Ice3 owner Erika Stone-Miller isn't interested in serving ice cream during the winter, so she's put her food truck in storage and is preparing to open The Octagon Mode in Ravenswood on Oct. 11.
Not a traditional restaurant, the space at 1509 W. Lawrence Ave. will host dinner parties several times a week, mostly on Fridays and Saturdays, where about 12 to 18 people will mingle and dine at communal tables.
"This kind of dinner is for people who want to be social," Stone-Miller said. "If you want to have a romantic dinner, this is probably not the right place.”
Stone-Miller said she regularly throws 60-person dinner parties at her own house and prefers that experience to a more traditional fine-dining restaurant.
“We’re doing fine dining, we’re doing beautifully plated food, but we’re having a good time," she said. "I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to whisper, they can’t laugh, they can’t talk to their neighbors.”
The menu changes every week and isn't revealed until you're at the event, which Stone-Miller said gives her the flexibility to change it to incorporate fresh products from the Green City Market and other local vendors. The one dish that will always be present is the European drinking chocolate, served between dessert and coffee.
The BYOB dinners will run about two and a half hours, though Stone-Miller said she'll take cues from the crowd. Local duo The Apuli Brothers will be regulars, providing music during meals. Stone-Miller said she also has some other bands lined up.
A seat at The Octagon Mode costs $100, though diners can get a $15 discount if they share an interesting fact about themselves that Stone-Miller can use to get conversation started. Along with cooking and plating, she also plans to be an active part of the dinner party, talking with guests about the food.
The concept's name comes from a 19th century American architectural movement where the traditional square shape of homes was abandoned in favor of an octagon that let in more light. Stone-Miller, who has a degree in architecture, said she feels a kinship with the man behind the movement, Orson Squire Fowler, who was just an amateur architect with strong opinions.
“I am not a trained chef," she said. "I worked in the business on the floor. While the food is absolutely important, for me it’s about the guests. Sometimes I think that there’s so much emphasis on food that some other things get left out.”
The Octagon Mode is likely to close in spring when Ice Cubed hits the road again.
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