $2 tip for debates having been made available; otherwise would have refrained from leaving a tip. 9 - Can't comment re restroom facilities due to long wait at cashier's. 10 - When first seated, I at times experienced a faint smell which struck me as perhaps coming the floor having been mopped with a smelly mop. Tile floor looked clean: neither smeared nor dirty. Sorry, but that was my impression of the smell. 11 - Best wishes but won't frequent Heartland.
$8 for rice and vegetables? That sounds like a $3 side dish. $10 with tip. You should stick with rice and veggies from Morse Market and stay home. 'Sounds like The Heartland is still the same. Thanks for the review.
This is disappointing. We should and could have great food venues in RP but many seem to consistently miss the mark. Aqua has reincarnated three time or so and still fails. The blazing success has been Pillars. Good food, excellent service, very fair price point and a pleasant place to gather, eat, greet and meet.
The simple idea of change at Heartland seems to have a lot of people excited yet only if that change takes place overnight, ironic when placed in the context of many things Rogers Park - the Howard streetscaping, opening of Sol coffee shop, implementation of PB projects, Mayne Stage, etc. Most things take time, be patient.
Mike AllLocal Stand Up Comic and avid Roger Park Lover!
@ The Bishops I agree with you but there are certain things like good customer service and cleanliness that do need that amount of time. Finding the right chef and a good general manager are tough but training your staff to be clean and friendly is pretty basic.
Hi Bishops : unlike streetscaping, you don't need to draw up plans, hire contractors, and file a permit with the city to sanitize your kitchen,change a menu, or hire good staff. I've worked in food service. Among other things, I worked in a fast-food restaurant while in college, and we closed it every night. We had strict controls on food and sanitation, and when we left, the place was always spotless. It was not hard. A professional chef should know how to prepare good food. I share other people's frustration at the lack of good restaurants in the RP (other than the enless line of Mexican places on Clark). We have a great demographic for it, and if someone opened a really good neighborhood restaurant, it would be a license to print money. I also love Pillars -- we need more like that.
The article linked in this post quotes the new manager saying "We're close to rolling out a new menu." and that it would be a "couple of weeks" away (said August 10th). So, he was the one who indicated that a new menu would be live by September. This is why I'm curious if they've already made the changes.