Last Saturday The Rooster, The Wife and I headed over to St. Paul to check out Flamingo, a restaurant serving food from the Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Somali cultures with the couple behind the fantastic local restaurant blog We Got Served and their lovely daughter (born the day before The Rooster!) Recently highlighted on The Heavy Table and raved about on chow.com, I figured I had to head over there and see what all the fuss was about.
While I am not well versed in any African foods, I have to admit that ever since my meal at Fasika in St. Paul with Art, I have fallen in love with African restaurants and can’t seem to get enough.
Honestly, the outside is nothing to look at. If I hadn’t know there was a restaurant in there, I would never have seen it. It’s tucked away a few feet off of University and the entrance is nondescript. The door handle appears to be made from a wire coat hanger bent and twisted into a familiar shape and then covered in masking tape to keep you from cutting yourself on the metal which has been exposed to the elements. We arrived at 5:30 on a Saturday night to a mostly empty restaurant. The place was clean and very simple and there was definitely nothing fancy here–including the high chairs for children. While they have them, if you are bringing your infants you may want to be prepared to have them sit in your lap or bring along alternate seating arrangements of your own because we’re pretty certain you don’t want your kids sitting in what they offer.
We looked over the menu and being that we couldn’t discern what anything on the menu was we basically ordered by stabbing in the dark. My wife went with the “chicken combo”, I went with the, “meat combo,” and our friends ordered two other dishes. In addition to the entree I was prompted by Ben, aka “The Spice Pussy”, to order a side of their “*******EXTREMELY HOT*******” spicy item (we weren’t clear if it was a dish or a side or what) just so I could prove my spice tolerance. Chow’s users noted that service can be very slow and it is. In addition to that, our server appeared to forget what each of us ordered and she asked twice for a reminder.
Soon after our entrees arrived I had to again ask for the additional spice which was later delivered as a small plate of what appeared to be dry chili powder, we were asked by a man who was about to leave if he could take photos of our meals. Being that we had just done the same we welcomed his innocent intrusion into our dinners. He was very interested in the fact that we were eating what appeared to be traditional Ethiopian meals. While he and his wife had just finished their dinner, they had ordered gyros (yes, they have gyros on the menu–no, I don’t know why) and were slightly confused as to the authenticity of them at an African restaurant. He planned on sending the photos to his brother who loved Ethiopian food following his missionary work there. And whoever said Minnesotans weren’t friendly?!
My meat combo was plentiful and smelled great. While I have no idea what was on the plate, all except one part of it was fantastic. I ate most of it, plus most of my wife’s chicken combo before wrapping up the leftovers to eat the next day cold (also very good although it left me with some severe stomach and nose discomfort for several days). Ben and Erin from We Got Served ordered other dishes and while Ben scarfed his down, Erin was cemented in the belief that Ethiopian food just isn’t for her.
The chili powder was spicy but no where near deserving of the multiple asterisks and capitalization. Most of you wouldn’t believe my opinion on the subject but since “The Spice Pussy” was able to eat it and kept coming back for more I’m going to call that one a fail. I think they can take off at least 5 of the stars on each side and get closer to the point–even for the majority of Minnesotans.
Overall I enjoyed the food I had at Flamingo and I’d go back but I have to admit that I much prefer Fasika in nearly every way. But if you’re looking for more than just food and are looking for service with a smile and true interest in how you liked it and whether you were satisfied, Flamingo is definitely the place to go.
Have you ever eaten at Flamingo in St. Paul? If so what did you think? What is your favorite dish? Did you order their non-African dishes such as gyros, hamburgers, etc? Aside from Flamingo and Fasika do you recommend any other African restaurants around town? Whatever you have to say about Flamingo in St. Paul go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
490 N Syndicate St
St Paul, MN 55104
See all the pictures from Flamingo in St. Paul on Flickr here.