901 E Street, Downtown San Diego
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
For the same reason we keep returning to New Orleans, David insisted we try out ACME Southern Kitchen when he realized (upon researching the menu after driving past the joint on his way home) that they served homestyle southern comfort food of the fried, buttery, and cheesy variety.
Since David and I are big fans of blunch (taking our first meal of the day at lunchtime, not to be confused with brunch, which is usually earlier) we held off that evening and went the very next day check out ACME’s take on the midday meal.
Parking wasn’t too difficult, as the East Village has yet to get as crazy crowded as Downtown. The décor is more contemporary-urban than cozy-southern. The cold industrial quality that usually comes with high ceilings, dark wood, exposed brick and iron fixtures is successfully warmed with low-hanging lamps and country accents, such as the little red hen wallpaper.
I was pleased to find the food as comforting and nostalgic as cartoons on Saturday morning (of which, incidentally, the word acme reminds me). I ordered the grilled meatloaf sandwich on a house-baked white roll with American cheese. Because of my perennial hate-hate relationship with mayonnaise, I asked to have the Comeback Sauce on the side, just in case. And speaking of sides, each sandwich comes with one, so I went cheeseballs to the wall and ordered the exceptionally cheesy macaroni and cheese. When it comes to mac-n-cheese, I stand firmly in the creamy camp so, while I am sure that ACME’s more granular and lumpy version has its supporters, it was not my ideal. The meatloaf patty was satisfying in the way a good burger satisfies, and the bun that swaddled it was fresh, with a hint of sweet to complement the savory meat and cheese within. (About that bun, all of the restaurant's baked goods, such as rolls, cornbread, biscuits, etc., are made a street over at chef/owner Terryl Gavre's new Bake Sale Bakery).
We got the sweet and spicy baked beans to share. They are exactly as advertised, sweet and spicy, with just enough salt to help all of the flavors shine.
David ordered the house specialty: fried chicken and waffle with jalapeño honey. The chicken was superb, hot and juicy inside, and the cornmeal in the crust gave it an extra crunch on the outside. The meat was served boneless, and while surely anathema to some die-hard fried chicken traditionalists, David appreciated the kitchen’s decision. The waffle, however, was a little sad. The superior fried chicken was begging for a more robust Belgian style waffle rather than the thin, soggy, pancake-ish affair that lay beneath it.
Overall, if you’re looking for a taste of everything the doctor wouldn’t want you to order — fried, bready, cheesy, and lip-smacking — pull up a seat at ACME, sit back, and indulge.