Chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare have become known as the Taco Ladies, thanks to their East Dallas taqueria Good 2 Go. This cool and funky neighborhood spot not only created a gourmet oasis for the neighborhood, it got them featured on TV, on an episode of Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate.
But the duo began their careers at fine-dining restaurants such as Stephan Pyles and the Green Room, and they wanted a place where they could go back to making food not wrapped in a tortilla. In June, they partnered with Brianna Larson and Brooke Humphries, owner of Barcadia and Beauty Bar, to open the rustic, charming Acme F&B on McKinney Avenue, where they've re-established themselves as daring chefs who support the local dining scene and make some exciting, assertive food.
They took over a space, previously Cretia's, that has seen many restaurants come and go; the location seemed jinxed. But a comprehensive remodel not only reconfigured the flow of the room, it banished the ghosts. Design team Ryan Chaney and Steve Mabry are known for utilizing found materials, and they went wild with reclaimed wood, old sinks and recycled steel, keeping the rusty bits for an artful, lived-in look.
The decor fits Acme's rustic comfort food, one that draws on the chefs' roots as well as the German traditions of Texas, such as the spaetzle that accompanies some of their roasted meats. The menu responds to season, but everything they do has a weighty solidarity.
That's true even with salads, such as the warm bread salad ($10), with romaine lettuce, kalamata olives, bell pepper and chunks of warm bread saturated in dressing. The bread's moist density softened the romaine to the point of nearly wilting it, for a satisfying texture.
You definitely won't leave Acme F&B hungry. An appetizer of Yukon potato skins ($9) came five to an order; they were baby potatoes, but rest assured, they were filling. They were potato halves, not skins, roasted until soft and buttery and topped with brisket and melted cheese. A few sprigs of frisee tossed in vinaigrette added a sharp note.
Acme F&B buys its meats from local ranchers, offering a "farmer's cut" of beef, lamb or pork, depending on what's been supplied. For seafood, the chefs offer a "river" fish and an "ocean" fish that changes nightly. One night it was salmon ($26) with the skin still on, served over a bed of mixed vegetables. The salmon was cooked until the skin turned crisp and crackly. The vegetable medley was a wonderful saute of chopped celery, onion, celery leaves and crunchy fresh peas in a butter sauce.
The signature entree is chicken and dumplings ($27), and it deserves the spotlight. A large breast was flattened and cooked until its edges turned dark and crusty. The dumplings had a fantastic texture: chewy in the center with crisp, browned edges. With its brown gravy and a side of greens, it's hard to think of a more comforting dish.
The beer and wine list have been carefully composed, with cutting-edge and local beers and two dozen wines by the glass. For example, Acme was one of the first to get the just-released Blood & Honey ale ($6) from Revolver Brewing Co. in Fort Worth. It pairs nicely with the pineapple upside down cake ($6), served in a baby cast-iron pan with a scoop of house-made caramel ice cream -- a dessert that embodies Acme's warm blend of homey and fresh.