Young and Hungry

Low Country Lovin': Acre 121 Opens Tonight With Pig Aplenty

"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.

The anti-sourcing chef: "I get my meat from the meat company."

"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

  • Ace in DC

    Not sure if the article was written to be snarky or intended slant this way, but the Chef, Mike Sopper, comes across as kind of a lazy prick. So he googles recipes and steals them from other restaurants? I can do that at home. Is he really too cool to provide high quality responsibly sourced food? Or was he just kidding around? Does he really not care about at least trying to provide some veggie options - or do people really have to just scrape some sides together. Gosh, I just hope this article was meant to be funny, otherwise, Sopper seems like a douche bag. At least pretend like you care.

  • JoshNE

    "Chef" who steals his ideas from colleagues, and google? Proud of not responsibly sourcing meat or produce? Good luck with that in 2011. There's supposed to be some soul in soul food. This guy just sounds like an opportunistic hack.

  • I’ve Had It With All The Weenies In This Town

    Sopper seems like a righteous dude. No pretense, just meat. Bring it on, brother.

  • Face

    I only go out to eat when I know there's food I could never make on my own, that came from small farmers in Maryland and Virginia. Otherwise I'd just stay home, prepare a meal I liked off of a menu from a restaurant in Georgia, and use the irresponsibly sourced food that the rest of the population enjoys. And I always make my guests a carnivorous and herbivorous option, because someone who eats no meat can't get by on just a simple side of vegetables. I mean, who wants to eat just vegetables anyway? That would be like ordering a plate with only a piece of meat on it.

  • Terry Cullen

    Sometimes Chef Soper's wry sense of humor is lost on people he just meets. He is one the first of the low country chefs, long before there was an internet and his menu has been the reference for many local menus. He authored low country barbecue menus at several places including Southside 915, Jed's Roadhouse, and King Street Blues. He was one the very first chefs to espouse local sourcing at Union Street Public House and he continues to search for the best products through all sources. The impression left from this article is hardly befitting a Culinary Institute trained chef whose cookbook containing all original recipes is nearing completion.
    FYI; we have veggie flatbreads and cheese platter in addition to the non-meat sides. We are aware of the large vegetarian population in Heights and we will endeavor to accommodate them with a variety that will keep them satisfied.