After four-and-a-half years of development, Wally Joe's ACRE is poised to open in the next few weeks. At a preview party last week, the elegant new space was unveiled along with samplings of the new menu. For anyone who knows Joe's work at the Brushmark, the delightful dining experience will come as no surprise.
"We want to focus on simple food and simple preparation but still a little more refined," Joe says.
The menu is nothing short of exquisite, though the atmosphere is comfortable and classic — what Joe calls "rustic elegance." His "Modern American" cuisine is spread over separate lunch, dinner, and bar menus: pasta with pork ragu; a short rib pastrami sandwich; tandoori-spiced Newman Farms pork loin with stone ground grits, Brussels sprouts, and sassafras emulsion; and braised pork belly steamed buns with hoisin and pickled cucumber and carrot.
One of the menu's unique items, available if ordered 10 days in advance, is the suckling pig, which feeds eight to 12 people. It comes with raisin mustard, chimichurri, Cumberland sauce, chili salsa, plum barbecue, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion, apple-celeriac rémoulade, pickled veggies, mixed baby greens, Cantalet cheese, grilled sourdough, and biscuits.
Joe will continue his work at the Brushmark.
ACRE will be open for lunch first, Monday through Friday, and dinner the following week, from Monday to Saturday. Lunch entrées range from $9 to $18 and dinner entrées from $20 to $29.
ACRE, 690 S. Perkins (818-2273)
Kelly English of Restaurant Iris is taking his talents to St. Louis. As early as this fall, the Kelly English Steakhouse could be open at Harrah's St. Louis Casino and Hotel.
But don't worry: English says he is deeply rooted in Memphis.
"I could never dream to live in a better city," Kelly says. "I bought the building for Restaurant Iris. I'm not going anywhere. We just put an offer in on a house in Midtown. We're not moving."
As for how he will handle taking on another venture — in another city, no less — English points to his experience working under Chef John Besh.
"I got to watch John go from having one place to two places to three and four. I was one of the chefs who helped him expand his empire. I came up to Tunica and ran a restaurant called N'awlins in the Horseshoe Casino there. I got to see firsthand all the time management he employed and how he created opportunities for other people."
Now English wants to start his own empire, taking his distinctive Memphis and New Orleans flair to new restaurants.
"This is the next step in my career, and I'm looking forward to granting some people the opportunities that were granted to me," he says.
While the steakhouse menu is still in the works, English is certain of a few things: quality ingredients, a passion for food, and great service.
"I'm going to be myself, so we're going to focus on local producers and farmers up around that area," English says. "I've already spoken with Newman Farms, which is right down the road, and I can't wait to meet with the network of farmers up in Missouri. I'll put my personality in it."
Who knows? Maybe someday English will add another restaurant to the Memphis scene. He left us with this tiny hint:
"We're kind of talking a little bit about, way in the future, doing a very different type of restaurant in Memphis that is very community-based."
Dare to dream, foodies.