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Troubled Rosie’s cafe in Escondido announces permanent closure

Rosie's Cafe
Rosie’s Cafe photographed in January 2019, just after it was made over by the Food Network show “Restaurant: Impossible.”
(Pam Kragen / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Featured twice on ‘Restaurant: Impossible,’ Escondido eatery couldn’t survive pandemic and owner’s near-fatal accident

Rosie’s Cafe, the Escondido diner rescued for the second time last month on the Food Network series “Restaurant: Impossible,” has closed for good, its owner announced in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.

Despite the fundraising carnival that Food Network threw for owner Kaitlyn “Rosie” Pilsbury in February, she was never able to recover financially from the restaurant’s two-month shutdown during the pandemic. She is also still in recovery from injuries she suffered in a near-fatal motorcycle accident in December.

Rosie’s closed in March and never reopened after social-distancing restrictions were lifted for dine-in service last month. On Thursday, the restaurant’s front windows were boarded up with plywood and by late afternoon, the post on Facebook made it official.

Kaitlyn Rose Pilsbury, 33, the owner of Rosie's Cafe in Escondido.
(Courtesy photo)

“The historic and innovative location within Escondido’s community known as Rosie’s Café is saddened to announce that between the effects from the horrible crime that struck ‘Rosie’ and the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosie’s Café has closed permanently,” the post read. “It is heartbreaking for ‘Rosie’ and her crew to accept this reality. However, health and safety are top priorities. ‘Rosie’ is grateful she is alive and strongly committed to her recovery process with a mixture of physical, cognitive and occupational therapies.”

Pilsbury also thanked the community for their support and said she hopes to return to Grand Avenue someday in the future with her dog, Stu, to thank her former customers in person.

“Remember the power of your minds and use them wisely because this is not the end; it is a new beginning,” she wrote.

Pilsbury, 33, took over the former Champion’s restaurant on Grand Avenue in late 2016. The restaurant struggled to turn a profit and was facing closure when she applied in 2018 to be on “Restaurant: Impossible.” In January 2019, host Robert Irvine and his crew revamped the interior and the menu in just 48 hours in a makeover that embraced Pilsbury’s New Jersey roots.

After the episode aired in April 2019, the restaurant’s fortunes improved. Then on Dec. 21, Pilsbury was riding her motorcycle near her home in Vista when a man driving an SUV illegally turned into her path. The SUV driver fled the scene on foot and was never found.

Pilsbury was left comatose after the accident with a serious head injury and broken bones in her legs and one arm. After three months in the hospital and numerous surgeries, she was released to outpatient physical therapy in late February.

Meanwhile, customers who learned about Pilsbury’s accident began leaving cash donations for her at the restaurant. Her mom, Marie Pilsbury, started a Gofundme campaign that raised $30,000. And employees stepped up to keep the restaurant going in Pilsbury’s absence.

Rosie’s customer Michael Green reached out to Irvine via Instagram in December to let the TV host know about Pilsbury’s accident. Irvine wanted to do something to help her. He worked with Food Network to organize a fundraising carnival to help pay Pilsbury’s medical bills and keep the restaurant’s doors opens.

“You become very protective of these folks on ‘Restaurant: Impossible’ and she was someone who was very special,” Irvine said about Pilsbury in a phone interview last month from his home in Florida. “She was young, feisty and in it to win it. Then she had this terrible accident through no fault of her own, was in coma in the hospital and her whole life flashed in front of her.”

The carnival, which was filmed for another “Restaurant: Impossible” episode that aired May 28, raised $118,000.

Chef Robert Irvine talks to Marie Pilsbury about Kaitlyn Pilsbury's health, as seen on Season 17 of "Restaurant Impossible."
(Courtesy of Food Network)

The carnival might have been a happy ending for the Rosie’s Cafe story if not for the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered the restaurant a month later. For the first week after the shutdown, the staff offered takeout service. But on March 25, it closed down until further notice. When the cafe’s phone number was disconnected in April, patrons worried that it would never reopen.

On May 31, Marie Pilsbury posted a blog entry on CaringBridge that thanked Irvine for his support but didn’t mention plans to close the cafe.

“We are also grateful for the kindness and dedication of all the volunteers, Rosie’s Café staff, our loyal customers, the many friends and family within and beyond the Escondido community, who supported Kaitlyn ‘Rosie’ during her crisis. Because of you, we have learned that there is no pain nor hardship that cannot be eased by goodness and optimism,” Marie wrote.


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