The poutine signifies a lot at The Acre and for good reason. Since the departure of Bushwick’s premier Canadian-themed bar (RIP UpNorth), the hearty cheese and potato scramble has been hard to find in North Brooklyn. But for those willing to travel a little further north themselves, the plate comes in a variety of forms on the menu of the constantly re-opening Ridgewood brunch spot The Acre.
There, poutine is not so much a staple, but the restaurant’s most memorable contribution to the quietly gentrifying locale palette, where upmarket bodega sandwiches come in at least three different forms within a block’s walking distance and all with different kinds of bread.
Fittingly, the approach that Colleen and Ian Bock, owners of The Acre, take to poutine will not be familiar to most up north fast food denizens. There are no pools of dirt-brown gravy topping cold fries, nor half-melted fields of curd. Instead, the plate is polite and shaven down: sit-down restaurant potatoes situated, with dignified distance, next to thick blocks of cheese and breakfast sausage pork (or its vegan alternative) and a variety of miscellaneous fixings.
The decisions feel deliberate and well-thought-out. Traditional, with a twist. Fancy, but never too fancy. It’s a menu where small innovations are trusted to say a lot. And, they do: a kind of reliability that belongs in a semi-suburban town somewhere, which is perhaps what brought the pair out of the Manhattan-Brooklyn food scene and into its gentle mirror on Forest Avenue.
Ian spent the decade in other people’s kitchens, a route that took him from the Amali that’s next to Bloomingdale’s to the Brooklyn Star in Williamsburg, which shuttered in 2018, while Colleen formerly managed Father Knows Best, which still exists deeper in Bushwick.
At The Acre, they have built their own little world, pastel-colored and full of natural light like an imaginary Scandinavian preschool.
It corresponds that the drinks are nice and the desserts are even nicer. At most hours of the day and even the night (on most nights, the lights don’t shutter until 10 p.m. or even 11 p.m.), you can get ornate ice cream sandwiches and down them with a changing menu of cocktails that currently have names like the “figgy fashioned” or the “taurus twister.” (Bring back the “Jeffrey Lebowski,” I suggest: it’s not a white Russian, but rather a sugary confection of vodka and coffee liqueur, among other things that are surely missed.)
The most exciting fare on weekend nights, however, is watching the lively festivities across the street at another newly-opened spot, a rowdy seafood joint, called the Drunken Crab, which boasts a whole menu of empanadas you can accompany with neon-colored to-go cocktails, parts of a world that somehow doesn’t feel imaginable at The Acre. It’s a dichotomy that’s worth thinking about, at least a little bit. It poses questions about style and substance, the difference between cool, earthy ceramics and plastic plates.
But this kind of stuff works best on weekend mornings, when you can catch sleepy brunch crowds recount the best shows they’ve watched on streaming or the weekends they neglected at Fire Island. It’s a scene that’s not to be missed – weekend mornings are the only time that you will catch the Bocks’ cheddar scallion biscuits, which taste like the purest pillows of savory fluff.
Unlike the Crab, The Acre is part of a constellation of much more studied neighborhood joints, which utilize font choices to express the way in which they would like to belong. In this sense, the Acre articulates best Ridgewood’s changing vibes. It’s a neighborhood that, at long last, is revealing itself slowly to be less a new Bushwick and more, maybe, a new Crown Heights, without the crowds or the buzzy restaurants and, instead, foggy echos of each.
It’s been interesting to watch the ways that these strange little restaurants, all curated by developer Kermit Westergaard, each search for opportunities to reinvent various wheels without straying too far from their recognizability. They suggest that perfection has already been accomplished, but needs to be tweaked just so in order to be properly appreciated.
A block away, at Porcelain, you can find an egg sandwich with mortadella instead of bacon. At Cafe Plein Air, also a block away, you can get an egg sandwich with mimolette and caramelized onion. According to Westergaard’s site, the next one up is a well-upholstered pizzeria called Panina opening inside a furniture store abandoned by modernity. You can already taste the imaginative toppings, whatever they might be and however impressive they are, without having ever tried them.
The Acre might well outpace all of these by sheer commitment to the bit. The cuisine and approach feels genuinely homegrown, like the Neil Young song. In fact, currently, they even have a large garden somewhere on Long Island called “the half-acre” where they make a go of growing some of the things on the menu.
Unlike the Manhattan vibes at Sundown down the street, the cocktails aren’t that far north of $12 and, unlike Porcelain, you can still grab a dinner for slightly less than $20. Surely that means something. The sandwiches – labeled sandos, another folksy touch – almost all come with wooden knives plucked straight in, like swords. And if the perfection almost intimidates diners from diving in, it is because perfection itself is so faintly dreamlike. What to do with so much abundance?
The Acre is located at 68-22 Forest Ave. Check them out on Instagram.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Colleen Bock’s position at Father Knows Best.
Featured image: Andrew Karpan
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