Scarlet Rose in full bloom on Main Street
Chef Mike Rose says that he doesn’t cook food. He creates it.
“Instead of following guidelines,” he says, “‘You need this, you need that,’ it’s just making good food. Complete creative control.”
Rose is the tattooed, backwards baseball cap-wearing head chef of Scarlet Rose Bistro, which opened its doors at 196 Main St. on Nov. 2. The fact that he shares his last name with the bistro is just a coincidence. So is him sharing a first name with Michael Kjelgaard, who owns the bistro with his wife Connie.
“Once they told me it was the Scarlet Rose, I knew that it was meant to be,” he said.
The bistro’s name actually refers to its bold red exterior, and the flower shop that once occupied the building. The Kjelgaards spent 20 years searching for the perfect place to open their dream business before coming across the Main Street structure.
“It looked like a tavern to me,” Connie said. “It had a really nice cozy feel when I walked in.”
The Kjelgaards purchased the dilapidated building, with rotted floorboards and minimal plumbing, for $215,000 in November 2020. Scarlet Rose certainly had its thorns; a pandemic, labor shortage and increased materials costs made construction a long and drawn-out process.
“It was gut renovation,” Michael said. “Nothing here is original. Just the studs on the walls.”
When construction was done, the blighted building had transformed into a turn-of-the-century idyll straight out of a Christmas card.
“We’re trying to draw people from outside towns into Main Street in Wareham,” Michael said. “The town is trying to develop this area and make it better, and we want to be part of it.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, Scarlet Rose’s warm, intimate interior was quaintly decorated with stained glass lamps and wrought iron accents, as well as garland and poinsettias for the holidays. A 100-year-old carriage, the bistro’s symbol, stands out front. Purchased from a dealer in Connecticut, it was going to go on the ceiling, but it was too big.
“We want people to come in and feel welcome,” Connie said.
Scarlet Rose was originally envisioned as a wine bar, but the idea expanded into a full-blown restaurant. There’s a variety of wines too, of course, from Spain, Italy, France, California and Washington state. Rose’s seasonal menu, always changing to keep up with the latest culinary trends, includes Mexican street corn, southern barbecue ribs, a Cajun hamburger and Italian lobster tortellini.
“Whatever we feel like trying,” Rose said. “If we read a book or heard a podcast or saw a show with a dish, we want to recreate it.”
After working with various international cuisines, Rose was excited to work at a smaller restaurant where he could make everything from scratch, including pasta and cheese. It’s hard work, he said, but rewarding.
The bistro gets its bread and desserts from Forno Bakery.
“You have to be a tight community,” Rose said.
Connie said that since opening Scarlet Rose, locals have thanked her and her husband for bringing a place like it to Wareham.
“We’re trying to save people that one-hour drive to find a place like this,” Michael said.
Scarlet Rose plans to offer Christmas specials this season, and a six-course food and wine tasting menu for New Year’s.
“A lot of pampering going on,” Connie said.