(From January 2014)
When I found out that two of my friends and former coworkers, Trevor and Liza, were opening up a bar with one of their good friends, Taryn, I was naturally excited. I knew they were good, dedicated workers, but, more importantly, I knew that they were good people. I stayed in the loop and followed along as they neared the completion of their journey to create The Octopus, and though I was very excited, I did my best to temper my expectations, knowing that it was safer to be happy with whatever the end result was than to expect too much and be disappointed.
My expectations could have been sky-high, and they still would have been blown away. On Thursday night, the crew of The Octopus invited a number of friends and former co-workers for a pre-opening get together at the bar, to which I was lucky enough to be invited. The inside of the bar is indescribably awesome. One of the many people I talked to this weekend at the bar noted that they had been a bit worried about a nautically-themed bar, because it would be easy for it to be corny or chintzy, and that you’d really have do it right to pull it off. Well, The Octopus crew could not have done a better job. When I walked through the door, I was no longer in Wallingford; I felt like I was legitimately in an old, sea-worn ship, weathered by countless voyages, a safe haven in the stormy seas surrounding.
It’s hard for words to do justice to the amazing décor and feel of The Octopus. Everything is spot-on. It is very clearly an immense labor of love, beautifully imagined, and even more beautifully executed. You’ll just have to come see it for yourself to fully appreciate it.
One person that I talked to over the weekend said that if they could imagine a bar where all of their favorite people were hanging out, a place with a great environment and friendly faces to go along with it, they couldn’t have imagined anything better than The Octopus. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. Another person mentioned that they felt that they’d been coming to The Octopus for years, that as soon as they walked in, they felt like they belonged. Again, I was in full agreement with him. There was no need to dip my toes in the water first, no need to test it out to see if it was safe to swim; as soon as I walked through that door, I’d taken the plunge, and it was a beautiful thing.
Although I missed the grand opening of The Octopus on Saturday night, as I was working at my restaurant job, I came back on Sunday for an industry appreciation party the good crew of The Octopus had put together. I’d heard Saturday had been a huge hit, with a fully packed bar and lines around the block. The bar was nicely filled when I arrived Sunday afternoon. I spent a number of hours there, getting to know the place, trying the food, talking to people. It was unqualifiedly wonderful. The food is very good, with a well put together menu that does an excellent job of re-imagining old favorites. I’m looking forward to trying more of the food, but before I do, I’ll go ahead and recommend one of the flatbreads; the one I had on Sunday was absolutely delicious.
It isn’t always easy to judge success in our day and age. Usually it comes down to some equation of economic expediency. I’ve always been loath to subscribe to such definitions of “success”; to me, it isn’t about money, or the relative quality of the things that I own. It is, quite simply, about people: meeting good people, establishing relationships, building them, and continuing to share meaningful experiences with the good people you’ve met along the way. Success is about establishing and harboring relationships, it’s about sharing experiences—good and bad—with people to whom you can relate and for whom you care. For someone who has often struggled to find meaning amidst the vagaries of our strange, absurd modern life, to know that there is a safe haven, not far from my own home shores, where I can relax, have a beer, eat good food, and be surrounded by good people for whom I care deeply, is absolutely invaluable. Measure success as you please; as far as I’m concerned, The Octopus, less than a week into its voyage, is a huge, huge success.