While Carrboro is now a bustling, up and coming area, it wasn’t always that way. In 1998, when Kevin Callaghan opened Acme, it was on an empty block in a much quieter downtown Carrboro. Kevin grew up in Charlotte, but went to UNC Chapel Hill, which quickly made him fall in love with the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. He decided to take a risk and open a restaurant on that quiet street because he wanted his restaurant to be for the people he knew: the people of Carrboro.
To understand how Chef Kevin got here, we should start from the beginning. Kevin grew up with a mom who loved to cook, and a family who used mealtime as a time for great conversation. He looked forward to eating with his family to enjoy their company and appreciate each other. After attending UNC Chapel Hill, he moved to New York and became a writer. He soon decided to get a restaurant job so that he could work at night and have his days free to write. Once he started working in restaurants, he felt that he just clicked with the industry and knew that he wanted to make it a career.
When he decided he wanted to open a restaurant, he knew that he wanted it to be a neighborhood spot, where he was able to cook the food that he knows and loves. One thing that stood out about Chef Kevin is that he really loves where he comes from: the South. He made it a point to note that he doesn’t want that South to be known for its not so great past. He wants to emphasize the great things that come out of the South. “Culture comes out of hardship”, Kevin explained. We have so many great dishes, seasonal produce, and southern traditions that make living in the South an amazing thing. Using those traditional Southern food ways as a base for his menu, Chef Kevin amps things up a bit by using modern cooking techniques to make those southern classics. Plus, his true love and passion for this food really take these dishes up to the next level.
You will also find a menu based around seasonal produce at Acme. Chef Kevin wants to support other local businesses, so he gets almost all of his food from local farms. They receive a whole hog from a local farm every single week, forcing the Acme team to be creative with their dishes. He also likes visiting these businesses to see how they work and ensure that they have the same values and strive for the same quality of food that he does. Most of all, Chef Kevin is focused on making Acme a go-to neighborhood spot. Yes, he wants to provide you with amazing food, but he also wants to provide a comfortable atmosphere to come hang out with friends and family, as well as a price point that won’t break the bank. He has regulars who have been coming to Acme for years, who he loves to come out of the kitchen and chat with, and who now feel like family for everyone who works at Acme.
Chef Kevin also provides events that support local farmers and bring something exciting to diners and the community. For example, every July, Acme holds its annual Tomato Festival, where every item on the menu contains local tomatoes. Kevin and his team purchase about 1,000 pounds of local tomatoes and create amazing, unique dishes. Not only does this taste incredible, but also reminds the community just how lucky we are to have the seasonal produce that we have, and the local farms that provide it. Acme also holds an annual Salt and Smoke festival, which focuses on pork and oysters. The festival brings almost 500 guests out to Rock Quarry Farm and to have a huge cook out celebrating Fall in the South. You can also look out for monthly wine dinners, and even a Food Adventure Dinner coming up!
It is safe to say that Chef Kevin Callaghan’s love for the food, the South, and the local community comes through in the dishes at Acme. His support of the local community also creates a tight knit team of employees and guests at Acme that are always welcoming new faces. We can’t wait to go back and stuff our stomachs with Southern classics made with love.
Melissa Guido is currently a dietetic intern in the Triangle area. She studied nutrition at NC State and Meredith College. Her favorite part about nutrition is showing people that healthy food can be exciting and delicious. Melissa loves traveling and learning about how food fits into different cultures. In her free time she loves trying new restaurants, cooking, and obsessing over her dogs. Follow her on Instagram @made2order and at www.madeorder.wordpress.com.