Evening restaurant review
If you read my last review, you will know I currently have overseas guests in town. I last took them to Sugarhouse Barbeque for a taste of something uniquely American. Lately, I have been hearing great things about ACME Burger Company. With the need for another American dining experience and seeking somewhere new and exciting, we hatched a plan for a weekend visit.
ACME Burger Company’s Chef, Adam Kreisel, is well known to many Utah foodies. Kreisel is formely of the ill-fated Globe by Moonlight and former executive chef at Sundance resort. Understandably, ACME Burger Company has generated a significant buzz with it’s opening. I have read a number of mixed reviews over at Chow.com which seem to be getting better all the time.
After our initial attempt at a visit a few weeks ago was thwarted by a packed restaurant, we tried again, at a much earlier hour, last weekend. We arrived at 6:00 p.m., the Friday after Thanksgiving. On entering, we found the dining room with only a handful of diners. We were instantly greeted by a super friendly chap, who I assume is one of the owners. After a cheerful welcome we were quickly seated and began to peruse the much-talked-about menu.
Even though the concept is effectively ‘gourmet burgers and fries’ the menu is suitably exotic and playful in keeping with Kreisel’s reputation. Items are grouped under headings like “shared”, “simmered”, “tossed”, “ground” and “the really, really good stuff”.
Everyone in our group was intrigued by multiple items, so we began by sharing two appetizers, first up the Ahi Spring Rolls with Mustard Herb Aioli ($12):
This plate met with a so-so response from the table. Not exactly bad, but nothing extraordinary. To be fair the spring rolls were crisp and the Ahi obviously fresh. A case of “does exactly what it says on the tin”.
Next up, the House-Cured Salmon with Potato Pancakes, Creme Fraiche and Chive ($10):
Far superior, the Salmon was beautifully cured. Sitting atop delicious potato pancakes with just a touch of creme fraiche. Eyes looked at the shared plate enviously, three portions and four diners. Needless to say they were gobbled up in moments. I could have happily sat and ate these all night, albeit to strange looks, no doubt.
Having read previous reviews noting the speed of service as an issue at ACME Burger Company, I found our waitress to be attentive and very helpful, but the speed of the kitchen seems to be slightly lacking. Once our appetizer plates were cleared, the wait for our entrees was quite a while. Whilst the menu does mention “great food takes a little more time”, I would have thought a well-oiled kitchen could produce three burgers and a salad fairly quick.
To be fair, whilst we waited, our waitress did check in periodically to ensure we were still happy. As we waited and chatted, we took in the funky restaurant design. Exposed brick, quirky seating, and a large ceiling-suspended model of a Hammerhead Shark all make for a fun/modern feel. We were seated in front of the open kitchen, where above the counter hangs a large LCD television showing the chefs on the line preparing the food. I thought this was a really great touch, which provided us with something interesting to watch as we waited.
Finally, the entrees arrived. My brother ordered the Ostrich Burger ($15) with Onion Rings ($5):
The burger came on a Ciabatta roll with a Garlic-Chile BBQ Sauce, Napa Cabbage and Shiitake Mushrooms. We all had to try a bite before he dug in. I found ostrich to be quite a strong, earthy flavoured meat. Very pleasant, all the testers concluded. Sadly my brother did not concur, it would appear he is not a fan of Ostrich.
The onion rings elicited several oohs and ahhs. I’m no big fan of onion rings, but Wendi in particular, remarked they were exceptionally good. So much so, she has been lusting after them daily ever since.
After falling in love with the cured Salmon earlier, Wendi chose the Grilled Caesar Salad ($9) with House-Cured Salmon ($4) and a side of Creamed spinach with Pernod ($5):
Another slam dunk in Wendi’s opinion. I am no salad connisseuer but I was assured this was an excellent rendition of a classic. I wasn’t brave enough to try the spinach (the mere thought of pernod makes me shudder) but it too received top marks. (Wendi notes, “I really wouldn’t recommend spinach as a side to a salad, but I was so intrigued by the spinach with pernod that I had to try it.”)
After briefly musing over the Colossal Burger (before chickening out), our other guest opted for the Grande Burger ($12) with Shoestring Potatoes ($4). He also chose additional toppings of Smoked Bacon ($1) and Pepperjack cheese ($0.50):
Yet another happy camper; especially when he noted that the kicthen had indeed cooked his burger to order (medium rare). The ability to order your burger to a specific temperature is a cool touch. It certainly sets ACME Burger Company apart from the crowd. As for the taste, our friend best summed it up as “I’m annoyed now, I won’t be able to eat another burger again after this one”. A very big thumbs up, from a very big fan of burgers in general.
The shoestring fries were also spot on. Crisp, light, and moreish.
Finally, I selected the Lamb Burger ($12) with Thick-Cut Fries ($4):
I’m a huge fan of Lamb burgers and rarely see them on menus here in Utah, so I was very excited. The burger was served on a tasty sweet potato bun, with arugula and featured a cucumber yoghurt relish. Sadly, I found the relish far too overpowering against the lamb. Whilst enjoyable enough, I just couldn’t taste the meat through the strong white sauce. I’d personally suggest something a little more restrained, maybe something involving a hint of mint? As with all the sides we tried, the thick-cut fries were also perfectly executed. I continued to pick at them long after I was beyond the point of fullness.
A mixed bag all in all, but certainly one with more positives than negatives. The place is seems to be a hit already. By the time we left, it was packed to the rafters.
I think key to long-term success would be improving the speed at which the kitchen can produce the food. Whilst I can appreciate that this is not meant to be fast food, there is still the phsycological perception of “Hey, I only ordered a burger and fries, why so long?”. For unprepared first time visitors, I don’t think any amount of fancy menu touches and funky dining space can easily break this down. Whilst we were forewarned about the wait, and were prepared, would other diners be so happy?
I myself am looking forward to a repeat visit to Acme Burger Company and I recommend it to everyone else as well. Just make sure you plan on a little longer than you might anticipate.