When ACME restaurant shuttered its doors for a full renovation by orders of its new owners, past patrons of the former grubby Cajun eatery went into a tailspin. What would happen to their beloved menu of chicken wings and fried everything, complemented by a wall of assorted hot sauces?
When the New Nordic eatery, which consists of a main restaurant on the top level and a lounge and sitting area downstairs, re-opened its doors for a VIP friends and family tasting last December, only glimpses of the former venue could be found. Co-owner Jean-Marc Houmard says while they did a “gut renovation” on the place after taking over the lease in April of 2011, “the walls had history and we tried to keep that feeling of a lived-in restaurant with all the imperfections that give a good space its personality.”
And ACME is not a restaurant short on personality, especially in its decor. With an imaginative atmosphere that’s high on variety and low on precision, the art darlings of New York City and beyond have been flocking to the venue for dinner and late nights since before the restaurant’s official opening. ”Evanly, one of the partners, had a background in art magazines and wanted to give the space that extra layer with electic art pieces. Some were commissioned, some came from Jon’s [Neidich] own collection and some are just low-brow found pieces,” he explains of the variety and acquistion of ACME’s collection. “We didn’t want it to be too serious and mixing high and low seemed more interesting than the typical gallery showing.”
The combination has drawn quite a high-brow and eclectic crowd. In March, the night before the Black Keys performance at Madison Square Garden, music mogul Lyor Cohen held a private dinner and party for the über-hot band at the restaurant with guests such as Tory Burch, Russell Simmons, Theo Wenner and Hannah Bronfman.
When party guests aren’t getting a second round of drinks, they’re admiring the works of artists like Josephine Meckseper, Hanna Liden, Richard Prince and Donald Sultan, suggesting the décor has drawn almost as many customers as the food, which is quite the accomplishment, considering who is preparing it. Foodies patiently wait for prime reservations due to Danish chef Mads Redlund who graces Manhattan by way of Copenhagan, where he previously worked for world-famous restaurant Noma before opening his own restaurant, which is no longer in business, MR.
Getting that table at the bi-level dinner and lounge since it officially opened in January can be a difficult task at times. But Houmard advises not to give up hope if you’re in the mood for some spur-of-the-moment Nordic grub one evening: “Although prime time gets booked pretty quickly, there is always a chance of getting a last minute reservation, or to just walk in and grab a couple of stools at the bar, where whole menu is available,” he suggests.
As for being granted access into the downstairs lounge area, which is open Tuesday through Saturday, we suggest coming with an Olsen sister. Or at least dressing like one.
ACME, 9 Great Jones Street, 212.203.2121