You won't find chitlins and gizzards on the menu at Acme Southern Kitchen, but the newly opened East Village restaurant does dole out Southern classics—albeit more familiar ones—in a tidy brick building from the 1920s.
Acme owner Terryl Gavre also helms Café 222 and Bankers Hill, and her penchant for laid-back elegance has translated to the shoebox-size restaurant. Blush-colored roosters and hens adorn the wallpaper; ceramic plates and muffin tins double as decorations. Acme feels cozy, classy and unpretentious—the kind of relaxed setting perfect for devouring smothered pork chops and buttermilk biscuits.
Located on the corner of Ninth and E streets, Acme inhabits a neighborhood that is still very much in flux (901 E St.). The restaurant's carefully put-together interior and country-music soundtrack exist in sharp contrast to the at-times noisy construction unfolding outside. Still, once the fried green tomatoes reached our table in a paper tray reminiscent of county-fair grub, it was hard to notice much else.
Cut into thick discs, the tomatoes are dunked in a house-made batter and sent to the fryer. The Southern dish flaunts a contrast of delectable textures and flavors: The tomatoes are firm and tart, with an almost silky, pudding-like center. The coating, meanwhile, is hot and crunchy. A creamy "comeback" sauce loaded with spice completes the starter, but it merely distracts from the main act. Ditch the dipping sauce and focus all your attention on the deep-fried gems instead.
Acme's main entrées include sandwiches and savory meat pies, served with one side for a reasonable $11 to $14. If you're really famished, then the meatloaf dinner or smothered pork chops should do the trick. After a frustrating, five-minute episode of bouncing back and forth between two options, I finally settled on the fried-chicken sandwich.
The sandwich arrived minutes later, accompanied by an oil-dripping slab of mac and cheese. Acme's fried-chicken sandwich is reasonably sized and therefore appears conquerable, but that's merely an illusion. A fat, starchy biscuit—baked in-house—holds together the generously breaded and infinitely crunchy fried chicken thigh. It's a well-crafted sandwich: Spicy coleslaw adds just enough heat, and the biscuit doesn't crumble apart. The chicken stays moist and juicy, although it could use more seasoning. Thanks to the firm biscuit, the fried-chicken sammie holds up well in the fridge and makes for a sturdy snack the next day.
My grub buddy ordered Acme's pulled-pork sandwich—a saucy, drippy behemoth. A soft, house-baked white roll, though delicious, failed to sop up all the extra juices from the meat and the coleslaw. Nevertheless, paired with spicy-and-sweet collard greens, it made for a rich and flavorful mealójust not a very portable one.
Lemon icebox pie, served in a clear glass, ended our lunch. The tri-layered dessert features a graham-cracker crust, lemon filling and fresh whipped cream. With its clean, citrus flavor, the refreshing sweet was a fine complement to the heavy, mostly deep-fried meal. Still, if given a shot at a redo, I'd probably just order an extra helping of the fried green tomatoes.