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Heartland Cafe
Fry, baby: our favorite dish at the revamped spot.

It’s hard to imagine Rogers Park without Heartland Café, the left-leaning restaurant-slash-community-center where vegetarian dishes outnumber the meat ones and Barack Obama once campaigned for a Senate seat.

The 38-year-old spot recently got a menu revamp, thanks to new chef Kim Gracen--formerly of the Chicago Diner in Lakeview--and the once Mexican-inspired offerings are now firmly in the comfort-food camp.

Gracen hasn’t hopped on the “farm-to-table” bandwagon--she says that’s impossible in Illinois, where there’s no locally grown produce in wintertime. Instead, her food is “sourced,” meaning she buys local when she can and puts a lot of thought into everything else.

We tried her crispy buttermilk fried chicken ($15, available after 3 p.m.), a menu addition that satisfied our home-cooking cravings and also speaks volumes to Gracen’s food philosophy. The tender poultry is organic, zero-antibiotics FreeBird, and the “veggie mash” on the side has more nutrients than plain mashed potatoes. It’s topped with a homemade turkey gravy that made us blissfully nostalgic for the family meals of yore.

On your way out the door, stop by Heartland’s retail shop and grab a jug of cider from Michigan’s Earth First Farms--the pure, sweet juice had our heart from sip number one.

Heartland Café, 7000 N. Glenwood Ave.; 773-465-8005 or

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