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“We’re not trying to have it like Chief Ike’s,” John Groth, a consultant to Acre 121, tells me about the new restaurant’s music scene during last night’s soft opening. “It’s a small room [at Ike’s] and [the music] is just railing away right in front of you. You can see that customers are leaving as the band is setting up.”

Instead, Sean Graiser of Pick-Up Productions will choose bands without any drums, such as tonight’s opening act, a Southern-style acoustic rock group: The Morrison Brother’s Band.

Taking over the old Commonwealth Gastropub space in Columbia Heights, Acre 121 officially opens tonight at 5 p.m.

And while listening to a little bluegrass, customers will find an appropriately themed menu starring low country dishes of seafood combined with plenty of pig.

Chef Mike Soper created this combination barbecue and Southern-style menu by scrolling around online.

“I used to have to travel,” Soper explains about his previous menu development techniques. “I would hang with some chefs, spend some money, get them drunker [than me]” and get them to spill recipe secrets. “It’s kind of easier these days, but it’s not as fun,” he says, as he now easily Googles “Charleston restaurants” for dish ideas.

Just as Soper bucks the trend by not taking indulgent trips like other fact-finding chefs, now standard operating procedure for fledgling restaurants, he also hasn’t sourced locally or catered to meatless eaters. Vegetarians will have to scrape a meal together by ordering a few sides. “I don’t know if [local] is the end all,” he says, as he explains the restaurant’s sourcing, “I get my meat from the meat company.”

The space is now more open, less noisy and incredibly comfy (with large leather booths!)

It’s rather shocking these days to hear a chef dismiss the local and ethically-raised meat mantra. “I’m not looking for pedigree,” is the way he describes the restaurant’s meat offerings. Though he sluggishly adds, “I don’t mean to be less than trendy.”

 

Photos by Stefanie Gans