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St. Paul restaurant that led the farm-to-table scene is closing

Heartland Restaurant and Wine Bar in St. Paul is closing after 14 years. They were a leader in the farm-to-table scene in the Twin Cities.
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A restaurant that was a leader in the farm-to-table movement in Minnesota is closing.

In a heartfelt letter on its website, Heartland Restaurant and Wine Bar in St. Paul said it will celebrate 14 years of business this month, but at the end of December, they will be serving guests for the last time.

According to the post, Heartland is closing because the property has been sold to a private investor, with chef and co-owner Lenny Russo telling the Star Tribune they are not being forced to sell.

"The restaurant is closing because we’re done, and we want to do other things. I’m 58. I don’t have any peers my age. They’re all much younger than me. It’s time," Russo told the paper.

The announcement on the restaurant's website invites long-time guests and those with gift certificates to come and dine before they turn out the lights on New Year's Eve.

They were a pioneer in Minnesota's farm-to-table scene

Russo and his wife Mega Hoehn opened Heartland in 2002 as a small restaurant in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, the website says, before later relocating to the Lowertown neighborhood in downtown St. Paul, an area Heartland's owners say they are proud to have helped bring back to life.

They focused on local, fresh ingredients with a menu that changed daily based on what they had in stock – an idea that would later become a movement throughout the country, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

Under this philosophy, Heartland went on to earn many awards like "Best New Restaurant" in 2003, "Best Restaurant" multiple years, and other awards for their wine and organic and sustainable food.

And chef Russo has been nominated for six James Beard awards, among many other titles, and his work has inspired other local chefs like Chef Alan Bergo of St. Paul’s Salt Cellar, WCCO said.

Russo also recently wrote his first cookbook called “Heartland: Farm-Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest,” the Pioneer Press said. Profits from the book will be donated to St. Paul’s Urban Roots, an organization that offers food and environmental programs to local youth.

People have been thanking Heartland for their impact on Minnesota's food scene on Twitter, saying they're sad to see it go.

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