Let's start by clearing up what the newly reopened Rosebud is now. It's a diner car where, yes, you can order slices of homemade pie a la mode or meatloaf in the form of the unapologetically, unappealingly named "BBQ Baconater Meatloaf Fatty" ($15.95). And your server might be donning a grease-monkey get-up, a nod to the Rosebud's past, to go with thick-rimmed glasses, a severe blunt-bang cut, and tattoo-sleeves.
Don't let that any of that confuse you. The new Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar is a full-fledged restaurant, one that offers a level of food and service that might surprise you. The cocktail program includes the expertly made Rosebud Manhattan ($11). The kitchen uses a smoker, whose signature smolder touches everything from the beetnick cocktail ($11) with beets and rye (think mezcal on steroids) to chicken wings ($9.95) with a shatteringly crisp, salty-sweet skin, and slices of char siu floating in the "BBQ 'It's not a ramen' Pork Noodle soup" ($12.95). It might not be ramen, but it's pretty darn good, with a tangle of thin wheat noodles, a soft-boiled egg, and that smoky pork, in a rich, meaty broth.
Pork stars in many dishes on chef John Delpha's menu. The classic club car in the heart of Davis Square had been turning out omelets and patty melts since 1941, until it shuttered last spring. It's a sign of the times that the reincarnation would come in the form of a hipper, pricier concept rolled out by Joe Cassinelli's Alpine Restaurant Group, which is behind neighboring Painted Burro, and Pizzeria Posto.
Sometimes pork appears in a supporting role like ooh mami kale ($9.95) which, true to its name, is a take on Southern greens — deeply savory dashi broth spiked with apple cider vinegar and teeming with tender braised kale, topped with pork cracklins. Dry-fried green beans ($9.95) taste like top-notch Sichuan green beans without the numbing buzz. The beans are mixed with smoked pork shoulder, pickled sour mustard greens, and a touch of sesame oil.
In other dishes the pig takes the lead: Asian BBQ Hog Head ($36.95) is a large, shareable, make-your-own sandwich platter with mini slider buns, Korean barbeque sauce, kimchi, and a creamy version of sriracha. Beneath the leathery (beautifully lacquered, but inedibly chewy) skin, you'll find groan-worthy pulled pork in those smoky, fatty jowls.
Sandwiches are reliably tasty, if not standouts. Chicken fried catfish ($12.95) is golden and crispy, topped with Swiss cheese and Green Goddess dressing on a sesame seed roll. Texas Rachael in a skirt ($13.95) is a behemoth of a sandwich piled high with (slightly under seasoned) smoked brisket, smothered with barbecue onions, horseradish sauce, and a creamy slaw on rye. It could use some pickles and mustard to punch through that fat. Sides of creamy cheddar grits ($4) and macaroni and cheese ($5) are decadent and delicious. We couldn't resist adding an order of fried green tomatoes ($11.95), which are topped with a delectable heap of New Orleans-style Crab Louie, of which one could easily make a meal.
This is a place to go all in. But save room for dessert. With a rotating pie program ($6 a slice), flavors change monthly. Classic apple pie hits the spot with a cinnamon-spiced filling, though the crust is a little tough. Pumpkin pie is served warm, which seems odd. Chocolate icebox cake manages to be light, creamy, and intensely rich and chocolate-y all at once.
Many Somervillians were sad to see the shuttering of Rosebud Diner. It's understandable to mourn the loss of a good greasy spoon, but settle into a plush leather booth at the new Rosebud, sip a delicious strong cocktail, and dig into Delpha's eclectic, inventive, and well-executed take on roadhouse food.
Catherine Smart can be reached at email@example.com.