Everything about The Rose Cafe on Haley looks old.
They painted the exterior and re-vamped the interior last year and it still looks old. On top of the physical aspects of the structure, they generally keep at least 3 servers on the floor that started their careers serving enchiladas to Julius Caesar. All that aside, this might be the smartest family-run business in town because they know that any drastic changes would likely cause an avalanche of protest. Many loyal Rose-ists (myself included) worship this fine establishment in ways that only Tom Cruise and Xenu can understand and there simply aren't that many places in Santa Barbara that can boast such a fervent band of loyalists. My girlfriend's brother lives in San Francisco now but he grew up here and whenever he comes back to visit, his first stop is usually to The Rose for mole'. Personally, I distinctly remember when Jimmy's Oriental Gardens closed a couple years ago, I was devastated (like so many others) and my first thought was that if The Rose goes too, I leave town. And I still think that today. Losing both of them would be too much, and they'd in all likelihood get replaced with the usual Santa Barbara ass-tastic fancy food that sucks....if you want a description as to what "ass-tastic fancy food that sucks" is, walk around downtown and step into practically any of the restaurant choices that'll serve you over-priced food that often sucks ass. At the Rose, you get a non-pretentious atmosphere and inexpensive heavenly Mexican Grub that most assuredly does not suck.
Anyways, back to Friday's meal. It came up as jaunts to the Rose usually come up. I pick up Deb from work, it's rather late, we want something simple, quick and good. Nine times out of ten we end up at The Rose. I had the combination plate with a chicken taco, cheese enchilada and chile relleno. I get this often. Anyone who's had the relleno at Rose usually comes away loving it...a super tasty food item coupled with one of the finest sauces in town...elegant and simple. I'm also partial to their tacos (always chicken)...and usually I don't dig on fried tacos. Deb got the Ablondigas, which was just ok. My opinion over many years of eating here, is that there are certain things that they don't do as well as they could...beef is one of those things (tamales are another, so be aware), so we weren't digging on the meatballs, but it was a perfectly acceptable soup. Nothing at all compared to their chicken soup, which they don't make every day and is so fucking good I've heard that top scientists at Stanford are looking to it for a possible cancer cure. Then there's the other all-too infrequent special Mole', the best spicy chip salsa in the state....but we'll cover that in another visit, because there will be many, many more.