West Seattle restaurants: Heartland Café’s new owners announced

After a few months on the market, the Heartland Café and Benbow Room in The Admiral District have new (and also local!) owners: West Seattleites Allison and Ian Hill. Here’s the announcement from Jay Wergin, who opened the Heartland four years ago (March 2010 WSB photo at right):

After a memorable four years serving Midwest-inspired comfort food to the people of West Seattle’s Admiral District, the owners of the Heartland Café announce that we have sold the business to new owners Allison and Ian Hill, effective in April, 2014.

We are grateful for the community’s support over the past four years and thank everyone who took the time to stop in and patronize our business. I’m thrilled that we had the opportunity to resurrect the Benbow Room bar and launch a family-friendly café in the Admiral District. As longtime residents of the area, we knew our neighborhood needed an establishment like the Heartland. It took us almost an entire year, back in 2009, to breathe new life into a building that had been abandoned and neglected for five years.

We felt strongly about resurrecting the Benbow Room (originally the Admiral Benbow Inn), one of West Seattle’s historical institutions. We were also aware, once Bank of America took over the old Admiral Café space, that West Seattle needed a good, all-American breakfast joint.

We met some challenges as we worked hard to please a diverse clientele in West Seattle and made many changes along the way – some for better and some for worse. We enjoyed sharing our business with the now defunct Shipwreck (even when people had a hard time distinguishing between the two bars).

During our tenure as owners, we hosted hundreds of local and touring bands, a multitude of birthdays, local meetings, celebrations and pirate-themed parties. We saw tears in the eyes of old timers, and even Seafair Pirates, when they walked into the Benbow Room to share their stories. It wasn’t uncommon to get visits from third-generation West Seattleites whose grandparents, parents and kids had shared memories here.

New owners, Allison and Ian Hill will take over in April, carry on the business and keep our neighborhood vibrant. Please join them in support of this charming location and keep the spirit of West Seattle alive.

As for us? Co-owner Jeff Loren is off to Alaska, cooking on various service vessels and fishing boats. I am working on my web marketing degree and plan to return to the corporate world I left behind back in 2008.

Please stop by and say hello to the staff and my lovely wife Jenny. Wish them the best as the bar and café change hands. Let us know if you have any last requests to bring back a favorite menu item or a drink that you miss. We plan to have a final blowout celebration the last weekend of business and would love to toast you one last time.

We’re awaiting a reply to our inquiry about whether that’s next weekend or beyond.

13 Replies to "West Seattle restaurants: Heartland Café's new owners announced"

  • let them swim March 22, 2014 (11:01 am)

    @Congrats to the new owners.
    Please bring back Friday/Sat. nite
    Prime Rib. The Benbow’s was the best.
    You’ll get alot of old timers but, we
    need to eat too.lol.

  • raybro March 22, 2014 (11:51 am)

    Please bring back the pork tenderloin sandwich.

  • Al March 22, 2014 (12:26 pm)

    Congrates! Jen and Jay and family!

  • HelperMonkey March 22, 2014 (12:32 pm)

    Congrats Alison and Ian! Love you guys!!!

  • MWME March 22, 2014 (1:08 pm)

    Heartland cafe in Rogers Park was a mellow big deal in Chicagoland, a city loaded with hundreds of amazing eateries. Hope Heartland’s new owners still channel some of that good north-side Chi-town vibe to this big small town on the friggin’ left coast.

  • Mel March 22, 2014 (6:02 pm)

    The Heartland suffered from that double-whammy: underwhelming food and mediocre service.

    I’ve frequented pretty much every breakfast spot in West Seattle, and Heartland was low on my list. I don’t know if they had a hard time finding cooks and servers who could do the job well, but it seemed like there were ongoing quality issues.

    The Benbow Room makes for an awesome “hipster dive bar” if the drink prices are low and the pours are decent, but the restaurant definitely needs a strong guiding hand. Here’s hoping that the new owners can make it a place I’ll want to return to.

  • Ace20604 March 22, 2014 (8:34 pm)

    I’m glad to see that this West Seattle landmark is being cared for. It’s wonderful that the new owners are part of our local community. They are bringing tons of experience with them. I see good things in the future for this location. Congratulations!

  • SteveP March 22, 2014 (8:54 pm)

    Congratulations, I cant wait for you guys to make this a great place! This iconic bar of WS will be a great place to hang out. GO FISH!

  • evergreen March 22, 2014 (11:26 pm)

    Please keep the comfort food, but change the lighting! The lightbulbs were so stark and uninviting, and I think changing those would dramatically improve the atmosphere. It needs a warmer glow.

  • West Seattle Wanderer March 23, 2014 (1:06 am)

    Though it may not be true to the heartland, vegetarian options would have gotten us in the door at least once to try it out.

  • Roger March 24, 2014 (8:24 am)

    Please keep the fried chicken dinner! It’s the best in WS!

  • Gary March 24, 2014 (10:28 am)

    @WSW – they had many vegetarian options! as a vege myself, I enjoyed the Field Roast biscuits & gravy, omelets, a great Field Roast veggie burger just to name a few. I loved that they use FR, a local company, rather than some Morningstar Farms processed crap. And in response to another poster, I thought the food was good, and the service great! The wait staff was the perfect combo of sweet & surly. I’m truly bummed about this, hope the new owners keep what was good about this joint, and don’t make a lot of changes.

  • John March 24, 2014 (1:39 pm)

    Will we see a Seahawks flag now?

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