The Rosebud, the famous train car diner, has been part of the Davis Square scene in Somerville for a very long time. So long, in fact, that it’s on the National Historic Register. That meant a few hiccups along the way for Alpine Restaurant Group, which took over the space and renovated it (they also run Posto and Painted Burro). It reopened last week as Rosebud American Kitchen and Bar. “We wanted to put a neighborhood restaurant in Davis Square,” says chef John Delpha. He answered a few questions about the challenges involved in renovating such an old building while maintaining a bit of a Rosebud feel.
How different does it look now?
You walk into the restaurant, it’s this very rustic, beautiful industrial sort of lighting, and then when you go to the diner car, it’s all black and red and shiny silver table edges, and a black ceiling. It’s a really cool look.
So it’s almost like two different dining experiences.
You get two different vibes. The food is the same in both places. You’re just looking at different stuff. We’ve had a lot of people request to be in the diner car.
Did you find anything weird while you were renovating?
You mean like, 150 phone lines for certain operations?
There were 150 phone lines hooked up?
There might have been. I probably shouldn’t talk about it. I think there was something shady going on around here.
Were there challenges along the way renovating the place?
It all came together, but you know, you got this guy who shows up one day, and if he doesn’t show up the next day, then the guy that’s supposed to do the thing after him can’t do the stuff he’s supposed to do, so now you’re delayed another three days. And those three days add into weeks. Somebody comes with the wrong set of stairs, and is like, well, I can’t be back here for another ten days. You’re at the mercy of these people, you know?
Did someone really show up with the wrong set of stairs?
That would be a challenge.
It was a bit of a sore subject.
How did you decide what you wanted the food to be?
When we first kind of conceptualized what we wanted to do with the Rosebud, we sort of called it the Rosebud Roadhouse. And immediately when we put something like that up, people were just making Patrick Swayze jokes. And we were like, OK, this has to change.
You didn’t want to embrace the Patrick Swayze side of things?
No, we didn’t want to do that. I don’t have enough hair to do that.
Do you have a signature item yet?
I haven’t named anything a signature item. There have been a couple things that have been wildly more popular than some others. We have a sandwich that I call a Texas Rachel in a skirt. A Rachel is a reuben except that you use coleslaw. So instead of the pastrami, I do barbecue brisket. I smoke brisket. So we got rye bread, we cover that with cheese, put that on a flat top, let the cheese melt out over the edges so that forms a little skirt for the sandwich. Top that with barbecue brisket, barbecued onions, coleslaw, and some horseradish sauce, and that’s our reuben that’s actually a Rachel.
Follow Lisa Weidenfeld on Twitter at @LisaWeidenfeld.