It’s the end of an era for James Beard Award-nominated Saint Paul, Minnesota-based restaurant Heartland, which will close its doors. After 14 years and six Beard nominations, chef Lenny Russo and his wife Mega Hoen have made the decision to shutter the restaurant and wine bar on December 31.
Russo shared the news via Facebook, where he said that the restaurant’s property has already been sold to a private investor:
The restaurant opened 2002 in a 2,700-square-foot storefront in Saint Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. Eventually, it moved to downtown Saint Paul, where it helped revitalize the local community. Today, Heartland occupies a 26,000-square-foot facility encompassing both a restaurant and an adjacent market/cafe, where most of the food is sourced from within a 300-mile radius.
As the restaurant has grown, so has its roster of awards. From 2008 to 2015, Russo was named a James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest (he was a finalist in that category from 2010 to 2015). In 2013, he was named to the U.S. State Department American Chef Corps, part of the State Department's Diplomatic Culinary Partnership. Earlier this year, he released a cookbook: Heartland: Farm Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest.
Earlier this year, Eater’s Bill Addison showcased Heartland as one of America’s Essential Restaurants, writing that chef Russo “has a singular gift for doling out bear hugs of direct, honest flavors in his cooking; his love of culinary Minnesota makes Heartland the neighborhood restaurant of dreams.”
Russo has specialized in farm-to-table dining before it was in vogue to do so and, in an interview with the StarTribune, he acknowledged that Heartland has made an impact on the culinary landscape. “The fact that people have adopted our principles, well, we wanted them to do that,” he told the paper. “If you’re not doing the stuff we were doing 14 years ago, at least to some extent, you’re not even in the game. So I think we had an impact in that regard.”
Russo added that the restaurant’s closure has nothing to do with “an increase in the minimum wage, or rising property taxes,” but because it is simply time to move on.
Fans are expressing their sadness over the news on social media. One Facebook user asked if Russo had any plans to re-open in a new location. “Thank you,” he replied, “but it is time for a new adventure.”
• Heartland Will Close on December 31 [EMPLS]
• Heartland, the Twin Cities' farm-to-table pioneer, is closing on Dec. 31 [Star-Tribune]