Heartland CafeRogers Park | Website
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The Heartland Cafe is a unique institution -- restaurant, nightclub, casual community center, newsstand and general store. The menu is full of flavorful selections for non-carnivores but is not exclusively vegetarian -- and the substantial desserts and egg-laden breakfast entrees could hardly be called "heart healthy." The decor is comfortably rustic; the ambience loud and happy, with lots of friends, neighborhood regulars and families conversing over the CD sound system. In warm months, the front sidewalk is a popular gathering and dining place; the trellis is brightened with little lights. Indoors, the first (and last) thing diners see is the "general store" located near the front cash register. The stock indicates that the owners take an active interest in social issues. "We tend to carry a lot of Central American clothes, and some of the periodicals could be called 'liberal,' maybe even 'left wing,'" says head cashier Jerry Smith. "The books deal with real topics -- sociological issues such as race problems, the environment and women's rights -- rather than fiction." The dining room also serves as an art showcase, featuring changing displays by local artists.