Editor’s note, 11am Oct. 4: Updated to include press release. Chef Lenny Russo’s Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar, for years a local standard bearer for the ideals of farm-to-table dining, is closing this December. Rick Nelson’s write-up has the details, but much of the story seems to be a combination of rising real estate prices and falling diner interest in white tablecloth spots with all the whistles and bells. We’ve covered Heartland on many occasions, including the release of the restaurant’s cookbook, an exploration of the restaurant’s ambitious meat program, and a cartoon visit from Louie the Loon.
Press release from Heartland:
On October 24, 2016, Heartland will be celebrating fourteen years since we first opened our doors in a little, nondescript storefront on St. Clair Avenue in Saint Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. Over the years, Heartland grew from a tiny fifty seat restaurant occupying no more than 2,700 square feet to what it is today, a multi-faceted facility spread out across 26,000 square feet in the über hip Lowertown neighborhood of downtown Saint Paul, a neighborhood that we are proud to say we helped revitalize when we relocated there in 2010.
On December 31, 2016, Heartland will be serving its guests for the last time. The real estate that is home to the restaurant has been sold to a private investor, and so we must say goodbye after many wonderful and rewarding years.
When we began our journey in 2002, we were at the forefront of the burgeoning local and sustainable food movement. At that time, we were hopeful that our restaurant would help establish a standard for principles related to wholesome and healthful eating as well as encouraging support for small local family farms who practice humane and sustainable agriculture. We were extremely successful in that endeavor, and we are pleased to say that today many, if not most people in our industry, have adopted those principles. In that way, we feel that we have achieved our goal of bringing these issues into the light of day, and we are very proud of what we were able to accomplish over the last fourteen years. After six James Beard Award nominations, the publication of a cookbook trumpeting our local and regional foods and travels that have allowed us to bring our message across the country as well as across the ocean to our friends in Europe, we are ready to take on new challenges and forge a fresh path toward a more healthy food system and planet.
We are making this announcement now in order to give our many long time patrons and friends a chance to visit us, as well as to allow those who are currently holding Heartland gift certificates ample opportunity to redeem them, before we turn out the lights on New Year’s Eve.
As we head into our busiest season of the year, Heartland has numerous private events already booked and reservations are becoming more and more difficult to obtain. We encourage those who are interested in joining us to book their reservations as soon as possible, especially those who would like to join us on New Year’s Eve for our last dinner service, and we will do our best to accommodate all those seeking a place at the Heartland table.
Those who will be joining us should not expect to see any immediate changes to our menu format, but we will be gradually moving toward a fixed menu as opposed to our daily changing menu as we get closer to our last evening of operation.
We would be remiss if we did not take a moment to express how very thankful we are for all of the love and support we have received from the community, our farmers and suppliers, our peers and the media as well as the hard work and diligence of our staff over the last fourteen years. We would not have been able to do any of this without the benefit of that kindness and generosity.
While it is not without some sadness that we must turn the page on Heartland, we are looking forward to the next chapter in our lives and to what new challenges and opportunities await us.
Lenny Russo, Heartland