A couple of minutes after 7 o’clock on a drizzly Tuesday morning, Nick and Roz Nikkinen of Ocala, Fla., walked into Jordan’s Restaurant and chose a table by the front window overlooking Cottage Street in Bar Harbor.
It was the last day of their weeklong visit to Mount Desert Island, and someone had told them they had to go to Jordan’s before they left for home.
After 42 years in the same location, Jordan’s is an institution, a must-go-to place for visitors that also has a large and loyal local following.
Among those is Earl Brechlin, former editor of the Mount Desert Islander, who has been eating at Jordan’s on a regular basis for about 35 years. He works as the nonprofit Friends of Acadia’s communications director.
“People love the food,” he said, “but like any small-town restaurant, it’s as much the opportunity to connect with the staff and the other customers as it is the food that is the draw.”
Jordan’s is open daily from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I usually get there about 6 a.m.,” Brechlin said. “The fishermen are sitting at the counter, and others are in the booths.
“There’s often a mix of people who are conservative and others who are more progressive politically, and there’s always some good-natured banter, but it never gets angry in there.”
Indeed, Jordan’s has a warm, homey feel to it.
Dave Payne, who grew up in Bar Harbor, returned from service in the military and worked at several jobs before opening the restaurant in 1976.
“A man named Jordan had a variety store here,” Payne said. “He had been in town his whole life, and everybody knew where Jordan’s was. When I opened the restaurant, I wanted people to know where I was, so I kept the name.”
Food-wise, Maine is known for lobsters and blueberries, and a lot of Jordan’s’ first-time customers are there because they’ve heard it’s the place to go for blueberry muffins and blueberry pancakes.
“We have a good local following, so if you’re a tourist and you ask someone where to go for breakfast or where the locals eat, they might say Jordan’s,” Payne said. “We get a lot of good referrals that way.”
He said longevity, familiarity and constancy also contribute to the restaurant’s continuing popularity.
“Having the same crew here year after year helps,” he said.
Several members of that crew are members of Payne’s family. His daughter, son and sister work there, and his brother-in-law helps out once in a while. His brother worked there at one time, as have several nieces and nephews.
Of course, Payne is always there and there’s a good chance he will be the one cooking your order. And after all these years, he still enjoys it.
“It’s what I do. If you’re going to run a restaurant and be successful, I think it becomes a way of life,” he said. “It’s fun to see people who grew up here and came here as kids, then moved away, and now when the come back to Bar Harbor they come here.”
Jordan’s, which is closed in the winter, is busy in the spring and fall and really, really busy in the summer, often with a line out the door. Known more as a breakfast place, the restaurant also does a brisk lunch business. But not everyone goes there at lunchtime for lunch.
“I think one of the things people like is that you can get breakfast here anytime you want it,” Payne said.
Brechlin, the former newspaper editor, said it’s good that Jordan’s remains much the same as it’s always been.
“You look at all the changes on this island and all the places that have come and gone, and it’s nice that there’s still one that hasn’t changed that much,” he said.