Food Network: Say it ain’t so, Rosie’s Cafe

Restaurant makeover specialist Robert Irvine takes Rosie's owner Kaitlyn Rose outside to discuss some pressing diner business on Season 14 Episide 1 of Restaurant Impossible that aired April 20, 2019 on The Food Network/Twitter

After three years off the air, Restaurant Impossible returned to the Food Network Saturday, April 20 with a somewhat problematic visit to Rosie’s Cafe on Grand Avenue at Escondido.

Food Network Gossip also covered restaurant makeover guru Robert Irvine’s highly eventful visit, but when the smoke from the kitchen cleared, with all due respect to owner Kaitlyn Rose, 32, and her enthusiastic foray into the restaurant biz, results were decidedly mixed.

“Rosie’s Cafe has a lot of reviews for the restaurant despite the Restaurant Impossible makeover happening only about three months ago,” Food Network Gossip said. “The reviews for the food are mixed, but people have compliments for the atmosphere and service.  It looks like Rosie’s Cafe has kept the recommendations from Irvine about the menu and the food prices, but some regular items may be back on the menu again.”

Rosie’s occupies the same iconic Grand Avenue location next to Andy’s Barber Shop — and a hearty shout-out to my favorite barber Andy Granger and dear old Blackjack, the parrot– that once featured the classic Champion’s Restaurant. Champion’s owner Annette Champion wanted another diner to take the space following her retirement and chose Kaitlyn Rose, an enthusiastic young New Jersey transplant to Oceanside for the next act.

Yes, this took place at Rosie’s as Irvine took his trusty sledgehammer to what once was Rosie’s counter.

All who dare, can watch the Rosie’s episode, officially Season 14 Episode 1 On Demand on the Food Network. Watching it, I felt great sympathy for the Rosie’s crew, including Rose’s boyfriend, a metal worker or something who Irvine trained to be the lead cook or something. Wanting to be positive, I also value the truth, and it seems the place is not going to be to everyone’s liking.

My major takeaway was wishing I had visited the diner before the $10,000 makeover. Turns out nobody was minding the store books, according to Irvine, so customers actually got a great meal deal. Ingredients used to make many meals cost more than the restaurant charged for the meal. If I had known that at the time, I would have been beating down the doors to get me some.

However, meals themselves left a lot to be desired pre-makeover. Irvine ravaged the menu in the time-honored food makeover maven way pioneered by Chef Gordon Ramsey. Dangerous food, great pricing– good times.

Another pressing question never explained on the episode was if Rose and her boyfriend/cook weren’t following costs and financials, who the heck was?

Spoiler alert at this point, Irvine and crew made over the entire diner interior, seemingly cleaned up its act. Considering the theme of the show involves the good news of turning around a failing eatery — a point sledgehammered home throughout the 45 minute run-time of the big, as Ed Sullivan would say, shoe — all was well in the end.

Or was it? It’s just that after all the bad news setting up the good news, it’s tough to buy it.

 

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Bit of backstory

Rosie’s transformation into new Rosie’s ended Friday, Jan. 11, following three days of Chef(?) Irvine’s makeovers. He spent one day getting the lay of the land, then put his crew to work for 36 hours before the cafe re-opened.

Rosie’s Cafe opened in December 2016. Rose was an Oceanside resident formerly attached to French Bakery Cafe, a well-known bakery and fancy American comfort food spot off East Vista Way in Vista.

The 117 W. Grand Avenue location had been owned and operated as a restaurant since at least the early 1920s. Hoffman’s Pharmacy was across the street. JC Penney was down the block.

“It started out as a cafe known as the ‘Chat ’n’ Chew,’ then changed hands and names several times before it was taken over in the 1970s by Ted and Violet McCain, who introduced Ted’s grandfather’s signature cinnamon rolls to his customers,” according to Pam Kragen in the San Diego Union Tribune.

Enter Oscar and Eva Champion, who turned it into Champion’s Family Restaurant..

Champion’s old menu read like a trip down memory lane with page after page — 28 pages in all — of historic photos and references mixed with food choices and history.

“There have been millions of cups of coffee served at 117 Grand Avenue for the past ninety years,” the menu, with page after page of food choices and historical photos, said. “First called the ‘Chat-o-Chow,’ the lunch counter served as the center of the city gossip and small town politics from 1923, when Escondido’s population was 1,734 residents, to 1948.

Currently critiqued

As for reviews, as previously noted they were mixed. Food Network Gossip provided the good and the bad, following the ugly of the episode aired.

Chef(?) Irvine explains his menu suggestions to Kaitlyn Rose/Twitter

Positive Reviews:

  • “Rosie’s just came off their #restaurantimpossible redo, and the food, as much as it ever was, is fantastic. The new decor with the Rosie’s matriarch now up on the wall in a very cool mural is perfect. Now this is the quintessential cafe. I had the build your own omelette option so I was able to get my old favorite comfort breakfast with a new twist on the salsa, which by the way Jason was delicious.”
  • “We just went in for the re opening. The food was amazing. The owner seemed very attentive and friendly she came herself to check on us multiple times…. The food was really really good you know like comfort food that just sticks to you just warm and full of flavor. We will definitely be back often.”
  • “Had a great experience at Rosie’s the other day. They were more than happy to accommodate our large group of 17 people. The staff was very friendly, we even got hellos and goodbyes from the kitchen staff.They got our food out quickly, and everything was right on point. I definitely recommend the chocolate chip pancakes, probably the best I’ve ever had. They won’t tell us why they have that orange color, but I don’t care, they were delicious. “
  • “Wow!! So delicious I have lived in Escondido forever and have never been here. So excited for the new ownership and they have done a wonderful job remodeling but did not compromise on the food. We went for breakfast and it was yummy.”
  • “Service, decor, and food 100% upgrade. A must go to for a classic weekend bfast! In the past the food was decent and the service was fair. The new makeover and new recruits are making the entire experience from good to great!”

Negative Reviews:

  • “The food took a long time and half of it was cold. Not sure what the problem was this morning. The food wasn’t anything special, especially for the price. The temperature inside was also on the chilly side”
  • “My husband, sister and brother in law had breakfast Saturday and we won’t be going back. I ordered pancakes and when the waitress bought it out the color was orange and very thin. When I asked the waitress what was in these pancakes, she went to the kitchen and she was told bu the cook it was a secret. My sister ordered gravy which tasted and smelled burnt. My husband had at Rosie’s several times and likes their corn beef has, which he said was different. I don’t know if there was a different cook, but it wasn’t up to par.”
  • “The tables were sticky and the biscuits and gravy tasted too much like flour. I think it’s great that they had a Food Network Makeover, but the food won’t bring us back. Too bad too. We love to visit breakfast diners.”
  • “What a shame. We were excited about the FoodTV reboot. But apparently they focused their attention on the decor and not the menu. The new menu is a mess. What is it supposed to be? Farm to table? Nope. Comfort food? Nope. Americana? Nope. Just a weird and random assortment of items…The waitress was also completely unconvinced by the menu. We asked what was good, and she just shrugged. I asked if they still had the oversized cinnamon buns. She said yes, but that they weren’t any good anymore. She implied it was only a matter of time before they went back to the old menu.”

Other News and Links:

  • The Restaurant Impossible makeover happened in January 2019.
  • Here is the Rosie’s Cafe website and Facebook Page.  Here is a link to the menu from their website.
  • Rosie’s Cafe has a 4 out of 5 star average on Yelp and Tripadvisor, so the reviews were pretty good before the Restaurant Impossiblemakeover too.  Rosie’s also has a 4.3 out of 5 star average on Google.
  • Rosie’s Cafe has Restaurant.com gift certificates available for sale. (Link)

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