When Chip Rooney traveled to Lafayette a year and a half ago to help out a friend, Vic Patel, create a concept for a north Lafayette Mexican restaurant, he didn’t anticipate sticking around.
Now, Rooney and Patel are at the helm of the ACME brand after opening ACME Taco last year and ACME Burger in January — and the conditions are ripe for the brand’s further expansion. They signed the lease on ACME Burger’s location, the old Boulevard Grille most recently occupied by Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub, in early November and opened in just two months.
“I kind of think that if we can build this brand where the guest always knows that everything is going to be fresh, everything is going to be different, everything is going to be simplified — that seems to be a place that I would want to go [so I am] knowing what I’m getting,” says Rooney, the man behind the menu. “I look at this ‘2 for $20’ craze right now ... it’s not fresh. Goodness knows it’s being microwaved, or boiled or bagged, and goodness knows it’s not coming from a farm in our region. The food is not fresh and not creative. It’s just getting so boring. We feel like we can give a little bit of interest back in the experience and a little bit of value and they know they’re not going to find the same ol’ thing.”
Rooney’s secret to keeping things fresh is keeping the menu short. There are seven signature tacos on the menu at ACME Taco, and seven signature burgers at ACME Burger (plus some of the best onion rings in town). If one ingredient for a burger has run out, they don’t serve it with substitute ingredients. Every burger is crafted using a handmade patty with ingredients intended to complement one another. They tested the burger combinations — like the Euro Trash, with Spanish peppers, baby Swiss and a pretzel bun, or the To Brie (Or Not to Brie) with onion and orange marmalade, brie and caramelized onions on an onion roll — on customers at ACME Taco and allowed their customers to contribute ideas to the burger menu.
But Rooney and Patel, who also own h’eyebrow in River Ranch, are not satisfied with just burgers and tacos. Though not concrete, there are plans to expand the brand to include other concept-driven restaurants, like an ACME Curry, ACME Rice, ACME Barbecue or ACME Pasta.
“We really plan on continuing the brand. The menu is instantly recognizable, the décor is instantly recognizable and we want to keep that going. We want to build that familiarity,” says Rooney. “We fully intend on opening another ACME Taco and another ACME Burger. These [restaurants] right now are kind of the sounding boards, if you will.”