Chef's Table: Raleigh’s Nod to New Orleans
Cocktails and community are always in season at Hummingbird.
By Alex Dixon
Photos by Joe Reale
With menu items like oyster or shrimp po’boys, and classic muffulettas paired with creative cocktails that change seasonally, Hummingbird showcases owner and chef Coleen Speaks’ roots. The restaurant and cocktail bar opened in late 2017 in the Dock 1053 warehouse, and is one of the latest additions in a trio of offerings from Speaks, who started her cooking career at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA restaurant. Since moving to Raleigh 18 years ago, Speaks has created a successful catering company called PoshNosh, in addition to her events space, Whitaker & Atlantic, which is next door to Hummingbird.
“The timing prior to opening Hummingbird [opportunity] wasn’t there,” Speaks says. But throughout her time in Raleigh, she saw increased opportunity given the area’s rapid growth, particularly when it came to dining. In developing the concept for her café, Speaks says she didn’t want either the food or the cocktails to steal the show—rather, she wanted them to work together.
The result is a breakfast menu that flows into lunch, then transitions seamlessly into a small plates menu for dinner—with items like togarashi-seasoned popcorn and brandied pâté. It’s all served over the course of a 16-hour day that extends from 8am to 12am. “There’s a reason not many people do these long service hours,” Speaks notes, “because it is really challenging. But I think our menu has been designed and developed in a way that helps it work.” And regardless of whether you visit at 8am or midnight, the cocktails are always available. “I’m trying to promote the cocktails all day long—that may be one of the more [classic] New Orleans features,” Speaks adds.
Hummingbird recently unveiled its new summer cocktail menu, featuring selections like the “I Hate to See You Leaf,” a creamy egg white drink with rum and passionfruit, and the “Kiss from a Rose,” a smoky cocktail that utilizes strawberry-peppercorn–infused Mezcal and a spicy habanero shrub. In every serving, Hummingbird places an emphasis on appearance. “Aesthetic is very important to me, and I think my New Orleans experiences and time there helped develop my attention to it,” Speaks says.
This attention to detail isn’t just apparent in the cocktails—it carries over to the space where they’re served, as well. The bar has 12 bright yellow stools, and an adjacent Portrait Room allows customers to sit at café tables. As the temperature rises, Hummingbird has also opened its outdoor patio to customers. “Lighting and design are all part of the dining experience,” Speaks notes. “People want to go to a place that’s happy, with good energy, and a pretty [setting].
I put a lot of thought into that.”
The café strives to be a melting pot that is welcoming to everyone, highlighting these values in a mission statement front and center on its website. “Community is important to me, but really, it’s important to everyone,” Speaks says. “We all have to live here, and I was raised to have mutual respect for everyone and accept everyone for who they are. Raleigh is a great place to have this community because there are so many people moving here daily, bringing new talents and ideas.”
Courtesy of Chef Coleen Speaks
1 pound peeled, deveined, poached shrimp
4 oz softened cream cheese
¼ cup sour cream or crème fraîche
¼ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp seafood seasoning
2 Tbsp chives, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp sea salt
1) Place poached shrimp into food processor and pulse (in batches) until shrimp is chopped but still chunky.
2) In a large steel bowl with a heavy whisk, beat together cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream until smooth.
3) Whisk in lemon zest and juice, heavy cream, and seasonings.
4) Fold in chopped shrimp and chives until thoroughly combined.
5) Chill before serving and serve with potato chips.
1053 E Whitaker Mill Rd Suite 111, Raleigh, NC 27604