From the Back of the House
By Gary L. Rockey
Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Rating: 4 stars
An explanation of the title of this book of memories of the family behind Jim’s Steak House, a landmark restaurant in the Cleveland Flats section of Ohio, comes on page one, giving an immediate insight of its offerings. Restaurant people call the main dining area and other places open to the public the front of the house. They call the kitchen, open only to the staff and manager, the back of the house. It is the back of the house, the behind-the-scene view of both this restaurant and family, that the author shares, both from historical research of the restaurant and from his personal experience as the adopted son from the age of ten of Raymond Rockey, living in the apartment above Jim’s.
Giving a comprehensive and fascinating history of Jim’s Steak House, Rockey tells it in an interesting “back of the house” way, making the reader an insider learning what was never on display in the “front of the house,” strengthening the book by this approach.
More than just a history of the famous Cleveland Flats restaurant, this book is a family history that probes into the people associated with the restaurant. Menus, reviews and articles enhance the telling of the restaurant’s history, with photographs that give the reader a peek not only at the restaurant, but at the people in the family. At the end a diner’s trivia test, Jim’s recipes, and the restaurant’s historical time line from before the first Jim’s opened in 1930 to that December in 1996 when Jim’s closed, add to the book.
Overall these memories of a Steak House Clan gives readers a most interesting experience as they come to care about the family, especially “my boy’s” (Raymond Rockey’s) care of “baby” (Jim’s Steak House.)