You would be forgiven for being unfamiliar with Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. It hasn't received the nonstop press the famous downtown restaurants have gotten, plus it's a few streets away from the busy beachfront in Isle of Palms. In addition, many Charlestonians don't know that the establishment has shifted gears from a Mexican cantina to an authentic Lowcountry eatery. After having dinner at Acme, I'm here to tell you that ignorance is not bliss - it's time for you to eat at this restaurant.
Walking into Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is akin to strolling into a welcoming and warm beach house - it's cozy and relaxed. The big difference, of course, is that your beach house doesn't include the talented and passionate Chef Frank Kline. Besides the comfy atmosphere, Chef Kline has a friendly staff and a flavorful menu packed with dishes consisting of fresh, local ingredients.
Utilizing local sources is admirable and certainly a plus, but it doesn't mean a thing if they are not used properly. Chef Kline has not only created delicious dishes out of these ingredients, he has made sure they are the focal point. He has clearly put a lot of effort into each dish; even the "basic" ones have flavor profiles that are just as intriguing as the more complex choices.
The appetizer options read like full meals and should not be passed over (FYI - portions of the menu are seasonal, so be sure to catch some of these before it is too late). From last week's appetizer menu, we tried the steamed littleneck clams and a Carolina jumbo lump crab cake.
The clams were buttered and came with tasso ham, corn, and cherry tomatoes. Like oysters, this is a fun dish to share and I enjoyed the inclusion of the spicy ham and veggies to liven it up.
Chef Kline told me he was tired of hearing how Charleston crab cakes were too "bready," so he created one that is "90% crab." I was skeptical of this assertion, but was pleasantly surprised when the dish arrived. It was chock-full of lump crab meat and much better than any of its "breadier" brethren.
Next up were some entree samples and there were plenty of highlights.
First, Chef Kline brought out what he considers Acme's signature dish - Carolina Succotash. His claim proved to be prophetic as customer after customer was overheard inquiring about and/or ordering the meal. After one bite, I knew exactly why it was so popular. The succotash is quite colorful and the inclusion of smoked applewood bacon and tarragon made the flavor profile somehow unique and familiar at the same time. Lightly-sautéed shrimp sat atop a wonderful blend of fresh corn, speckled butter beans, field peas and the aforementioned bacon. I've never had succotash before, but I'm afraid to order it anywhere else because this was fantastic.
Soon after we got our hands on some other seafood plates including Fried Oysters Rockefeller (sautéed spinach, applewood bacon and traditional Rockefeller cream), Scallops over Pimento Grits (yes, really), and Citrus-Glazed Local Black Grouper over grilled asparagus. The most surprising of the three was the grouper. I'm not a huge fan of fish, but I would order this dish again in a second. It was perfectly cooked and flavored.
For the non-seafood-loving crowd, I highly recommend the fantastic Sweet Tea Brined Chicken. Two chicken breasts are marinated in sweet tea, fried, and served up with a homemade garlic BBQ sauce. There are plenty of other options including local grass-fed filet, wings, salads, pastas, tacos and burgers. Plus, many dishes are complimented with notable sides like mushrooms straight from Mepkin Abbey and goat cheese mashed potatoes.
From cold water petite lobster tails to sweet desserts to shrimp with the option of multiple varieties of gourmet grits (go for the gouda version), Acme Lowcountry Kitchen has it all and does it all well. My visit to the restaurant was actually best summed up by a comment I overheard from a nearby table. The patron was enjoying a traditional Lowcountry dish when they told their dinner guests, "This has way more flavor than what I ate growing up." They're right - the restaurant is cooking classic dishes that look familiar but are far more savory than what you remember.
- Breakfast:8 am - 2pm (Daily)
- Lunch: 11 am - 5 pm (Daily)
- Daily Lite Menu: 2 pm - 5pm (Monday-Thursday)
- Dinner: 5 pm - 10 pm (Daily)