Raleigh Raw celebrates grand opening Saturday

Sherif Fouad and Leslie Woods of Raleigh Raw, which will celebrate its grand opening April 2.
Sherif Fouad and Leslie Woods of Raleigh Raw, which will celebrate its grand opening April 2. Courtesy of Raleigh Raw

Raleigh Raw, the latest juice bar and healthy cafe in downtown Raleigh, would likely not exist if not for Sherif Fouad’s father.

Abdel Fouad is the inspiration for his son’s business, which is having its grand opening on April 2. The 75-year-old Reston, Va. man was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago. His son, Sherif, who had moved back in with his parents at the time after being laid off from a corporate job in Manhattan, started making raw, cold-pressed juices and raw, plant-based foods for his dad to eat. His father not only recovered but attributed how good he felt to the change in diet, Sherif said.

A year later, Sherif, 35, moved to Raleigh for work for a friend and later as a bartender. Inspired by his father’s experience, Fouad started making raw, cold-pressed juice, made from mostly organic and local ingredients, to sell to customers. He would make the juices at night, first in his own kitchen and later at the now-closed Zinda, and then deliver them to customers and local coffee shops.

His father helped make the business a reality. He loaned $22,000 to his son to buy a juicer three years ago. (This was after, Sherif and his girlfriend, Leslie Woods, 28, sold their television and bike to buy a $3,500 high-end home juicer that it turned out could only make one 16-ounce juice in 15 minutes. That was not fast enough for the professional operation.)

The couple have since paid back that $22,000 loan. Sherif’s father is their largest financial backer in the cafe, which opened a few weeks ago on Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh. (The couple also did a Kickstarter campaign, which raised about $40,000.) Sherif said his father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma about a year ago but is doing well and still following the diet.

“Dad put up his life savings,” Sherif Fouad said. “He was so blown away with how it affected him that he wanted to scale this to affect the masses.”

Beyond juices, the cafe also offers smoothies, matcha beverages (ground green tea), yerba matte (a popular South American beverage) and “crack coffee,” a version of Bulletproof Coffee made with grass-fed butter, coconut oil and Raleigh Coffee Co. coffee. It also serves grab-and-go salads, entrees, soup and snacks: many raw, plant-based and some with raw seafood.

Sherif is excited about their main menu star: poke, a Hawaiian raw fish salad. It is the work of chef Jake Wood, who most recently worked at The Cowfish, a burger and sushi restaurant in Raleigh. Both Sherif and Wood work in the kitchen: Sherif bringing his experience with raw, plant-based foods and Wood bringing his culinary skill and experience with raw fish.

“The cafe is about changing the way we see fast food,” Sherif said.

On Friday night, Raleigh Raw will be open for First Friday. Then from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Raleigh Raw will be celebrating its grand opening with a “poke party,” complete with a deejay. The cafe will be highlighting its poke offerings as well as offering bottomless kombucha, a fermented tea drink, with champagne or beer. (Patrons can order straight kombucha, beer or champagne as well if they prefer. Cost: $30.)

The shop is at 7 W. Hargett St., Raleigh, 919-439-5100, Hours: 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Weigl: 919-829-4848;

Twitter: @andreaweigl