There’s a little contraption nestled snugly in a nook at ACME F&B that, despite its novelty and intrigue, can be easily overlooked. At first glance, it’s a meat grinder. But it’s got a light bulb. And this device seems to have at one point needed a flow control, as there is a ball valve attached to it. But don’t get too close for further inspection – it appears to be spring-loaded for some reason or another. And should you be left wondering what time it is, don’t go looking to this gadget for help; the timepiece fitted into it doesn’t work anymore. This odd piece of machinery, however, does function quite well as a lamp, and Jeana Johnson has found the perfect spot for it: right next to the pheasant, whose taxidermist never dreamed it would end up sharing a shelf with a meatgrinderlampgadget.
“I just love things like this, just little things that maybe don’t stand out a whole lot, but help to convey a unique charm,” says Johnson, one of the four owners of the new restaurant on McKinney and Monticello. “We wanted to pick out our favorite things; really small, unique touches that evoke some sort of a feeling other than ‘okay, we’re just eating in some place.’ More than anything, we wanted to really focus on the idea that we’re not in the restaurant business, we’re in the hospitality industry, so it’s part of this design element of true hospitality.”
What Johnson, co-owners Colleen O’Hare (with whom she also owns Good 2 Go Taco), Brooke Humphris and Brianna Larson (Barcadia), have done is create a restaurant that establishes itself as a unique location in Dallas dining through its dishes, its design, and its dedication to sourcing locally and ethically. The atmosphere, described by Johnson as ‘Steampunk,’ is warm, unpretentious and inviting, with two separate bar areas – one of which is almost completely segregated by the kitchen area – lining the majority of the well lighted (but dark wooded) dining area. Trinkets and knickknacks can be found almost everywhere, but are never out of place in the comfortable environment.
But the novelties don’t necessarily lie only in the decor at ACME. In fact, when the restaurant is viewed with O’Hare and Johnson’s other kitchen endeavors (both Good 2 Go and Goodfriend) in perspective, it provides them a unique sourcing opportunity that not only keeps their kitchen creativity sharp, but allows them an even greater control of where their meat comes from – down to the individual animal.
“Between Good 2 Go and Goodfriend, this completes the circle so we can do our whole animal allocation program,” says O’Hare.
“And within an hour and a half,” Johnson adds, “Any person eating any meat at any of our three restaurants could go out and meet the meat they eat, and to us that’s really important – I know for a fact what we’re serving because I’ve been there.”
So as ACME F&B works into the fold of their restaurants, O’Hare and Johnson are left allocating parts of the whole animal across three different menus, meaning that between Good 2 Go and Goodfriend, they still have cuts available that allow them to be creative and offer a few dishes that might not be common in the Park Cities area – while still making them accessible to the everyday diner.
“Today we’ve a pig heart schnitzel; all our schnitzel is made from offal, and it’s rotating. It could be lamb kidney one day, it could be pig heart one day, it could be beef tongue the next we use all of the parts for the schnitzel,” says Johnson.”Some of the things on our menu could be considered slightly intimidating, but in reality, it’s all very approachable.”
Of course, there are more dishes that many would consider ‘traditional’ on ACME F&B’s menu; Salmon, skate and steak tartare can grace the menu alongside chicken and dumplings (gnocchi) or potato skins – specifically, Yukon Skins and Braised Beef with horseradish creme fraiche. However, because of their whole-animal allocation and desire to use the freshest produce and seafood they can get their hands on, Johnson and O’Hare often find themselves adjusting the menu to best use what they find they have on hand that day.
“We don’t get a plastic cryovac bag that’s a New York strip that’s cut to X number of ounces,” says Johnson with a laugh. “We have to put a very mindful hand to all product that we have in the house.”
As they is with the food, ACME F&B is with the beverages, as well – very mindful. Deep Ellum Brewing and Peticolas are two of the local breweries represented by ACME’s beer list, while the rest of the menu also illustrates not only a desire to represent a local culture, but to make it enjoyable from every respect – even down to the ice.
“We’re very proud of everything in our bar, because we paid really close attention to it; we paid really close attention to the wine list. We paid really close attention to the craft cocktails. We paid really close attention to the bottle, to the package and draft beers that we pour,” Johnson says. “Just like everything else. We paid attention to the ice in the glasses, so for something like an iced tea you’ll get Sonic[-style] ice, or if you get a cocktail on the rocks you get one big, huge cold ice cube.”
Even down to the ice, it appears that every last detail of ACME F&B has been considered, from the big things (how to appropriate the whole-animal allotment) to the most seemingly insignificant (where to put the vintage typewriter). It’s an effort to create a memorable and enjoyable experience every time a customer walks through the door; whether it’s a few drinks with friends or an enjoyable meal with a date, they want it to be a wonderful memory their customers won’t soon forget. And yes, that even applies to the meatgrinderlampgadgets.