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Neon Fig

Local Ingredients, Exotic Flavors and Gorgeous Presentation Add Up to a Winning Combination for This Downtown Hot Spot

Article by Summer Taylor

Photography by Rebecca Williams

Originally published in Aiken City Lifestyle

Restaurants come and go in our town, but since their grand opening earlier this year, Neon Fig has made an impression as one of the freshest restaurants in Aiken, offering high-quality and unique dishes in a dreamy setting.

Marvin Sterling and Cecelia Roust, co-owners and power duo behind Neon Fig’s success, opened the restaurant in February of 2022. Originally open only for breakfast and lunch, they began dinner service just last month.

Cecelia and Marvin first met in Savannah, where the two worked in the restaurant scene. Cecelia was raised in Aiken and had several years of experience as a general manager for Southern Hospitality Group in Savannah. Marvin’s culinary credentials are impressive, having served as Executive Chef for Ruth's Chris for five years as well as the Treylor Park Restaurant group for five more. He completed his stint in Savannah at the JW Marriott Hotel, creating signature dishes in several different restaurants with various cuisines from East Asian, Spanish, and more. Along with Cecelia and Marvin’s travels to countries like France and Spain, it's easy to see where the unique ingredients and dishes on the menu originated.

The concept for Neon Fig, focusing on the everyday brunch culture they experienced in Savannah, took shape in the midst of Covid-19 quarantine and has since brought the same culture to Aiken. Marvin’s extensive culinary experience combined with Cecelia’s background in restaurant management is a winning combination for their first solo venture. They operate under the business entity Neon Hospitality Group, so we may see future endeavors under the Neon brand.

Charming and deceptively small on the outside, one of the first things you’ll notice about this sophisticated enclave is the interior. It’s always impressive when you recognize a restaurant’s owners have put a lot of love into the layout and interior style, and Neon Fig certainly delivers in spades.

As Neon Fig’s co-owner and general manager, Cecelia had a large part in creating the unique aesthetic of the restaurant. The interior was designed to be dynamic and to shift easily between day and night settings. During daylight hours, the interior looks bright and organic, naturally urban and with a pop of color in key locations, but evening patrons are treated to a dark and tranquil interior, dim and warm with flickering candlelight. Cecelia’s inspiration was drawn from a combination of industrial with the occasional burst of floral and feminine.

Apart from skillfully building the bar covering the left-hand wall, Marvin also creates all of Neon Fig’s delicious and distinct rotating dishes, including sauces and dressings, in-house. The menu is inspired by blends of different regions and places Marvin and Cecelia have traveled together. Cecelia’s drink menu looks to showcase approachable selections so patrons can find something they like while providing interesting twists on classics like the Neon Martini, a cocktail featuring Four Pillars Olive Leaf gin, olive juice, and togarashi stuffed olives.

Marvin looks forward to pushing patrons out of their comfort zones with uncommon ingredients like bonito flakes, daikon radish, fish skin chicharrones, and enoki mushrooms. As unusual as these may sound, each combination is carefully composed to deliver another level of sensory experience. Thriving in the creative atmosphere of his own kitchen, Marvin explores different recipes and his dishes have certainly added a new avenue of flavor to Aiken’s downtown streets, amplified by a focus on sourcing ingredients locally. A “meat and potatoes dude”, Marvin prefers smoked meats and especially enjoys elevating dishes beyond their classic appearance and ingredients. You’ll find that some dishes have eclectic presentations by using different vessels to display food.

If you haven’t already, be sure to pay Neon Fig a visit the next time you find yourself looking to treat yourself or the family to brunch or dinner! Cecelia’s favorite dishes are the Breakfast Tacos with Brisket on the brunch menu, Ceviche as an appetizer, and Halibut Dish for dinner. Fan favorites are the Smoked Salmon Bagel and the Farro Bowl from the breakfast menu.

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