Every fall, much of Old Orchard Beach begins to close up for the better part of the year, shuttering many of its bustling seasonal businesses and cloaking much of its famed summer character.
Nestled among the dark windows and “Closed for the Season. See You Next Summer!” signs is the newly established Jumpin’ Jakes Seafood Cafe on Saco Avenue, right next to the NASCAR campground. The lights are on, the music is playing and the folks are indeed home.
Jumpin’ Jakes proprietor Rick Payette also owns The Landmark restaurant just down the road in OOB. Using The Landmark’s success as a jumping-off point, Jumpin’ Jakes takes the strong sense of quality and community established by its sister restaurant and combines it with a young, vibrant, jazz club-type setting, producing a comfortable and laid-back lounge.
The restaurant, like its name, is divided into two parts. There’s the “Jumpin”‘ side, defined by its simple take-out menu, food window and picnic bench seating, giving it a very casual summer feel.
And then there’s the “Jakes” side, which is where I spent my time enjoying a no-pressure cocktail amongst the ’50s-era booths and large, colorful paintings that adorn many of the walls around the bar (not only is Payette the owner of Jumpin’ Jakes, he’s also the talented artist-in-residence).
The bar is well-stocked with the usual lineup of liquor, and is handily equipped to concoct the cocktail of your choice. The tap selection keeps it simple, with solid domestics and a couple of local, seasonal brews, satiating the discerning beer lover’s taste for close-to-home flavors. And the wine list is not disappointing in the least. Served by the glass or bottle, each selection is thoughtfully and tastefully chosen, which is pleasing to the palate and wallet.
One aspect of Jumpin’ Jakes that deserves a particularly enthusiastic shout-out is the happy hour. I’ve been to a lot of bars, and I’ve been to a lot of happy hours at a lot of bars. And generally, I report mild to reasonably pleased sentiments about said happy hours.
Granted, the happy hour is a bit of a lost art, and can often go unnoticed by bar-goers, or be completely missed by 9-to-5ers, who are in fact 8-to-6ers these days.
But with that said, I feel it very important to highlight exemplary models of happy hours when I see them, and Jumpin’ Jakes certainly fits that bill. Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. is the happy hour buffet for $4.99.
For me, the word “buffet” commonly triggers unfortunate childhood memories of laminated menus and family restaurants with pasta salad remains ground into the carpet. But let it be known that Jake’s buffet is as far from that memory as the day is long.
To give you the general idea of what you’d be in for on any given weeknight at Jakes, here’s an abbreviated example of the offerings you might encounter at the happy hour buffet: homemade meatballs, rotini pasta with sausage, baked beans, pulled barbecue pork, blueberry cornbread and chili. Oh, and pie for dessert. Seriously.
They might even have beer specials, but I have to confess that I was a bit too enthusiastic about the $4.99 buffet to really notice.
Although OOB is steadily headed into its quiet season, Jumpin’ Jakes is determined to keep the fire alive through the winter, and has been establishing some great theme nights and tasty incentives to keep folks coming through the doors.
Tuesdays are dedicated to an acoustic open-mic night that highlights some great local talent, and Wednesdays bring trivia nights, stoking some fierce yet friendly competition. Sundays are transitioning from cruise nights (where classic cars take over the parking lot and classic tunes fill the bar), to football day, where free snacks (yes, free) football and flat screens are the theme. Monday night is football night as well, and Friday hosts a variety of live music, from bluegrass to Cajun.
Johanna Sorrell is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.