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Jake Rooneys

It is widely believed that successful restaurants can usually be traced to the person who owns the business, and this is definitely true at Jake Rooney’s. For decades, this Cape favorite has been a popular Harwichport spot, both for happy families that flock here for well-prepared Cape cuisine with some creative twists and for those looking for some fun night-time entertainment, which can be found here all year-round.

Cape Cod Dining Guide

Owner Pete Klaus couldn’t be much closer to his restaurant if he tried—in fact, he lives close by in the neighborhood. Since starting Jake Rooney’s nearly 20 years ago, Klaus has devoted practically every waking minute to his business and it shows in his ability to combine traditional seafood delights with some smart marketing moves. One such innovation was bringing in Stonegrill cuisine, where first-rate steaks are cooked right at diner’s tables for tasty tender entrées.

On a recent Wednesday night in mid-summer we returned to Jake Rooney’s (where we have enjoyed Stonegrill steaks on other visits) for a fine seafood dinner—we heard that the Baked Haddock was delicious, a fresh-off-the-boat choice cooked with a light crust, and the lobster stew, described by a friend as the best he’s had anywhere.

We checked in with Klaus who seemed to be everywhere after seating us in the cosy bar area with a dance floor where couples were dancing happily to the rock and roll tunes of The Most. We asked Pete how Jake Rooney’s has been doing and he cheerfully told us that it’s been a “sensational summer. The Stonegrill entrées have been very successful,“ says Klaus, who was the first Cape restauranteur to introduce stonegrilling. Klaus notes that Jake Rooney’s has won awards for its steak because of the delectable stonegrilled entrées.

On this visit, we started off our dinner with a new appetizer entrée, a tasty and attractively prepared Shrimp and Seaweed Salad ($11) that set the stage for our seafood entrées. The salad was a zesty, yet healthy appetizer and just the thing before my choice of Baked Haddock ($17), encrusted with light and buttery seasoned crackers. “We choose our fish fresh right off the pier in Chatham every day,” Klaus explains, joking that my haddock “had been swimming this morning!” It was a perfectly cooked selection, fall off the fork tender and complimented by a baked stuff potato and fresh broccoli.

Cape Cod Dining Guide

My companion licked his lips over his bowl of Lobster Stew ($8), which featured a substantial helping of chunks of lobster sauteéd in butter with whole cream, lightened with sherry. I had a quick spoonful and can say that it will be my first choice on our next visit to Jake Rooney’s. Both of us also love fried clams (market price) and never let a chance go by to sample fresh whole belly beauties, which were especially good here with a garnish of thinly sliced onion rings.

While we cleaned our plates (leaving a little room for the Mile High Chocolate Cake!) we enjoyed the tunes delivered with panache by The Most, who played their spirited renditions of rock favorites for a crowded dance floor. Klaus believes that entertainment (which he provides six nights a week during the summer) is crucial for a restaurant’s continued success. “Bringing in greats act like The Most or our popular Saturday night Original Happy Hour performer, John Morgan, just completely adds to your restaurant’s reputation—and it’s success,” says Klaus, noting that the Cape’s competitive restaurant scene means you must always be thinking of new ways to attract customers. “It’s a 24/7 job for sure.”

After eating most of a dripping with chocolate Mile High Cake (and taking the left-overs home!), we headed out into the warm August night, full to the brim with hearty food, toes still tapping with great tunes, promising Pete Klaus that we would be back soon—probably for his latest idea—an Oktoberfest weekend, October 13th and 14th. “We will serve German food on Saturday and Sunday, then we have lined up this terrific Bavarian band to play Saturday night,” says Klaus before heading back on the floor to help wait on tables, serve drinks, and help the band—a very good role model for a successful restauranteur at the top.

––Susan Dewey

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