The revamp of a beloved collegiate hang is poised to be the city’s next hot downtown scene.
When 25-year Cajun standby Acme announced last spring that it was done, everyone with college-era beer-and-wings memories mourned the news. But the Acme that reopened last month with the team from hot spots Indochine and Kittichai at the helm is as sophisticated and stylish as the Noho neighborhood that surrounds it, and possibly even more fun than the original restaurant.
Waiters in crisp white shirts and skinny black ties preside over the black-and-white, candlelit dining room. Everyone seems attractive, and seems to know each other, table-hopping even at this early stage. There’s that actor from Heroes over there, and a world-famous chef and his entourage at the next booth over. If you’re lucky, you’ll score one of several clubby, curving banquettes, designed for the whole gang to pile in.
The monthly-changing, Scandinavian-tinged menu from Mads Refslund (who hails from Noma in Copenhagen) is made for sharing, too. It’s grounded in the kind of comfort food people crave these days, but with a twist: A chicken & eggs entrée is a pot of flavorful chicken breast and potato chunks, mingling with taffy-like eggs that have been poached and fried. Meanwhile, heirloom carrots emerge as exquisitely sweet veggie slices topped with a layer of that magical butter-in-pork-fat-form, lardo. And don’t miss the desserts, particularly a large bowl of “bread porridge,” stirred through with salty-sweet caramel and with an earthy hops base.
But as familiar-yet-interesting as the food is, the real draw here is the buzzy scene, fueled by a reasonably priced wine list and cocktails like the green-pepper-basil-gin-laced Graffiti Green. A soaring half-moon mirror along the side wall reflects it all back, and the walls pop with an eclectic art collection – a checkerboard of Richard Prince bunnies in one corner, an oversize metal lobster overseeing the whole room.
There’s a downstairs lounge, too (it was a live music venue in the old Acme), with nearly as large a footprint as the dining room above. While that’s still building buzz, now would be an ideal time to reserve it for a party or another event, before the crowds take over. Co-owner Jean-Marc Houmard says the eventual plan is to offer late-night bites downstairs.
For now, the red awning from the original Acme winks out to Great Jones Street, beckoning only the in-the-know to this haven of cool. That might get replaced, Houmard says, since the “Cajun Food” it promises is no more. And sad as that might be for nostalgists, what’s taken its place is far more fitting to this corner of the city, at this particular New York moment.Acme www.acmenyc.com 9 Great Jones St. (Lafayette and Broadway) 212-203-2121 Reservations recommended; email firstname.lastname@example.org