Cooking chefs

Chefs Jill Davis and Karen Small embark on a new joint culinary concept

After activating the flying fig in Ohio City for nearly 23 years and surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, executive chef and owner Karen Small decided it was time to shut down her popular bar and restaurant and move on to the next act in her culinary career. The Flying Fig will close at the end of service on Saturday, February 26.

However, that’s not the end of Small’s story.

This summer, Small and Jill Davis, a longtime friend and owner of Grill in the Gordon Square Arts District of Detroit Shoreway, will embark on a new culinary adventure in the Flying Fig space at 2523 Market Ave. Additionally, Small will open its new breakfast-focused venue, June berry table at 3900 Lorain Ave. in Ohio City.

The name and concept for Small and Davis’ new venture has not been announced but is expected in March.

“I think it’s the natural evolution of moving to the parts of the business that I really love,” says Small. “I’m just moving towards a different phase of fine dining and a full-service market.”

Small says the past two years have been tough, but the pandemic has also helped her think about what she wants to do. “[The new project] is the only thing that has kept me as positive as I am,” she says. “I have a great team and, with the help of the federal government, I’ve helped keep people working. It was a difficult time, but we are very close staff and we made it. In a strange way, it was a very pleasant process.

Most of Small’s current Flying Fig employees will remain during the transition.

While keeping quiet about the details of the new project with Davis, Small promises it will be unique. “I think that’s something that’s not available right now in the neighborhood,” she says. “I think we have a lot of restaurants, a lot of good restaurants, and food has always been part of my life. There will always be a food component to this [new project]. It will be something that will stay true to my motivation to support people in the local economy and be on the path to sustainability.

Karen Small, chef and owner of The Flying FigMeanwhile, Small says she is also looking forward to opening Juneberry Table soon. “Space is ready to go,” she says. “We’re just waiting for the plans to be approved by the city, and then the state can come in and do some liquor license inspections.”

Small says she and her teams have been working on Juneberry in the former Jack Flaps space for over two years now. “It was in preparation before the pandemic and we worked on it during the pandemic,” she says, adding that the project hit a roadblock getting city approval that has been resolved.

Despite the secrecy, Small says she and Davis are eager to reveal their plans.

“It’s an exciting time,” says Small. “I think it was time for a new challenge, and I’m not getting any younger. When it all comes out, it’ll be something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. the [two new projects] will probably be the last thing I do, commercially speaking, but both are love projects, and both are really something I’ve really wanted to do for a long time.