When we could get into the Brass Compass Cafe on Main Street in Rockland, it was like winning the lottery.

“Are we lucky or what? And look, a booth!” I would exclaim.

We often had to stand in an untidy line of like-minded hungry folks. I rarely saw anyone leave the line prematurely. The smells of bacon, eggs, pancakes, and muffins wafting from the griddle made that almost impossible. And if some gruff tourist with a tight yachting schedule turned to leave the line, I just assumed he had a deviated nasal septum or was an Ugly American.

The Brass Compass became one of our favorite restaurants on the Midcoast. It catered to fanatics like me, who enjoyed their breakfasts heaped with helpings of dishes having nautical names like The Compass Muffin, The Skiff, or the Matinicus Benny. I slobbered over the simply named French Toast.

“Is that who I think it is?” my wife asked.

I turned my head.

“Don’t stare!” she whispered loudly.

We were in the Atlantic Cafe, a restaurant on Nantucket, in the mid-1980s. The South Water Street eatery was popular with permanent residents like us during the winter months, and one of the go-to places for boaters, tourists, and celebrities during the summer months.

As I remember it, their breakfasts were most popular when you could order slabs of blueberry pancakes, eggs cooked any way you wanted along with bacon and thick slices of toast, and warm muffins as big as softballs.

“That’s Ted Kennedy,” I said with political authority. I had heard he sometimes stopped by the Atlantic Café, and jiminy rickett, there he was, sitting at a booth with several folks, all with Izod-like short-sleeved shirts and boat shoes. Ted had cheeks the color and texture of strawberries, the Kennedy nose, wavy hair, and a hearty laugh. He looked trim, healthy, and fun-loving back then, only 18 years after the Chappaquiddick incident on Martha’s Vineyard.

The Atlantic Café became an attraction because it was an answer to the question tourists inevitably asked: Where do the locals eat? The vacationer wanted to groove in the lifestyle of the people who actually labored there year-round.

There was a joke when the tourists suddenly appeared, the owners of the Nantucket restaurants would yell the following menu change to their chefs:

“Quick! Add more water to the chowder!”

I don’t think the Atlantic Café ever used that tactic in the summer. That’s why people loved it. While some may have doubted Ted K’s moral standards back then, I applauded his choice of eatery.

Sadly, I learned the Atlantic Cafe changed owners and then closed years ago. Nantucket will never be the same without it. I am so thankful I left the island before that terrible day of closure, although maybe I should have stayed and argued for principles of café democracy.

It surprises me when restaurants close, especially those that are so popular, like The Brass Compass. I take it as a personal slight. The owners didn’t ask me how I felt about the shuttering of the doors and windows, me thinking, “I won’t ever go back there again!”

I have never met Lynn Archer, the powerhouse owner behind The Brass Compass and Archer’s on the Pier. Perhaps if I had attempted to say hello — after, of course, wiping the maple syrup dribbling down my chin — and complimented her wonderful restaurant, she might have phoned me to meet and ask my opinion before closing the joint.

Here is how I fantasize our conversation would have gone:

“What do you think, Mike? I so value your advice on running a hospitality business,” she might have said while rolling her eyes.

“No, no, no, Lynn. Trust me. Yes, you can move the menus, the staff, and those big whoopie pies. But this location. Come on, it is so old-timey. Archers is very nice, but you are stuck looking at those monster yachts tied up outside the restaurant.” My eyes would be wide in faux pain, a tear trickling down my cheek.

“I hear you, Mike, but I have my business reasons, like the costs and energy of running both restaurants that are close to each other. It’s a lot for me to do every day.”

“Oh, but Lynn, pretty please, for me, can you keep The Brass Compass open?”

Here I must apologize to the public on Nantucket and Midcoast Maine for letting these two icons close; I became too distracted doing other things like mowing my lawn every week. I promise not to let that happen again. And I will argue more forthrightly for eatery democracy.

Did I just hear Dorman’s Dairy Dream on Route 1 closed? Oh, man.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.

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