The Panini Pop-In at Octane

The other day I hit up Octane (3402 N. Shepherd Drive), the new coffee/wine bar on the corner of Shepherd and 34th, for a quick lunch. I ordered a regular coffee and a chicken pesto panini, paid $9.21, and sat down on one of the cozy couches. I had been once before in the evening and was impressed by the atmosphere. Stress seems to dissipate with a visit to Octane. The cool A/C, stained cement floors, retro furniture, bold, solid-colored walls, and expansive windows transport you into a state of mellowness.

After ten minutes, a waitress brought me a sandwich. Only it wasn't my sandwich. No worries. She apologized and walked away. After 20 minutes, I began to grow impatient, but the woman who originally took my order walked by and let me know my food would be out shortly. Remember, all I ordered was a coffee and a chicken pesto panini.

Thankfully, I got my coffee from the start, but it was now empty. And by the way, why does a regular coffee at a coffee house have to be so regular? Nothing about it made me want seconds. I guess I should have ordered a latte or mocha. But back to the sandwich.

Rather than get upset, I was now more intrigued by what was taking so long. A quick glance behind the counter and into the kitchen gave me all the info I needed. There were too many people moving none too fast. My hypothesis -- somehow, my order did not travel the ten feet from the register to the kitchen. Fortunately, I wasn't in a hurry, but I waved the white flag at the 40-minute mark and made my official complaint. Sure enough, no order.

The manager insisted on refunding my money and expressed genuine embarrassment and concern. I took my sandwich to go and ate it in the car.

Every new restaurant goes through growing pains, and I suppose Octane was having a bad day. The good news -- that panini was very tasty. The perfectly crisp, yet chewy ciabatta bread was stuffed with fresh sliced chicken, a pesto aioli-and-garlic-infused olive oil, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, and melted provolone cheese. Every ingredient played off one another, with none overpowering the sandwich. It was my first 45-minute sandwich, but I have to admit, as bad as the service was, I found myself wanting to go back.

I'm hoping Octane can get their service straightened out. Next time, I'll hope for a 15-minute panini.

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