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Posted on: March 1, 2014

Just this time last year Mod B heard that one of her fave diners from when she lived in Mass was closing. The Rosebud Diner in Somerville MA. Well now a year later, she’s closed, she’s gutted and Mod B is sad that yet another classic diner has been taken from us.

Rosebud Diner Davis Square Somerville MA - Exterior


I remember my very first glimpse of the Rosebud – it was in the early 90s and had yet to be preserved, a place for day drinks and dodgy folks. By the time I moved to the area a few years later the diner had been cleaned  and retro-d up a bit with pink neon matching the glowing logo hovering over the shiny black diner like a halo.

I remember eating at the counter before or after work (their steak tips special was my fave) or the occasional hangover meal in a booth with late night / early morning pals. I brought my mother here to have lunch one day in a sunny booth, and possibly in that very same booth introduced the boy who is now Retro Roadhusband to the kind of place and cuisine that was near and dear to my heart.

When I heard about the imminent closing of this place that held so many memories, I knew we had to make one last trip. Even though the news reports promised that nothing bad was going to happen to the diner, I’ve learned that what is said up-front isn’t always how things play out.

Rosebud Diner Davis Square Somerville MA - Interior

Perhaps the Rosebud was no longer on the list of hip places to eat in Somerville, because we pretty much had the place to ourselves one chilly March evening. Our waitress was sassy and charming, and for old times sake I got the steak tips. Granted they weren’t as good as I had remembered them, but as we often learn, what is? We tipped heavily, snapped a few photos and said our farewells, knowing that this may be the last time we’d spin the stools at the counter or bask in the glow of that pink neon.
Rosebud Diner Davis Square Somerville MA - Cash Register
Just a few short months later we were back in town for a Retro Roadhusband gig, and while he set up, I meandered around Davis Square. I knew full well I was dragging my feet down the street, as I walked reluctantly to the diner, afraid of what I might see. Almost like how we sometimes make excuses to not visit sick or ailing old folks, as it can be tough to see what has become of someone once so vital (and let’s face it – being reminded face-to-face that the same thing is going to happen to us.)

Peering into the door window, I was saddened to see the diner stripped of the evidence of day-to-day usage, but pleased that the basics remained unaltered. While it was still a tragic scene I knew it could’ve been worse.

“Maybe” I thought, “Maybe the new folks ‘get it’ about the diner – maybe that’s why they bought the diner instead of just any old concrete block building- and maybe they’ll preserve it.”
The Rosebud Diner Interior - Davis Square Somerville MA

Once again, Mod B over-estimated.

Fast forward to February 2014, where diner resource RoadsideOnline reports that they’ve been sent pictures of a completely gutted Rosebud diner. (You can click here to see for yourself, but it’s a sad sad sight compared to the above.) Local food sites report that the restaurant will be a roadhouse type place. That obviously needed to be in a diner, she says snarkily. Like they couldn’t have invented a roadhouse in a boring cinderblock building.
The Rosebud Diner Interior - Davis Square Somerville MA
I’d say thank goodness that the historical designation of the diner will force them to keep the diner exterior, but really, at that point isn’t it LITERALLY a shell of it’s former self? And not even a diner.

  • I don’t get why people buy diners, only to want them to be/look anything other than a diner.
  • I don’t get why people don’t see how these buildings – made to last, with craftsmanship and quality materials – are built to last, and should last.
  • I don’t get why people are so relucatant to realize that the 20th century is part of our country’s history, and buildings from this era will be the future’s historic architecture.
  • Do we want to leave future generations with nothing but a bunch of homogonized big box stores, chain restaurants from coast to coast, and nothing to differentiate one place from another, all in the name of convenience and price?

Now while I go and try to figure out how this one gal – me – can help stop this senseless destruction, I realize that we’ve all got to appreciate the great places like this we have left, but not look at them through Rosebud Colored Glasses. In a moment, historic places like this can be swept forever off of the map.



Rosebud Diner Davis Square Somerville MA - Exterior

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  • D. Brigham

    That’s sad. I lived in Somerville in the mid ’90s and went to the Rosebud quite a few times. I haven’t been through Davis Square in a while, so I had no idea this was all going down. At least they’re saving the exterior, but that’s not much of a consolation.

    • Mod Betty /

      I’m with you on that D. Something is better than nothing but I don’t like how it’s acceptable to think you’re doing a good thing when all you leave is the husk. Kinda like when developers cut down a forest to make a McMansion development then name the streets after trees….

  • Connie J. McInnerney

    What a well-written post. It is sad this place closed. I went there many times as well, but sadly, not enough in recent years. I do recall going there with you a few times. Good memories, all.

    • Mod Betty /

      Yes, this place was part of my life for a number of years on many levels. I’m glad we have the good memories, but can’t help but feel that the times they are a changin’ and not always for the better.

  • JRS

    What a loss.

  • Patrick

    Best Retro Roadpost ever?
    Thanks for the photos, the passion and the pique.

    • Mod Betty /

      Thanks Patrick! I hate to just gripe about stuff without turning that energy into action, and am working on that. But I’m fearing that if I don’t balance out the “hey here’s another great place!” with what is being demolished, we all may get complacent and think everything is OK, and it’s not. I’m more than happy to take on the role of Town Crier for the country in this architectural/societal regard 🙂

  • fuzzylizzie

    How sad. I think it looked pretty roadhouse-y in its original state.

    • Mod Betty

      It’s completely gutted inside now so it’s just sad.

  • lacolli

    So sad to hear this. My future husband and I visited there in the late 90s when we were in Mass. for work. When we were there we bought a drawing of the diner, which hangs in our kitchen to this day (at the time we had great black lab named Rosebud). I’m so glad we had a chance to see it in it’s heyday. It’s such a shame that it’s not being preserved.

    • Mod Betty

      Linda – that’s cool that you guys have that diner drawing hanging in your kitchen. I bet there aren’t many people who buy drawings of Chipotle or Panera bread when they leave eating there. 😉

  • larrycultrera

    I have seen the Rosebud thru good times and bad. I was a regular thru the 1980s when it was just a bar (no food) and patronized it quite a bit after it was brought back as a diner in 1995. I have distinct memories of the place when I was a kid and we drove by it in the family car. I am happy to say that Bill Nichols (son of the owner and a manager of the diner) have known each other for over 30 years and will remain friends for the rest of our lives. the photo attached is from the 1995 grand reopening as a diner with Bill & Nicky Nichols.

    • Mod Betty

      Larry – I knew you’d have more of a connection there than me. Still so sad to see it go from that grand reopening in 1995 to this, as 1995 doesn’t seem so long ago!

  • Janet

    You make me want to cry . . . so sad and so true!
    Go girl – stop the destruction! Possibly keeping up the quality of food?

    • Mod Betty /

      I do know that the quality of food and pride people have about the places they own has a lot to do with the popularity and longevity of some of these places, and owners definitely are part of it. If they don’t feel pride in a place, why should we? I’m going to do my best to start a movement, but can only do it with the help of everyone out there who feels the same way! Thanks hon!

  • Jen B

    *sigh* 🙁

    Honestly, this threw a lump up into my throat.

    What is WRONG with people?


  • soundsgreat

    Someday I hope the MultiTracks gang can meet up with you and Cliff
    somewhere near the the Rosebud..and lift our glasses to toast this
    gem..Keep up the great work Mod Betty, we love Retro Roadmap!!!

  • Sarah K

    This makes me sad! I love these kind of old diners, luckily there are a lot of them where I live, so I have a lot to choose from in case any of them close down. I actually own an ice cream shop which was built/opened in the late 1940s, over the years the series of owners changed it around trying to keep it modern with their current decade, but I would love love LOVE to restore it to the full 1950s look with a 1950s-style menu (although probably not 1950s prices…)

    Thanks for doing these profiles!!