O'Casey's offers several 'escapes'

October 04, 2004|JOHN T. DAVIS

Yearning for an escape?

What about a room with a view of the sea and historic lighthouses?

Or maybe you'd like to just "sit a spell" in a mountain porch swing?

Or travel in a time machine back to the days of Elvis and Marilyn?

These are among the "escapes" offered by Venus and Rick Casey at their recently opened O'Casey's Nostalgic Eatery at 512 S. Fourth St. in Danville.

"We kind of took, for escapes, the things we liked on our vacations," Rick Casey said.

The couple love to travel, and when they began putting together ideas for their restaurant, they decided to re-create the feeling of their own "escapes" to the sea and the mountains.


"We wanted to offer people an escape from the ordinary dining experience," Casey said.

So the couple created a "lighthouse room" that has the feel of a visit to the coast, complete with soothing sounds of the sea.

"It stays quiet in there," said Venus Casey. "Even when the restaurant is really busy and noisy, it's peaceful in there and you hear the ocean noises."

In the restaurant's main room, diners can sit in porch swings or garden seats or in booths beneath a mural of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

"We're a small fish in a big ocean," Rick Casey said. "We had to have a difference somehow. Where else can people go and sit in a lighthouse room or on a front-porch swing ...?

"Life's monotonous enough. Escape for that time you're eating, and go home happy."

A bit of family and American history

Besides bringing their vacation "escapes" back to Danville, the couple have brought a bit of family and American history to the restaurant, too - in the form of the "O" in O'Casey's.

While researching his lineage, Casey learned that his ancestors came to America from Ireland in 1827 during a potato famine, and their name was actually "O'Casey." Like many Irish immigrants who were discriminated against in those days, his ancestors dropped the "O" from their name in an effort to get a job.

"We liked it (the name O'Casey's) ... We said, 'What the heck; there are not a lot of Irish places around here,'" Casey said. "You see Irish pubs, but this is a non-smoking, non-drinking alternative to that.

"Some people come in and ask if we have Guinness (an Irish beer), but we're here for people who don't want to get involved with alcohol. We've got all of the fun and none of the booze."

The restaurant's menu reflects Casey's Irish roots (there's an Irish Meat Pie) but also his local roots and past ownership of Jocko's Pizza restaurants in Stanford, Lancaster and Danville.

In addition to Italian favorites from Jocko's, which was named after Casey's uncle, the late "Jock" Gresham, there's "Jimmy's Bacon-Chili Cheese Dog," which includes chili made from a recipe used by Casey's grandfather, Jimmy Gresham, who ran the old Brunswick pool hall, a mainstay on Danville's Main Street for many years. The chili is also used on "The Big Tate," a triple cheeseburger named after Danvillian Eddie Tate.

"Tradition is important to us," Casey said.

And family is important, too. Besides catering to a family clientele, O'Casey's is family run. Casey's brother Stacey and brother-in-law Jerome Overbay are managers, and other family members help out from time to time.

In fact, Casey said, it was the desire to spend more time with his family that prompted the Caseys to open their own restaurant again. Since closing Jocko's several years ago, Casey had been working for Bob Evans restaurants in Lexington, Somerset, Richmond and elsewhere.

"I got to where I was spending less and less time with my family," he said. "Now my kids (Dakota, 9, and Kristian, 7) come here every day at 4 o'clock."

For the same reason, Casey said, the restaurant is closed on Sunday.

"That's time to be with family. If you don't spend time with your kids, somebody else will."

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