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Acme Burger Company, Salt Lake City, UT (closed 2010)

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Acme Burger Company, Salt Lake City, UT (closed 2010)

The signature Acme Bread Pudding makes for an extremely happy ending to any meal

photo by Andrew Collins

Note: Acme Burger Company has closed.

Burger restaurants - and I mean stylish, see-and-be-seen, hipster hangouts serving high-quality, contemporary renderings of American classic short-order food - are a big deal these. From the health-minded haunt of Chelsea boys in Manhattan, Better Burger, to Hubert Keller's much-celebrated Burger Bar in Las Vegas's Mandalay Bay casino resort, gourmet red-meat is in. Salt Lake City's recent entry into the burger craze deserves kudos not merely because it serves up terrific, sophisticated, all-natural beef (and lamb...and ostrich...and ahi) burgers. In fact, Acme Burger Company(275 South 200 West, 801-257-5700) is serving some of the freshest, most innovative food in Utah, and it's doing so at reasonable prices (entrees are $6 to $20), and without taking itself too seriously.

In a busy section of increasingly bustling downtown Salt Lake, Acme is just around the corner from Kimpton's gay-popular Hotel Monaco.

Inside you'll find a vaguely industrial-looking space with a soaring, barrel-vaulted ceiling, hardwood floors, and a couple of TV screens airing sporting events, and keeping the mood aptly casual and burger-joint-esque. Funky chrome and black-vinyl chairs and translucent tables lend a Deco-ish vibe, and a giant, colorful shark mobile hangs above the action.

Chef Adam Kreisel moved not long ago to SLC, after a number of years working in some of San Francisco's best restaurants: Acquarello, Oritalia, and Mecca. Kreisel is clearly having a good time with his new venture, dreaming up all sorts of interesting ways to combine ingredients and rethink traditional recipes.

For instance, his take on a Caprese salad comprises a beautiful selection of local heirloom tomatoes, feathery light layers of Mozzarella, and a crisp wedge of polenta cake, which adds a wonderful texture to the whole dish. His menu includes a number of dishes intended for sharing, such as house-cured salmon with potato pancakes, crème fraiche, and chives; and baby artichokes with goat cheese fondue and garlic croutons. He also presents a delicious take on a New England clam and leek "chowdah", that includes vermouth, bacon, potatoes, and olive oil. There's also a section of menu dedicated to "cured" foods, such as tuna tartare, Hawaiian escolar ceviche - not what you might expect at a typical burger restaurant, and all of it prepared with absolute perfection.

Of course, burgers are the big event here - the classic is a classic, especially if you top it with the optional cheddar and smoked bacon. But why not opt for something more exotic, like the Utah ostrich burger with garlic-chile barbecue sauce, shredded Napa cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms. Another outstanding option is the lamb burger skilled-roasted with cardamom and served with arugula, cucumber-yogurt relish, and a sweet potato bun. There's a fine veggieburger, too (made with three kinds of beans), and various sides (grandma Sari's potato latkes, rosemary new potatoes, shoestring fries).

Other noteworthy features here include an impressive list of cognacs, scotches, bourbons, and tequilas - premium stuff. And there are several wines by the glass (plus dessert wines). Speaking of dessert, the fun continues here. If you're a serious fan of sweets, do not miss the crazy-delicious Acme bread pudding, with buttermilk-brown sugar ice cream and goat-milk caramel sauce. There's also a well-chosen selection of artisanal cheeses, and "milk and cookies" - made-to-order fresh-baked snickerdoodles. Whether or not you partake of Acme's first-rate burger offerings, you're sure to walk out of this place having enjoyed a stellar meal.

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