6 Things to Know About Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar

This Davis Square diner serves chic but quirky comfort food
November 5, 2014
by Scott Kearnan

We recently updated our list of 25 New Restaurants to Try, but now it's time for a deeper dive into one of the recently opened highlights: Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar, a totally new concept inside one of Davis Square's most historic old haunts. Before you dig in, here's what to know. 

It's part of a Davis Square mini-empire. Owner Joe Cassinelli has scored a hat trick. The restaurateur is the man behind two other Davis Square restaurants. First came Posto, an accessibly-upscale Italian that was, until recently, the only place in Massachusetts to get Neapolitan pizza that is certified as authentic. (By the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, which evaluates such things. Now you can also get them at Pastoral.) Then came The Painted Burro, a creative Mexican Kitchen. Now its neighbor Rosebud adds a notch of American fare to Cassinelli's widening belt. Just as he elevated the pizzeria concept of Posto and taqueria vibe of Painted Burro, Cassinelli put an urbane sheen on Rosebud's diner identity. This isn't your grandpa's lunch cart. 

Chef-driven comfort food prevails. Chef John Delpha has designed a pan-American menu that veers toward creative, classed-up but playful takes on the type of hearty grub you'd grab during a road trip on Route 66. Exhibit A: the excellently named BBQ Baconator Meatloaf Fatty ($15.95, pictured), two bacon-wrapped patties of smoked ground beef, cut exceptionally thick.  (We're all about that bass.) It's topped with a poblano-onion gravy and accompanied by luscious mashed potatoes. There are also some slight International nods, as with the dry fried green beans ($9.95). Often used in Sichuan cuisine, dry frying cooks the long legumes in hot oil, sans batter. It gets them nice and crispy and concentrates the flavor; Delpha serves the dish with smoked pork shoulder, pickled sour mustard greens, and sesame, for an extra Eastern-inflected lilt. 

There's a BBQ king in the house. Delpha has an impressive history with high-end restaurants. He was the opening sous chef at the perennially glitzy Mistral, and later held exec chef roles at Harvest and Sorellina. But he's also a barbecue guru, trotting across the country to compete with iQue, an award-snatching six-chef barbecue team that also includes Hell's Kitchen alum Andy Husbands of Tremont 647. (Fast fact: iQue was the first New England team to win the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational BBQ in Lynchburg, Tennessee.) The 'cue-inspired dishes at Rosebud include the Atomic BT's ($9.95): bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with smoked pork and cream cheese, lightly tossed in a spicy buffalo-style sauce. (The "BTs" stands for - wait for it! - "buffalo turds.") Delpha has trotted these out often on the competition circuit, and for good, delicious reason. 

The bar serves some history. Yes, there are classic cocktails on the menu, like the Sidecar. There are four barrel-aged cocktails, including the 38-day aged Vida, a mix of Del Maguey mezcal, Punt e Mes, and PF orange curacao. But the bar, presided over by Merchant alum Ian Strickland, even incorporates history into its creative, contemporary libations. The Cuckoo's Nest, a vodka and amaro-based tincture, is named for a Mexican restaurant that once inhabited the space. And the Lunch Car #773, a breezy combo of gin, lemon and lavender, nods to the actual model number of the diner car in which you sit. The car originally arrived in Davis Square in 1941, and the landmark location was actually added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 1999. 

That diner car looks pretty different. The space was gutted and totally redone, honoring the original aesthetics while taking a glossy new approach. The space is divided into two areas: the front facade, the car, which boasts the kind of cherry red booths you'd expect in a diner - but in tufted leather, not tattered vinyl. It's attached to a rear dining room is lined with white bricks on a glistening accent wall and lots of rough-hewn woods, particularly by the bar, where locals cozy up in barrel-backed stools to sip from 18 draft lines. This sleek new interior is the work of Sousa Architects, the same firm behind Boston restaurants like Temazcal and The Gallows. (Keep your eyes peeled for a pie counter stocked with take-away versions of desserts like the Blue Crumble, $6/slice and $32/whole.) 

Brunch has arrived. Over the weekend Rosebud launched brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 AM-3 PM. Check out the full menu below, which includes highlights like "smothered diner fries," a pulled chicken omelet with feta, olives and kale, and boozy tinctures like the bourbon-based Kentucky Iced Coffee. 

Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar - Brunch

davis square