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DINING OUT | ROSIE'S DOWNTOWN

Dining Out: Downtown Rosie's feels a bit like the former P.O. Pears

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Rosie’s Sports Bar & Grill owner Ryan Rosenstiel grew up in central Nebraska, having gone to high school in Cozad and living for a time in Kearney.

He has outstate friends who would drive into Lincoln for Nebraska football games, but they wouldn’t come to see him at his restaurant on the south side of the city, electing to stay near the stadium instead.

Dining Out - Rosie's Downtown, 4.20

Owner Ryan Rosenstiel decided to add a second Rosie's location to cater to people coming downtown for Husker games and other events.

“They said it was too far, and I didn’t blame them,” he said. “You don’t want people drinking and driving.”

Rosenstiel had taken over the Road House Bar & Grill at 1501 Centerpark Road, located near the state penitentiary, in 2013 and rebranded it Rosie’s the following year. It’s become one of the city’s top sports bars, with a solid menu of burgers, pizza and wings and a small-town feel.

Over the years, Rosenstiel has looked to expand Rosie’s to downtown Lincoln, where his outstate friends can gather on Husker game days or for other big events drawing them to Lincoln.

He found a place.

When Single Barrel decided to move from its spot at 10th and P streets to the Graduate hotel down the street, Rosenstiel didn’t hesitate to make a move. He took over the location and opened Rosie’s Downtown in August 2021, just prior to the Garth Brooks concert in Memorial Stadium.

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Rosie’s is not only a destination for out-of-towners but has also become a college student hangout and a favorite of Lincoln diners, too, with an accessible and affordable menu.

“It’s a much different animal than the south location, which is more of a neighborhood bar where we’ll see the same 100 people every night,” Rosenstiel said. “Downtown is really more event-driven.”

Food

Rosie’s hangs its hat on half-pound burgers ($11 to $15 each), specialty 14-inch pizzas ($19 to $22), sandwiches ($9 to $13) and appetizers such as wings and nachos.

It’s typical bar food, with some Rosie's twists, such as a Chicago-style Ditka Dog, which is served as a sandwich or as a base for a specialty pizza, or the Pirillo Pizza, featuring andouille sausage and pepperoni.

Dining Out - Rosie's Downtown, 4.20

Chicken bacon melt at Rosie's Downtown.

The menu is big, with 12 burgers, 13 sandwiches, five barbecue entrees and eight specialty pizzas. There are also appetizers galore, including wings with nearly 20 sauces/rubs to choose from. Rosenstiel recommends the sweet bourbon sauce.

When my wife and I visited, we sampled some wings with a maple barbecue sauce, which was quite tasty. For entrees, my wife had the Cuban sandwich (pulled pork, sliced ham and garlic mayo) with fries ($11), and I had a fried fish basket with potato salad and coleslaw ($12). The fish was beer battered with Sam Adams, giving a sweetness to it.

Portions were hefty. My wife ended up taking half of her sandwich home. I had three fish pieces to go along with a large styrofoam container of potato salad and a smaller one of coleslaw. It was a lot of food at a reasonable price. The beer price was appealing, too. We each enjoyed a Zipline pint (or two) at $5 each. Grade: B

Atmosphere

I told my wife Rosie’s Downtown reminded me a bit of P.O. Pears when I was in college in the 1980s -- a big place with a bar-and-grill menu and live music catering to a college-aged crowd. It offers a great game-day atmosphere, with flags from the Big Ten schools hanging throughout the bar.

In transitioning from Single Barrel, Rosie’s has added more tables and chairs, including several tall tables, and 36 TVs to go along with the four already in place. You can sit anywhere and see multiple TVs as well as the giant screen next to the stage.

Rosie’s also has games -- beer pong, cornhole and electronic darts -- and occasional live music, becoming the home base for the renowned Sidetrack Band. Grade: A

Service

We dined on a Monday evening, typically a slow time for most restaurants. But on this night, Rosie’s, with only two servers working the floor and one bartender, unexpectedly was hopping with more than 50 people enjoying themselves. Fortunately (for us), most of the customers were drinking and not dining, allowing the servers to work tables more quickly.

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Our server, Emma, was great. She ran through the beer selection for us and delivered our beverages promptly. Food came out of the kitchen promptly, too, with just a couple of hiccups. My fish basket was missing the tartar sauce and our appetizer arrived not before, but with our entrees. These were minor inconveniences, considering the busy room. Grade: A-

Specialty diets

It’s a bar and grill targeting carnivores, so there aren’t any vegetarian or vegan options outside of appetizers: spinach and artichoke dip, pretzel bites, corn nuggets, breaded mushrooms, onion rings, fry basket, etc. Gluten-free choices aren’t marked, so check with servers. Pizzas can be made with a 10-inch gluten-free cauliflower crust. Grade: D+

Jeff Korbelik is the winery manager at James Arthur Vineyards, former Journal Star features editor and author of “Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska.” He’s written restaurant reviews for Ground Zero since 1998.

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