Octane celebrates 10 years

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116906792514189.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sara Harrilchak’, ‘During the past 10 years, Octane, 124 N. Main St., has combined upbeat casual dining, art, music and technology to offer a unique experience to the downtown River District. When it opened in 1997, it was the fourth cybercafé in the United States.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116906794614189.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sara Harrilchak’, ‘Saturday, Jan. 27, is the final event in Octane’s birthday celebration: a dance party hosted by Octane staff, featuring a premium blend of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s dance tunes, spun by owner Dan Minick.‘);

Octane InterLounge kicks off week-long celebration Jan. 23

Octane InterLounge, 124 N. Main St., celebrates 10 years of upbeat casual dining in downtown Rockford with a week-long birthday celebration.

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 23, in addition to Octane’s eclectic lunch and dinner menus, guests can enjoy menu favorites from Octane’s early menus.

Octane Chef Jason Williams will be featuring favorite menu items pulled from 10 years of seasonally-changing menus, including favorites such as shrimp de jonge with duchess potatoes, grilled calamari steaks, espresso brownies, lamb albigondas (meatballs), and pohani sur (gourmet fried cheese).

Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 24, guests can peruse a colorful timeline of Octane’s first 10 years, created from a combination of memorabilia, photos of famous visitors and favorite regulars, staff anecdotes and illustrations, business comments and press clippings. This graphic display is in the long hallway, and reads like a primer for “how to pursue a dream”—exploring “what worked” and “what didn’t work,” in a humorous and playful manner.

Also on display is a collection of artwork purchased by owners Dan and Michelle Minick from Octane’s ArtScene artists over the years. A range of topics are represented in this selection of paintings, photographs, prints and sculpture. Local artists on display include Jason Farris, Stefan Agustsson, Scott Long, Brian Doherty, Kevin Richards, John Deill, Amy Young, Tim Monroe, Ted Frericks, Bill Olson and others. Key pieces from Octane’s current art show, “All The World’s A Stage…Scenes from a Small Planet,” by Ted Frericks, will also be on display through the end of the month.

Thursday, Jan. 25, Octane will revisit its caffeinated roots with a celebration of its barristas’ talents: offering coffee and espresso drinks for $1 all day. Octane’s house coffee is a blend of beans chosen specifically by Dan Minick and roasted locally every week. A dollar gets visitors a choice of coffee, lattes, mochas or cappuccinos, with any of Octane’s flavors and whipped cream. Thursday’s coffee special includes the following additional signature drinks:

The Dopplegänger—A quadruple shot of espresso, with steamed and foamy chocolate milk, Ghirardelli milk chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a drizzle of Ghirardelli dark chocolate syrup. Not for the faint of heart, the Dopplegänger was an early favorite created by Octane’s network administrator, Hans Rupert, in the very beginning for its loyal group of computer users.

Octane Oil Slick—A blend of Pepsi, vanilla, and a fresh shot of creamy espresso, served iced. An unusual, and usually, acquired taste.

Blue Dews—A citrus-based, turquoise-blue, enhanced Mountain Dew favored by the younger set.

When Octane opened in 1997, it was the fourth cybercafé in the United States, and offered Internet access and monthly accounts for patrons. Utilizing the robust NeXT STEP operating system created by Steve Jobs when he left Apple, Octane offered four public workstations. Octane coined the term “InterLounge” to underscore the importance and the power inherent in the intersection of “people and the Internet and the community.” Octane has remained true to its belief that this intersection is powerful; its mission after 10 years remains to

“add meaning to people’s lives.”

Although the original four computer workstations were removed from the restaurant in 1999 to make way for valuable dining “real estate” (tables), Octane continued its community commitment, and sweetened the deal, by offering free Wi-Fi access to all patrons. Once again setting the pace for other businesses to follow, Octane was the first in Rockford to offer free Wi-Fi to patrons.

Friday, Jan. 26, Octane’s original chef, Eric Ohlson, returns for one night to oversee a mini menu of his favorites from the restaurant’s classic tapas menus. When Octane opened, its original menu offerings were tapas (small plates), a concept now offered at Brio Restaurant, Wine Bar and Patio. Over the first nine months, guests revealed they loved the unusual variety of flavors and presentation, but the market demand for traditional dinner options in the downtown area was strong.

“Octane responded to the market in the first year, and tweaked its menu structure, and since then, our chefs have each maintained that passionate commitment to offering unusual and flavorful ingredients, thoughtfully prepared, and creatively named to ignite the vision and joy that was present in the initial brainstorming efforts we had with chef Eric Ohlson,” said owner Dan Minick.

Ohlson designed Octane’s kitchen to be a touch-point kitchen; a narrow galley where the hot and cold lines can both be easily accessed from anywhere in the kitchen. Current head chef Jason Williams now leads a team of talented cooks, and encourages them to explore new features and flavors according to their personal interests.

Saturday, Jan. 27, is the final event in Octane’s birthday celebration: a dance party hosted by Octane staff, featuring a premium blend of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s dance tunes, spun by owner Dan Minick. The dancing starts around 9 p.m., but the pre-show will showcase an assortment of the unusual and upbeat music for which Octane became known.

Over the years, Octane has inspired other businesses, witnessed first dates that resulted in marriages, and encouraged staff to take the steps to follow their own dreams. Owners Dan and Michelle Minick said they are pleased to have spent the last 10 years creating a business that is vibrant, has a nurturing staff that is valuable, and welcomes guests who are vital: all components necessary in creating a successful business.

The Minicks also said they look forward to continuing to pursue those components for the next 10 years.

Dan Minick said of his and co-owner Michelle Minick’s appreciation of their customers: “We are thrilled every week when we see the melting pot of customers that enjoy and enliven Octane’s four walls: attorneys, poets, doctors, artists, students, seniors. The eclectic group of regulars have made Octane the colorful and interesting place it has become. This week-long celebration is as much a result of our efforts as it is the spontaneous gatherings of our patrons.”

The owners added they hope everyone can join them sometime over their birthday week. Octane will celebrate with a birthday cake on each night: Thursday, Friday and Saturday. All events are free.

Anyone wishing to share a favorite memory of Octane, or a thought about how Octane has had a positive effect on their lives, can e-mail info@octane.net.The staff will choose three entries, who will each win a $50 gift certificate.

For more information, contact Michelle Minick at 965-2235, ext. 4 or 218-2794, or e-mail mgm@octane.net; Dan Minick at 749-2531; Jason Williams, head chef, at 965-4012; or call 494-8830 (food quotes and questions) and general information. Large group reservations and private parties can be requested by calling Karen Zander, general manager, at 965-2235, ext. 3.

From the Jan. 17-23, 2007, issue

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