Community Cocktails

Coffee shop and bar Fig Raleigh adds flair to Brookside Drive.
by Ayn-Monique Klahre | photography by Geoff Wood

Cinnamon Maple Brown Sugar Latte at Fig by barista Genesis Hopper.

     To hear owner Duane Williams speak of Fig, it’s about way more than cocktails. The jewel box of a bar-cum-coffee shop, nestled into a commercial strip on Brookside Avenue, is part of his grand plan to transform a previously rundown shopping center into the go-to gathering space for an area of downtown that’s exploding with growth.
     “I used to run through this area, and as I saw more and more cranes to the west, I knew they’d have to come east eventually, what with all these pretty treelines and history,” says Williams, who’s also the commercial developer of the entire lot. He struck up a conversation with the previous owner of the complex, consulted with Louis Cherry Architecture to give the space a facelift, and started recruiting new businesses to the block. “We had to get the mix right,” he says, “to attract the mamas and babies and strollers and dogs.”
     He retooled the existing Brookside Market into a family- and dog-friendly pizza spot (recently converted to a Mediterranean place), then recruited a tattoo parlor, retro barber shop, and farm share nonprofit The Produce Project to the strip (with more to come). But all along, the idea for Fig was on the back burner. “We knew we wanted a coffee-cocktail concept, but something that was more grown-up and polished,” says Williams. So he took his time, getting deep into the details of the space: the paint colors, the bamboo bar front, the state-of-the-art espresso machine—even the bathroom fixtures. He added outlets everywhere for the daytime crowd, and carved out cozy nooks for cocktail-sippers’ evening conversations.
     There’s coffee from local roaster Counter Culture, small bites, and a staff that knows their stuff, including bartender Louis Montgomery (below) and barista Genesis Harper (also below). The bar boasts house-made syrups, like the cinnamon brown sugar syrup used for a toasty cold-weather latte—“It’s like Kryptonite for winter!” says Harper—and a rotating seasonal smash (“For when your toes need to be hugged,” says Montgomery). “We also make a really great tea,” says Williams. “A lot of folks don’t know how to make good tea!”
     Beyond serving great drinks, the team sees their establishment as an opportunity to serve this community. “As this neighborhood grows, we want to create a gathering place where good food and good drinks lead to good conversation,” says Williams. “We want Fig to be a second home.”

Bartender Louis Montgomery mixes a seasonal margarita.