2016 provided us with many contentious debates, and as an aspiring political scientist, I can say with certainty that some of these issues will continue to divide the country. However, one 2016 dialogue outside of the political sphere produced a clear winner. The Washington Post chronicled this debate between southern foodies about whether cornbread or biscuits reign as the superior side dish. My opinion may be controversial, but I will always choose cornbread. I frequent Acme Food & Beverage Co. any chance I can, so I can order their cornbread. Recently, National Pi Day was enough of an excuse for me to dine at Acme with one of my friends.
Located in the heart of downtown Carrboro, Acme serves up some of the best southern food in the area. Their rotating menu also provides the additional bonus of featuring ingredients from local farms. During the cooler months, Acme’s cozy interior is the perfect place to warm up and enjoy comfort food. In the spring and summer, the outdoor patio pairs nicely with the dishes that highlight seasonal produce. The atmosphere is lively, but not overly chaotic, which makes this spot an ideal place to catch up with friends. Additionally, the service has always been excellent, and this trip was no exception. Our waiter was informative and friendly. He was attentive throughout dinner and was especially helpful when I inquired about the ingredients in various dishes, so I could accommodate my food allergies.
Acme features many enticing appetizers from fried green tomatoes to roasted beef bone marrow, but my friend and I obviously chose to begin our dinner by splitting the cast-iron skillet cornbread ($8). Not only does cornbread win my pick in the recent southern showdown, but this particular cornbread might just be my favorite appetizer in the area. The piping hot skillet arrived at our table, and we watched the generous dollop of honey butter melt over this timeless classic. I had to resist the temptation to slice wedge after wedge of this dish until my main course arrived.
Although the cornbread is my personal favorite dish here, the entrees always impress as well. While National Pi Day only happens once a year, every Tuesday is a holiday in its own right at Acme, as all main course entrées are $13.95. I ordered the steak frites (regularly $22), a classic plate composed of grilled Angus beef loin, fries, and herb butter. The steak was cooked to a medium-rare temperature, as requested, and the fries were perfectly crispy. The herb butter nicely accentuated the flavors of both the steak and the fries, and this simple touch made the dish special, much like how the honey butter complemented the cornbread.
My friend ordered the pan-seared North Carolina mahi-mahi (regularly $22), which was also a wonderful treat to taste. Fried Brussels sprouts and ginger mashed potatoes accompanied the nicely seasoned fish, and the grapefruit ponzu sauce provided a nice umami flavor without being too overpowering.
Although pleasantly content after dinner, we could not let National Pi Day pass us by without celebrating. I take dessert quite seriously, so I will always find some way to satisfy my sweet tooth. We split a slice of the bourbon chocolate pecan pie ($8), which was the perfect end to the night. This dessert is ideal because it pleases people like me with an affinity for sweets and also people who enjoy less decadent desserts. The pie contains a generous amount of pecans, and the pronounced bourbon notes improve the flavor of the traditional corn syrup filling. The cocoa adds a nice touch that would also delight the chocolate lover in the crowd.
I highly recommend Acme to anyone looking for southern food with a local twist. You may wish to reserve a spot on a Tuesday. You may also choose to dine another night or for Sunday brunch. Whatever day of the week you decide, make sure to try the cornbread. It will not disappoint, and it may convince you to side with me in the polarizing cornbread vs. biscuit debate.
Amy Sentementes is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill, where she studies political psychology and public opinion. She has managed to cope with the stress of graduate school by developing a love of cooking and “procrastibaking” for her friends and students. Additionally, Amy enjoys visiting local restaurants and breweries, and she hopes her research regarding group identities and stereotypes can help her evaluate cuisines from a unique perspective. A native Texan, she also loves visiting friends and family in the Lone Star State and cheering on her TCU Horned Frogs and Dallas Cowboys. You can follow her on Instagram @gradschoolfoodie.