Heartland Cafe Closes After 4 Decades in Rogers Park

The iconic Rogers Park restaurant closed its doors on New Year's Eve, but it may not be the end

Heartland Cafe, an iconic restaurant and music venue in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood known for its culture and history as much as its mostly vegetarian menu, closed its doors on New Year's Eve after more than four decades.

"It’s clearly a place on the corner, but a lot of people have a lot of memories and I think it’s been a solid force of strength for the neighborhood," said longtime customer Trudy Langendorf. "There’s an identity connected to the neighborhood, and it sustained a lot of regulars."

Heartland Cafe's current owner sold the 100-plus-year-old building, citing expensive upkeep and inefficiencies in the current restaurant climate.

"It’s been a challenge taking over a Chicago institution, an iconic neighborhod place, but an incredible honor," Tom Rosenfeld said. "I’m just happy that I’ve taken it this far and we’ll see where it goes next."

For 42 years, Heartland Cafe has been considered a hub for culture, politics and music.

"It’s the center of Rogers Park," resident Leeann Lodder said. "It’s really sad to see it go."

"It’s always been a place that actually represented community to me," Langendorf said. 

The community included celebrities too. President Obama, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey are just a few of the long list of famous faces who visited Heartland.

"We saw Pete Best, one of the Beatles," said Ken Frankfother. "We came late and they put us right next to the stage."

Rosenfeld took over from the original owners, Michael James and Katy Hogan, in 2012, determined to maintain their mission of "good, wholesome food for the mind and body."

"The idea was you come here for intellectual stimulation, community, for good wholesome food, which of course was the first thing that brings everyone together," he said.

It's a sentiment still shared by customers today.

"This is a restaurant that has made statements about what they believe in," Langendorf said, "and I like being able to come to a place where i share similar thoughts."

Monday was Heartland’s last in business.

Rosenfeld said he does want to reopen and is looking for a new space in Rogers Park.

But not just any space. He wants a building with character, where they’ll still be able to host discussion, music and operate a restaurant.

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