by Len Lear
I doubt if a restaurant would have much success if it was called Rosenthal’s Barbecue or Chung Lee’s Pizzeria or Kelly’s Kosher Bagels, but fortunately Chad Rosenthal’s nickname growing up near Ambler was Rosey, so it was not inappropriate to name his restaurant Rosey’s BBQ, which opened February, 2010, at 505 Old York Rd. in Jenkintown. Not necessarily a place where you’d expect to find finger-lickin’ barbecue, but down-and-dirty meat mavens have made Rosey’s such a go-to destination that the 35-year-old boss will be opening a second Rosey’s within the next month at 911 Main St. in Ambler.
Several years ago we visited a famous restaurant in Kansas City called Ruby’s BBQ, and we chatted with Ruby, a charismatic African American woman who was just as much a magnet for customers as her vittles. No doubt some customers at Rosey’s also expect to meet a spirited, larger-than-life African American woman; for example, Ben V. wrote on April 30 of this year on yelp.com, “I ‘m not sure who Rosey actually is, but she has left quite the impression on me. Well done!”
The fact is that Rosenthal (whose brother, Reid, 32, achieved celebrity status recently as one of three finalists on the TV show, “The Bachelorette”) is just one half of an odd couple who have put Rosey’s on the culinary map. Chad, who also owns a company that prints children’s books, did a great deal of traveling to the South on business for several years, where he often ate at barbecue joints, but his favorites were in Memphis — more “dry rub” than the heavily sauce-based Texas-style barbecue.
When Chad finally decided to walk out on the high wire and open his own barbecue place in this area (with no previous restaurant experience), he put an ad on Craigslist for a barbecue chef. “I got a zillion replies,” he said, “but not one was right.” He then placed an ad for “a Memphis barbecue chef only.”
This time there were just 10 replies, but one was from Jarvis Morris, now 34, who had previously run Neely’s, a BBQ landmark in Memphis, and had owned his own restaurant as well. But the recession sent his restaurant up in flames and drove him to automobile sales, which he “hated.”
When Rosey met Jarvis, “I knew he was the one. He had not only the talent but the passion I was looking for. My instincts were right about Jarvis. He puts his heart and soul into his work every day. We are like brothers now and partners in the business. And we have the only true Memphis-style barbecue place in the region.”
“I moved here from Memphis with my two kids, and I’m very happy to be here,” added Jarvis. “I come in here seven days a week. I do not take a day off. Everything we do is with fresh products. I make everything daily except the French fries and chicken tenders. I’ll cook the beans with smoked pork for 16 hours, for example. Consistency in this business is everything. And you can’t get fancy with barbecue. You’re supposed to be messy and get sauce on your fingertips.”
Rosey’s is located in a small strip mall, and it’s BYOB. It is not about health food. After a visit to Rosey’s, which replaced a restaurant called Abner’s, you may get stopped and arrested by the Cholesterol Police on the way home. It really does look like a shack just off the highway in the South with its license plates all around the front counter, rock-hard chairs and the smell of hickory smoke and comfort food permeating the air. (The smoking of cigarettes may be banned, but the smoking of meats is mandatory.) This would be sheer heaven for anyone on the Atkins Diet.
The prices at Rosey’s are certainly quite reasonable. Huge specialty sandwiches are $5.50 to $9.25. Several different kinds of rib choices start at $7.50; chicken wings start at $5 for six; salads start at $2.75 and side dishes at $1.75. Barbecue platters range from $10 to $18.75. Children’s meals are $3.50, and desserts are $3. Rosey’s seats 42, and they do a big takeout business.
We tried lots of different dishes, almost all of which were super. The soul and passion are just as apparent as the more edible ingredients. Our favorite dishes were the kielbasa, chicken (with Rosey’s 16-spice rub), turkey, brisket, gumbo, amazing baked beans, green beans, mac and cheese, slaw and mashed sweet potatoes, all loaded with flavor. The cobbler dessert and cornbread were just so-so.
Rosey’s is open for lunch and dinner every day of the week. There is live blues music on Friday nights. For more information, call 215-885-8600 or visit www.roseysbbq.com. To watch a video showing how Chad and Jarvis prepare and serve their meats, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TDRD4setYA.