Eating Wyoming: Figs Brings 5-Star Lebanese Food To Jackson

Figs Restaurant in Jackson surprises a lot of customers with an authentic 5-star Lebanese dining experience. Not only are the recipes authentic, but many of the ingredients are sourced from Lebanon, so the flavors will be as authentic as possible.

RJ
Renée Jean

January 20, 20248 min read

Figs hotel jackson 1 20 24

JACKSON — The cozy and tight seating arrangement at Figs Restaurant in Hotel Jackson is the first hint that a guest is about to be transported somewhere very different. Sofa seats line the walls of this small boutique restaurant, looking almost like someone’s living room — with a lot more tables.

One reason it looks this way is the space was originally intended to be a lobby. That makes the area admittedly small, but it is still a beautiful dining space, filled with lots of soft and cushy miniature sofas that face matching sofa chairs. Small tables that beg to be filled on a nice intimate date night lie between each of these cozy seats.

In the center of all of this is one largish dining table that can comfortably accommodate eight people for a larger group — but a reservation definitely makes sense at this popular venue. The table is almost always occupied. Walk-ins are unlikely to have a chance at it.

The menu is the next surprise. It is sprinkled with dishes that can immediately be recognized as coming from some other culture and country.

Shankleesh, for example. Or Fattoush salad and fried kibbeh. These are interspersed with more recognizable names. Shrimp, lamb, chicken or beef kebabs, for example, as well as traditional hummus served with hot, fresh pita.

The Most Popular Dish

The hummus at Figs is one of the most popular dishes on the menu and offers yet another clue that things at Figs are very different.

The silky hummus comes topped with fresh and fragrant olive oil and herbs, as well as something magic. At first, it looks like the dish is being served with some kind of strange balloons.

Any initial confusion quickly gives way to wonder, however, as diners reach for one of the balloons. They are then revealed as pillowy-soft bread, hot and fresh from the oven. They are divine, and they are perfect for digging into the hummus.

Guests at Figs often find themselves ordering several small plates. That way everyone can sample more than one of the unique dishes. And that’s honestly more perfect than most guests might realize, because sharing is central to Lebanese culture.

In fact, it was the whole idea of sharing that started Figs in the first place.

“My father Jim (Darwiche) just really wanted to share Lebanese food with the community,” Sadek Darwiche told Cowboy State Daily. “Because no Lebanese restaurants really existed in Jackson. We had three or four Thai restaurants, we have Chinese food, Mexican food and traditional American food.”

  • Figs plate of food 1 20 24
  • That might look like sour cream on the side, but looks are deceiving. That is actually toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce thats made with simple ingredients of fresh olive oil and lemon juice seasoned with just a pinch of salt. It is divine.
    That might look like sour cream on the side, but looks are deceiving. That is actually toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce thats made with simple ingredients of fresh olive oil and lemon juice seasoned with just a pinch of salt. It is divine. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Salmon with greens and rice pilaf as well as delicious balloon bread and hummus.
    Salmon with greens and rice pilaf as well as delicious balloon bread and hummus. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Slices of Haloumi cheese and fresh greens makes a tasty salad.
    Slices of Haloumi cheese and fresh greens makes a tasty salad. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Figs offers a range of specialty cocktails as well as this mocktail.
    Figs offers a range of specialty cocktails as well as this mocktail. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Figs Figs looks a little like someones living room with lots of extra tables Thats because the space was originally intended to be a lobby 1 14 24

An American Dream

Like so many who have come to the United States, it was the American dream that first brought the Darwiche family to America.

“My dad immigrated to the United States when he was 18 years old to California, and has spent most of his life in Jackson Hole,” Sadek said. “He brought me and my mom here when I was 8 months old.”

At home, the family has always eaten authentic Lebanese food, and the family has their own recipes, some of which go back generations.

The balloon bread, or as Sadek calls them “puff pitas,” are his dad’s recipe and a closely guarded secret.

“We make the pita dough fresh daily,” Sadek said. “And the chef will start baking that pita depending on the volume of orders coming in. It comes out hot and delicious.”

So much so that Sadek admits he’s often being chased out of the kitchen, even though he’s the restaurant’s general manager and everyone’s boss.

“They kick me out all the time for trying to sneak bread,” he said, laughing. “It’s hard even for me to stay away from the kitchen.”

At first, the family wasn’t sure the community would really embrace Lebanese food.

“Our first iterations of the restaurant were interpretations of Lebanese food,” Sadek told Cowboy state Daily. “It was like a little fusion. A little of this, a little of that. And it was OK. But we decided no, we’re just going to go full Lebanese.”

And that’s when the restaurant finally found real success.

“When we were trying to cater to sort of everybody, it sort of watered things down,” Sadek said. “It was still good food, don’t get me wrong, but there are plenty of places to get a good steak in Jackson or get a good chicken dish. There was nowhere you could get really good Lebanese food, and that became a differentiator for us in the market.”

Lebanese Food Is Also Mediterranean

Like most Mediterranean food, Lebanese culture emphasizes fresh food made from scratch, and this is another place where the Figs experience shines.

All of the food is made from scratch using the freshest possible ingredients, Sedak said, so that it will be as healthy and delicious as possible.

“Middle Eastern food is really a healthy diet and a healthy food,” Sedak said. “And people are starting to catch onto it. It’s the fresh and simple ingredients. You don’t have a lot of preservatives.”

Mediterranean diets are really more of a lifestyle than a particular country’s cuisine. The diet places a bigger emphasis on produce as the centerpiece instead of meats.

Lebanon is sandwiched between Israel to the south and Syria to the north and east. It’s bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the west. Before widespread world trade, many of the Mediterranean countries like Lebanon, didn’t have ready access to meat the way that diners in the West did.

That forced people in these countries to be more creative with what they have.

“Because of that, you have these very simple, fresh, vegetable and produce-heavy dishes,” Sedak said. “They had to make do and be creative with what they had.”

The simplicity of the dishes, the freshness of the spices and the produce are like a secret sauce that makes the food at Figs so delicious.

“Like the garlic whip,” Sedak added. “It’s a great spread on chicken, but goes with so many other things, too, and so many people really love it. But it’s another simple thing. I mean it is literally olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt. That’s all that’s in it. It’s amazing how you can make things with you know simple ingredients, and how good it comes out.”

  • Figs interior 1 20 24
  • This appetizer is a feta-forward cheese ball served with cucumber chips and garnished with mint. Don't forget the all-important balloon bread.
    This appetizer is a feta-forward cheese ball served with cucumber chips and garnished with mint. Don't forget the all-important balloon bread. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • This dish is a Lebanese cheesecake known as knafeh (pronounced kanayafeh). This can be eaten for breakfast, but at figs it's available as a dessert. It's a toasted stringy mozzarella-like cheese topped with rose syrup and nuts.
    This dish is a Lebanese cheesecake known as knafeh (pronounced kanayafeh). This can be eaten for breakfast, but at figs it's available as a dessert. It's a toasted stringy mozzarella-like cheese topped with rose syrup and nuts. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Hummus comes drizzled with olive oil and garnished with mint In the background, a tin basket full of toasted balloon bread or puff pitas.
    Hummus comes drizzled with olive oil and garnished with mint In the background, a tin basket full of toasted balloon bread or puff pitas. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The chicken is delectable cooked just long enough, but not so long it's not tender any more. Served with rice pilaf and the requisite dish of hummus and balloon bread, without which no Figs trip is complete.
    The chicken is delectable cooked just long enough, but not so long it's not tender any more. Served with rice pilaf and the requisite dish of hummus and balloon bread, without which no Figs trip is complete. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Ingredients From Lebanon

Not only are the recipes authentic, but many of the ingredients are sourced from Lebanon, as well, so that the flavors will be as authentic as possible.

“Our baklavas are made by a family-owned bakery in Detroit,” Figs Director of Food and Beverage Monica Olson told Cowboy State Daily. “And our meat has to meet a certain Halal standard, and I think we are the only place in Wyoming that offers that.”

Halal foods refer to ingredients that are permitted by the Islamic faith, and that have not come into contact with any non-halal foods.

In addition to sourcing authentic ingredients, the Darwiche family also travels quite a bit, which helps them keep up with trends in Lebanese food. Those trends are brought into the menu every now and again, to make things fresh and exciting for guests.

Among the trends likely to show up soon at Figs is a new tri-hummus plate, which will offer three different kinds of colorful hummus to go with the fancy balloon or pita puffs.

“We’ve also got a great cauliflower dish that’s coming out, and we’ve got some new entrees,” Sedak said. “Our breakfast has also been very traditional and American because it primarily serves hotel guests, but we’re looking at introducing a few Lebanese breakfast dishes.”

The restaurant already does serve at least one traditional Lebanese breakfast item, although, right now, it’s offered as a sweet to finish the meal.

It’s a Lebanese cheesecake called Knafeh, which Sadek pronounced as “kanayafeh.”

The main component of the dish is a stringy yellowish cheese, a little like mozzarella, that’s been toasted. It’s drizzled with a rose-flavored syrup and topped with nuts.

That particular item isn’t on the menu, but if you ask for it, they’ll know what you’re talking about, and will be happy to share, because that’s what Figs is really all about.

“Lebanese culture is very much a culture of sharing, it’s very much a culture of hospitality,” Sadek said. “It’s been a blessing to share this experience and our food with the community.”

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter