Chef Andrew Longres has traveled the world throughout his culinary career, cooking in kitchens across Europe and the U.S. – the French Laundry, Bluestem, and The American Restaurant to name a few. Yet his journey has landed him back to his Northland roots and with his own restaurant, Acre, located in Parkville. The highly anticipated restaurant opened on August 2 with a mission to put Midwestern cuisine in the spotlight. With menu items such as dry-aged Duroc pork chops and Wisconsin cheese curds with pimento cheese mousse, Acre’s menu achieves a delicate balance between elevated comfort foods and unpretentious twists on classic dishes.
“We wanted to make sure that everything was either raised, procured, or found on the farm,” says Andrew. “It puts us in our own little bracket where we have to really focus on the Midwest.”
While other regions within the US face the dilemma of limited seasons or extreme weather, the Midwest has the advantage of experiencing all four seasons, allowing us to grow the largest variety of crops.
Some may view the chef’s dedication to the fly-over states as a challenge. For example, focusing on regional cuisine means guests will not see saltwater fish gracing Acre’s menu. But the concept of Acre was inspired by Longres’ childhood of growing up on his grandparent’s farm, Rolling Acres, where he learned to hunt, fish, and cook over a campfire. Where some see limitations, the Missouri native sees an opportunity to give Midwest fare the accolades it deserves. In his eyes, many have yet to experience the beauty of a well-cooked freshwater fish and he is eager to impart his wisdom.
When patrons enter the restaurant, they are immediately confronted with an open kitchen complete with a stunning brasero-style, wood-fired hearth that was forged by Kevin James of J & S Welding in Holt. The primitive use of open fire is the preferred cooking method of Chef Longres, who believes that despite being a demanding process, it allows for optimal flavor, especially for meats.
For many Midwesterners, the hearth is a place for gathering and upon which community is built. The same is true for Acre’s dazzling centerpiece. The kitchen staff can be seen constantly nurturing the element of fire throughout the evening, a process that demands a considerable amount of diligence and harmony.
“Our three pillars are amazing ingredients, exquisite execution, and genuine Midwestern hospitality,” says Andrew.
Acre was not conceived as a fine dining restaurant. Quite the opposite, as Longres envisioned a comfortable space with stellar traditional eats. The interior of Acre is elegant yet casual. Its relaxed setting is achieved through the natural materials that span the restaurant and the walnut wood paneling throughout the 80-seat dining room. According to the chef, the space “includes all the different variations of what things need to live. Living organisms like trees, fire, wind, water.”
Trees were a significant source of inspiration for Longres and the Kansas City-based architectural firm, Herron + Partners. Like fire, trees are an inviting natural element that provides comfort and hospitality. One wall that composes the bar is adorned with an impressive wine rack that is embedded with a wrought iron tree sculpture. The acoustic tiles that adorn the ceiling are etched with a tree branch pattern and a custom painting by local painter Jennifer Janesko ties in the organic textures of the restaurant with its striking scenery.
What accompanies each meal beyond the kitchen is a good ole’ helping of Midwestern hospitality. The new culinary hot spot is more concerned with how guests feel at the end of their meal than dishing out shock and awe. Despite the refined design, Acre is intent on not taking itself too seriously and takes pride in providing an approachable dining experience where guests can enjoy familiar favorites. It’s the fearless use of butter throughout the menu, the seasonings that would make grandma proud, and the knowledge that fried chicken will never go out of style. In the essence of genuine Midwestern hospitality, at Acre, comfort and quality reign supreme.