The Acre Makes Farm-to-Table Easy
Buffalo wings and mac n’ cheese for the conscious eater
It’s surprising to find a restaurant like The Acre in the Northeast Heights strip mall it calls home. Though it has simpatico neighbors like a Penzey’s Spices and a Natural Grocers, the farm-to-table vegetarian restaurant doesn’t quite seem to fit the busy, inner-city intersection of Montgomery and Wyoming. But perhaps this is just because inside, the space feels expansive and rural—with its floor-to-ceiling photos of fields and farmhouses on parallel walls, the otherwise small restaurant opens up comfortably.
The first time I visited The Acre it was for lunch on a weekday. Me and my companion were seated at a small table right next to the window, which was sunny and—especially once we began eating—quite warm. The illusion of space fades a bit once you’re seated too, as the tables along the outer walls are close together and it becomes hard not to overhear your table-neighbors’ conversations. That said, I know that Executive Chef Shawn Weed’s vision for the space was to bring people together: He acknowledged that diners would be sharing close quarters with each other, and that it might be uncomfortable. If you're an extrovert, though, this setup might be just your cup of tea, and an opportunity to make some new friends.
I ordered the homemade lavender lemonade ($3.00) and my friend ordered the Villa Myriam nitro cold brew ($3.00)—a local coffee roaster that I’m quite fond of. The lavender lemonade was deliciously fresh and sweet; a perfect balm for the spicy appetizers that followed. The rest of the drink menu is very local-oriented as well, including beers from La Cumbre and Marble.
The waiter, who seemed like a bit of a greenhorn, wasn’t quite as well-versed on the specials and the ingredient sources as I would have hoped … but she was exceedingly kind to make up for it. She did tell us that the buffalo cauliflower ($8.00) was a crowd favorite appetizer, so we decided to test the crowd’s wisdom. Turns out they got this one right: The cauliflower, which is breaded and fried to mimic buffalo wings, was covered in a tangy and spicy vinegar sauce that stains your lips and makes you sweat just a little. On the side was some bleu cheese ranch dressing that cooled the fire just enough. We sent that plate back empty and almost ordered more.
We had to save room for the real deal, of course. I ordered the “meat(less) loaf” sandwich ($10.00), which came with a side of homemade pickles and kettle chips. This was going out on a limb—me and “fake meat” foods don’t often get along. They’re usually dry and taste nothing like meat, or even like the vegetables that they’re supposedly made of. This sandwich, though, managed to steer clear of those pitfalls: the “meat”loaf is moist and full of recognizable bits of veggies, and has a distinct umami meatiness from the portabella mushroom.
The veggie enchiladas ($11.00) my friend ordered were a little less impressive, unfortunately—and in this town serving people sub-par enchiladas is a big no no. They were swimming in cheese and didn’t have much else going on flavor-wise: some hot sauce was needed to make them a little interesting. I would have appreciated some spice or a more flavorful filling.
We finished with one of the daily homemade ice creams (The Acre has a vegan and a non-vegan ice cream special every day). I ordered the lemon vegan ice cream ($5.00) expecting a sorbet, but what came out was a coconut-milk-based, citrusy ice—perhaps because of my expectation, it didn’t quite deliver. It had an earthy sweetness imparted, I believe, from maple syrup (I asked the waitress but she didn’t know), and that paired with the light citrus didn’t sit right on the palate. Vegan ice cream can be very hard to do right, and I expect that the kitchen at The Acre will be experimenting further with these daily recipes.
I visited The Acre again for dinner on a Friday night and found the place packed. Me and Maggie Grimason, Arts Editor at the Alibi and designated vegan friend, managed to snag the last table at a back corner of the room. This time around, the closeness of the tables played out as a positive: Halfway through our dinner, the family seated next to us tuned in to our conversation about Meow Wolf and we all compared notes on our last visits there. It felt very natural and unforced to chat with them, and I realized that Weed’s vision of the social aspect of the place might actually play out well—if you’re open to it.
We ordered the spread and crisps ($8.00)—which turned out to be warm, fried flatbread with a cauliflower cheese dip. We were big fans of this one, a hearty and warming starter on a chilly night. My only alteration: I would have put the dip through a blender first, as the bits of cauliflower were a little too big to be comfortably and non-messily transported from plate to mouth.
For the entrée I ordered the “raw” salad ($10.00): a simple salad of arugala with quinoa, sprouts, carrot, bell pepper and chopped almond; Maggie ordered the comfort club sandwich ($10.00). The salad was beautifully presented with each ingredient in stripes, and it made me feel a little better about shoveling all that cheese dip down my maw. The comfort club, which came on triple-decker toasted whole wheat bread, had miso-glazed carrots taking the place of the bacon, fresh lettuce and tomato and a pleasantly spicy spread adding a little extra something. Though I don’t think many people would mistake the carrot in there for bacon, that’s not the point—it tastes good.
I’m excited that The Acre is open and doing well; seeing a farm-to-table restaurant that’s accessible and not astronomically priced does my heart good. I especially appreciate the casual family-oriented vibe of the place: Both times I visited, there were families with young children (notoriously picky eaters) who seemed to be quite happy with their mac and cheese and carrot dogs, and the restaurant’s custom coloring pages. If The Acre has truly found a formula to get the next generation of Burqueños to eat more sustainably and healthily, then I wish them every success in the world.
4410 Wyoming Blvd. NE
Alibi recommends: buffalo cauliflower, meat(less) loaf sandwich, lavender lemonade
Vibe: casual, family-friendly