Carrboro, N.C. — As a semi-recent transplant to the Triangle, I never considered myself to be an expert in the field of fine dining. And yet here I stand, surrounded by at least a hundred of the best restaurants in the South – if not in the nation.
And I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m afraid to go into most of them.
There’s just something about the phrase “fine dining” that brings to mind tiny food portions, hefty prices, overwhelming wine lists and forks of all shapes and sizes – and each one matters. In my head, it’s a land mine of faux pas waiting to explode, inevitably making everyone in the restaurant turn and stare at me. Not quite my idea of a good time.
It’s a world in which I just didn’t feel at ease. That is, it was. Right up until I went to Acme.
The downtown Carrboro spot was filled with loud bursts of laughter, as well as intimate conversations. With its warm colors and floral ironwork, it felt downright cozy. And that’s exactly what chef Kevin Callaghan wants it to feel like.
“We talk a lot about not just feeding people but nourishing them,” he says. “We want to have our eaters have their reset button pushed.”
When you combine the comfortable feeling of familiarity with the freshest ingredients and a killer menu, you’re sure to enjoy that feeling of renewal. “I think the local ingredients make it a better fulfilling meal on all levels. . . . Fine dining isn’t about food,” he says. “It’s about an experience.”
Sure, we customers are buying food, but we’re subconsciously expecting much more than that. We want a night out with friends, an evening away from the kids, a hopeful first date – a meal that means something to us.
“In 30 seconds in a restaurant, I can tell if I’m going to have that nourishing experience,” Kevin says. “People always go back to restaurants where their experience exceeds the value that they paid. If you make a solid connection with a customer, you never lose them.”
We may have walked into Acme newbies, but we left as regulars. That’s what real fine dining can do.
Editor’s Note: On April 21, Acme chef Kevin Callaghanwill be featured at TASTE 2016, presented by Johnson Lexus. The Grand TASTE Experience will be held at the Durham Armory, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm. The evening will feature 30 local chefs and a dozen beverage purveyors—not to mention a live jazz band!
Tickets are on sale now at tastetheevent.com. This is part of the TASTE the Event series, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Durham Branch of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.