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RESTAURANT REVIEW ROSIE'S : Tried and True : This '50s-style diner offers predictable coffee-shop fare. But don't miss the burgers.

January 17, 1991|HILARY DOLE KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The sign on the glass door says "Just good food." Swing the door open, and you are hit with that slightly thick warm air, tinged with the smell of fried food, that you recognize from a hundred other coffee shops. It makes you feel right at home. You slide into the comfort of a green vinyl booth and give yourself up to the friendly, offhand ministrations of the waitress. Welcome to Rosie's.

Located in a mini-mall between a supermarket and a super-drugstore, this is a '50s style restaurant with the jukebox to prove it. The salmon pink walls are plastered with posters of hokey '50s movies and photographs of Frank Sinatra looking frail and fresh and Elvis looking utterly wholesome. But despite the soda shop counter and checkered linoleum floor, this is more of an any-town diner than a hip, stylized recreation.

If you have grown accustomed to arugula in your salad and goat cheese on your pancakes, forget Rosie's. Expect only the expected. Breakfast is about as standard as it gets, but there's a pleasure to its predictability. An early-bird special--served before 9 a.m.--two eggs, potatoes and toast, is a good deal at $2.25. The potatoes are fresh and chunky, the bagels are nice and chewy, and the cinnamon rolls are homemade, hot, sweet and gooey.

Unlike the '50s joints it tries to evoke, Rosie's is not a teen-agers' hangout.

Its bright warmth is as appealing to families as it is to couples; children feel particularly comfortable here.

The menu for children under 12 gives them a broader choice than the kiddie fare at most restaurants.

The sandwiches tend to be on the innocuous side. A roast beef sandwich came on sourdough bread with tomato and lettuce, but was hardly memorable. A turkey breast sandwich with avocado, bacon and tomato turned out to be somewhat better.

As for the grilled chicken breast with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, avocado and sour cream--it would be just the thing for a person who likes his food bland.

You can't go wrong with the hamburgers, however. Rosie's serves about a dozen varieties, each with a thin but respectable piece of meat on a slightly sweet bun. The Mexicali Mama came dripping with Jack cheese and big soft Ortega chiles; the curly fries that came with it were small and tasty.

Hot chicken soup was pleasantly reminiscent of Campbell's, if slightly more substantial; the chili was quite thick and spicy.

The fountain menu offers chocolate Cokes, cherry Cokes, vanilla Cokes, lemon Cokes and that old favorite, the Green River (Sprite with lime). It also offers chocolate egg creams--frothy and refreshing.

Best was a root beer float; it had exploded all over its saucer in a most satisfying mess, and turned out to contain so much ice cream that it rapidly turned into a fine root beer-flavored milkshake.

The coffee was authentically, almost nostalgically acrid, and by evening the stuff they were pouring was strong enough to put hair on your chest.

Nestled into my cozy booth, with the sad strains of lost love from the decade of my innocence pouring over me, I could easily imagine this place becoming a hangout for me as well.

WHERE AND WHEN

Rosie's, 1378 N. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks, (805) 495-0699. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Sunday-Thursday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 7 a.m.-10 p.m. No alcoholic beverages, parking lot, no cards. Lunch for two, $10-$20.

Recommended dishes: two eggs, potatoes and toast, $2.25; Mexicali Mama hamburger, $4.85; root beer float, $2.65.

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