When the name came to her, Chef Coleen Speaks was sitting on the floor of the warehouse’s former bathroom, looking around at the small space and the seafoam green square
When the name came to her, Chef Coleen Speaks was sitting on the floor of the warehouse’s former bathroom, looking around at the small space and the seafoam green square tiles on the walls. What is this space going to be? she wondered.
Built in 1955 for A&P, the warehouse was once the grocery chain’s largest distribution center on the East Coast and featured a cafeteria, locker rooms for workers, and a sliding track for train cars to back right into the building. These days, it’s a creative community home to more than a dozen businesses in sprawling spaces with cinder-block walls, high ceilings, and cement floors. And yet there Speaks was in the decidedly compact old bathroom.
“It was super tiny, I knew it was going to be super beautiful, and it would need to be superefficient,” Speaks says. “That’s a hummingbird.”
Speaks left the original retro tile and the rough concrete walls, hoping to preserve as much history as possible, and transformed the space into an intimate Raleigh restaurant with a soulful New Orleans vibe influenced by her years living and working in The Big Easy.
Each evening, delicious dishes, creative cocktails, and the cozy setting draw diners, but the weekend brunch is something to behold.
“We were originally closed on Sundays, but I decided that we were just such a brunch place,” Speaks says. “From the beginning, I wanted Hummingbird to be colorful, easy-going — and I wanted to serve cocktails at breakfast.”
Yes, there’s a po’boy with cornmeal-crusted oysters and shrimp, and a brunch burger topped with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and an egg. But scale down in size, too, for smoked deviled eggs with trout roe and pickled red onions, and sugar-dusted ricotta fritters served with mascarpone cream and seasonal jam.
As it turns out, sometimes the most magical things come in the tiniest packages.