Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar is an historic diner in the Somerville area of Massachusetts, although while the exterior remains mostly the same as when it was founded as the Rosebud Diner in 1941, the interior of the car was gutted and renovated by the current owner in 2013. The result is a sort of modernized nostalgia that carries over to their menu, which offers contemporary takes on staple diner foods.
Diners were originally horse-drawn wagons until the Worcester Lunch Car Company created the first patented diners in 1906. Their diners shared several traits including a barrel roof design, porcelain panels, and gothic, hand-painted lettering of the name of the diner. The Worcester Lunch Car Company built car #773 for Charles Peveloris, who opened it as the Rosebud Diner. It was named after the Rosebud sled in Citizen Kane, which premiered the same year the diner opened.
In 1958 the Rosebud was purchased by the Nichols family, who ran it for 55 years, with the exception of 1989-1994, when it was a Tex-Mex restaurant called Cuckoo’s Nest. The owners defaulted on the mortgage to the Nichols family, who reclaimed it and operated it as an upscale diner once again. The back area was operated by different businesses including an Italian restaurant, a night club, and a bar and grill. By the time the Nichols family decided to sell it in 2013, it was one of seven remaining Worcester Lunch Car Company semistreamliner diners left in the United States.
The new owner, Martin Bloom, is the founder of Vinny Testa’s Italian restaurant chain. Bloom kept the exterior largely intact, but when compared to photos of the diner during the period that it was owned by the Nichols, few recognizable interior features remain. The stainless steel poles, bar, stools, light fixtures, and original seating are all gone. Even the floor tiles have been replaced. In their place are modern red seats that hint at authenticity while not convincingly replicating it.
It’s hard not to be disappointed by the new look despite the fact that it is a very nicely decorated and designed spot; it is entirely unobjectionable and actually quite nice if you don’t consider the fact that its current incarnation erased the interior of a site on the National Register of Historic Places. It probably doesn’t matter much to younger clients who have no idea what it used to look like – it’s quite a popular spot on evenings/weekends and can be hard to get a seat – but if you’re looking for the actual historical diner the outside is as close as you’ll get. The food is fine – the chicken and waffles were delicious, and the bar serves some great cocktails including boozy milkshakes and pickle brine shots. It just seems like a tremendous missed opportunity to give the old diner a new life and allow people to enjoy the historic aspect of the location while eating some great contemporary food.
Matthew Christopher MA Somerville Apr 26, 2022 Diners Nostalgia Reviews