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Re: “The Heartland in Crisis

I've been a resident of Rogers Park for more than a decade. The very first weekend I moved into my tiny studio apartment on Columbia next to the lake, I had breakfast at the Heartland Cafe. I loved the politically charged grass roots atmosphere, historic photographs and knick-knacks from the 60's and the 70's, the off beat vegetarian friendly menu and the eccentric waitstaff.

As the years went buy, friends started to buy in trendier areas, in more accessible parts of the city and having fallen in love with Rogers Park, I stayed and bought here.

I love Rogers Park. For all its flaws and shortcomings, its diversity, its vibrance, its grass roots history, its proximity to the lake. Hell, I even love the crazies wondering the streets and crowding under the el stop underpasses. And the Heartland Cafe, along with Michael James and Kathy Hogan are an ingrained part of our community. I for one am grateful that they staked a claim in a rough part of the city and built something that has served as a community outpost for two generations.

However, the fact remains and as Ms. Isaacs points out, the Heartland Cafe is a for profit business. For more than a decade I'm watched the Heartland Cafe spiral into a shoddily run enterprise. The food is profoundly overpriced - great, it's organic and socially responsible. I appreciate that, I truly do, however as a for profit business you are subject to the wills of the marketplace and it would appear that the increased price for these socially responsible food is not something most people easily swallow. Granted, I wish it was but the fact remains that it is not.

I haven't been to the heartland in 6 months. Why? Because if I'm going to spend $30 on breakfast, the quality of the food better be well worth it. And I am one of those people that would gladly pay more for socially conscious, organically raised food WHEN it's prepared well and when it's good quality. The Heartland has failed miserably at this for quite some time. Expensive, ill-prepared, poor quality food that often takes far, far, far too long to arrive.

Beyond the quality of the food, the waitstaff has become increasingly despondent and erratic. I get it, I love the charm of aspring artists, creative types, actors, poets, etc. I commend them for the courage they have to follow their passion. But once again, as the Heartland is a for-profit business, I expect a certain level of customer service. This once again has been lacking in recent years.

Mr. James & Ms. Hogan, the last time I ate at your restaurant, I waited for 45 minutes for 2 eggs, toast and bacon. It was 11:00 am on a Thursday morning. There were two waitstaff and perhaps 6 customers in the restaurant.

High prices, poor quality food, waitstaff that just don't give a shit and these recent issues with the city regarding sanitation. These were enough to send me away for a while.

So where do I go now? Like another commenter said, I make my way to Evanston. Lucky Platter is a great bet. $23 breakfast for two, pleasant waitstaff, quick service, good quality food. Blind Faith is another great option. This from someone who adores Rogers Park. It literally hurts me to have to get into my car on a Saturday morning and drive to another city for breakfast because I have no decent options in my community.

What did you think would happen? And I have to add my disgust at Mr. James' quote on not knowing how banks work. 30+ years in retail business and you don't know what overdraft fees are? Absurd.

As a for profit business in a market driven economy you have responsibilities to your customers. You've neglected those responsibilities for quite some time and let your business and your brand degrade. Now you have the gall to ask for a bailout?

I'm sorry to say this, but I'm happy to see you go. Perhaps we'll get some new owners, with a bit more business sense and less of a sense of entitlement in your place.

Good riddance, and we truly are sorry to see you go. Wish things could have been different but in the end, you only have yourself to blame.

3 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by chicagoanalog on 10/07/2010 at 7:10 PM

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