Octopi’s recent expansion brings a delicious food menu from a talented chef

New kitchen is part of Octopi's $11 million expansion
Jacob Guyette standing in front of the kitchen at Octopi
Jacob Guyette (Photo by Larry Chua)

Jacob Guyette takes a pair of kitchen shears to a tray of Vitruvian Farms micro-radish in his new kitchen at Octopi. He’s about to use the small greens to garnish chicken wings that have just been tossed in a chili peanut sauce. He moves about with ease, adjusting his round-lens glasses underneath a flat-brimmed Milwaukee Brewers cap in his new kitchen — which is one of the new features of Octopi’s recent $11 million expansion that tripled the facility’s size.

A year and a half ago, 6-foot-3-inch Guyette and his fellow tall sous-chef Ajay Reyna squeezed into a food truck outside of Octopi’s taproom. “We learned how to dance in that truck together, but we like the extra space we have in here,” Guyette says of the kitchen he helped dream up. It’s likely that Octopi’s expansion wouldn’t have included a kitchen if Guyette hadn’t built a faithful clientele for the brewery’s stationary food cart. “I was hesitant to open a kitchen because I’ve never run a kitchen before,” says Octopi owner Isaac Showaki. But after seeing what Guyette and hospitality manager Claudia Roen could do — quadrupling weekly food cart sales after taking over and creating several popular items — Showaki had no hesitations about adding a full food menu to Octopi’s growing list of reasons people flock to the Waunakee brewery.

He’s Got The Chops
Jacob Guyette, Octopi’s chef de cuisine, got his start in the Madison restaurant scene at Blue Marlin around 2006. He also worked at L’Etoile, helped open Graze and Estrellón and cooked at Muramoto and Osteria Papavero. “Apart from being a great chef and cook, he’s really good at creating a menu, pricing, managing relationships with vendors and managing his team,” Octopi owner Isaac Showaki says of Guyette.

Not Just Bar Food
It wouldn’t make sense to pair Octopi’s Untitled Art specialty, collaborative beers with average bar food. “Even though it is a lot of simple foods, there’s still a lot of techniques that go into each dish,” Guyette says of Octopi’s offerings. They’re familiar menu items — cheese curds, tacos, soft pretzels, a shrimp roll, a BLT, a cheeseburger — but Guyette makes each exceptional.

No, you’re not seeing double. Guyette’s twin brother, Joshua, works behind the bar two days a week at the Waunakee brewery. When Joshua was looking for a part-time gig, he looked to Octopi, where his brother was running the food cart at the time.

Menu Must-Trys

A Smash Hit

smash burger with caramelized onions

Photo by Larry Chua

A smash burger and a beer — is there really any better pairing? Guyette starts with a quarter-pound smash patty on the flattop grill next to a caramelized pile of applewood-smoked onions. Add some American cheese, iceberg lettuce, “secret” burger sauce and a grilled Batch Bakehouse bun and you have the ultimate brewery burger.

Try To Top This

large soft pretzel

Photo by Larry Chua

Guyette knows that most Wisconsinites love a good soft pretzel, but he takes it a step further by topping giant pretzels from Batch Bakehouse with mouthwatering accoutrement like the brunch menu’s pretzel with Swiss fondue, bacon and sunny-side-up eggs, or a pretzel with beer-braised chicken, salsa verde, queso fresco and beer cheese.

Get In My Belly

pork belly tacos on a tray

Photo by Larry Chua

The pork belly tacos were one of the only carryover items from the food cart. Guyette braises pork belly with ginger soy sauce and lemongrass before he deep-fries it to get a crispy exterior while keeping it creamy on the inside. That goes on a tortilla from Tortilleria Zepeda and is topped with chili garlic mayo, pickled red onions and a bit of micro-greens from Vitruvian Farms when available.