“The menu’s behind me,” says the friendly but all-business bartender, after you’ve spent a few awkward moments fruitlessly searching for a bill of fare. Perusing the chicken-scratch scrawl on the chalkboard at Rose’s—the grill-leaning Marco’s replacement from Franny’s pizza power couple Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens—you’ll feel like you’re being punked. The “menu” is a 15-items-or-less spread (well if 15 items or less counts as a spread) of bar snacks (nuts, pickles), barely four main courses and a $14 vegetable plate that warrants a Saturday Night Live “Really!?!” rant. At least you’re in capable hands, especially now that Feinberg has made a full-time return to the kitchen, with that slow-food attention to ingredients intact (the couple also owns gourmet grocer Bklyn Larder down the street).
The small-scale sophistication of Marco’s—Italian aperitifs at a white-marble bar, Paul McCobb chairs pulled up to mahogany tables—has been traded for school auditorium seating, beer-and-shot combos, and card games at the ready, a fitting backdrop for brine-bomb bowls of mortadella and Parmigiano-Reggiano-stuffed fried olives ($6) and grilled cheese with Cabot clothbound cheddar and ricotta from the Larder ($9).
But a survey of the humble dining room confirms that everyone’s ordering Feinberg’s burger ($14, add cheese for a buck extra) and for good reason—it’s a thing of unfussed beauty: juicy, grass-fed beef kissed with wood-fired funk between a spare, toasted sesame-seed bun. The only other entrée-size option is the aggressively fatty but judiciously succulent pork chop ($23), sizzled on a spit and served with tangles of bitter greens.
That stunning chop notwithstanding, what Rose’s really is is an undemanding, play-to-the-plebes neighborhood bar that just happens to serve one of the best new burgers in New York. But one great burger does not a great restaurant make.