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Sep 1, 2010 01:09 PM

Flamingo--St. Paul East African

After reading the article on Heavy Table about this place needing some business after a power failure in June, I decided to give it a try for lunch today. The outside is very simple and almost makes you wonder if they are open, but step on in. This would be a great "midway" place to meet up as it is just off University, between Lexington and Hamline.

It was great. My companion and I shared the veggie combo and the "soul food" chickpea dish. The flavors were just what I wanted them to be. The spicy dishes with a kick, but not inedible; the cabbage cooked, but not mushy. There was a mushroom dish, (with red split peas perhaps?) that was yummy with all sorts of complex flavors. The lentil dish was not my favorite, but rarely do lentils win in my taste competition. The injera tasted good, a little sour as it should be.

Like most African restaurants, there was more food per person that one could eat. We did not try any of the appetizers, but I am looking forward to returning with a bigger group so I can try more dishes.

The atmosphere is pleasant and ( a measure for me), the bathroom clean.

They do not serve liquor or wine or beer and do not plan to. That is not of great importance to me, but I know it is to some people. A unique aspect is to pay, you walk up to the counter and they will ring you up.

For the less adventurous in your party, they offer a gryo sandwich, a hamburger and a chicken sandwich and some spaghetti options.

My only complaint was that it took quite awhile to get our food after we ordered. I am an impatient person. If we had appetizers of something to nibble on, I would have been fine. It is all made to order, so sometimes, you just have to wait.

I will definitely return and wish them well.

490 N Syndicate St, St Paul, MN 55104

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  1. I agree. These two women make wonderful food. The lamb currie was great and had enough for another meal at home. It's not a quick stop but good food does take time. Support these women so they can overcome their setback. You will be pleased.

    1. Is this the place on Syndicate, at the NE corner of University? I've always thought it was scary looking, if so. How's the pricing?

      4 Replies
      1. re: green56

        Not scary at all, two lovely women trying out the American dream and doing quit well at it. The Lamb Currie was around $13 but fed two and still took some home for later. Total bill for 2 with drinks and much to take home was $25. Service was slow so don't go there if your in a hurry.

        1. re: ibew292

          Oh! I love that kind of food but I am unemployed and can't afford that much.

          I was always so intrigued by the place as when I was working nearby I'd park there for Subway. But had never heard anything about the place from anyone I know, or here.

          I am glad to hear it's yummy and want to go. Could I get in and out for $10, with water? Time is nothing. I have nothing better to do. I also have no prob waiting for good food.

          I am really glad Flamingo was brought up. I'm not a big Oriental foodie and thrilled to find another African-type restaurant so close.

          I'll see what I can do.

          1. re: green56

            There are things that are under $10. Mostly veg. The Lentils were great.

            1. re: green56

              The veg dishes are $7.50 each, sampler was $10.99.

        2. We're going to go the next time we have a toddler-free meal. We'd ordinarily take her but it's hard to be two and understand that sometimes you have to wait a long time, patiently sitting, for the food to arrive! We read the Heavy Table write up as well and want to patronize them. And the food sounds great- we love East African.

          3 Replies
          1. re: turtlebella

            So we finally made it to Flamingo. I have to say, I was expecting to want to like it more than I actually liked it-- that is to say, based on the Heavy Table article, it seemed like a worthy place to support, but I figured, if it was really good, I'd have heard about it before this, so it's probably just ok.

            I was wrong. The food is easily in the very top tier of Ethiopian/East African food we've had in the Twin Cities, if it's not the actual best (we also really like Fasika). And we love this kind of food, having previously lived in Washington D.C., the capitol of (among other things) Ethiopian food. We had the vegetarian platter, which consisted of a couple different lentil preparations, some collard greens, cabbage and potato, beets, mushrooms, and a few other things.

            All the veggies tasted especially fresh. And the lentil dishes were cooked a bit less than is the norm in this kind of cuisine-- the lentils were much "toothier", not necessarily a good or bad thing, but goes along with the freshness.

            The injera was a lot different than what we're used to, much darker in color and flavor (had kind of a rye / pumpernickel thing going on). We asked and were told that they use much more traditional teff (a grain) than most places, which is both more authentic and healthier.

            Also: I've never had beets at an Ethiopian place before, but speaking as someone who doesn't generally much care for beets, they were yummy. One of the spicier veggie items too.

            We also ordered some veggie sambusas, which arrived fresh out of the fryer, very hot and fresh.

            All in all, a great meal. Service, as some have noted, was very friendly but not particularly fast or efficient. So don't go if you're in a rush. But do go, that's for sure.

            1. re: mtullius

              thanks mtullius! This was what I needed to get me over soon as my cash is in the bank...pretty soon. Love that they use more teff....which means less wheat, therefore better for me. And I love beets. And chewy lentils are fine as long as they aren't seriously undercooked.
              I'll report here as soon as I go. I have a friend who lives really close to the place, will see if we can do lunch there soon.

              1. re: faith

                Hi Hounds,

                I had been reading good things about Flamingo East African Restaurant in St Paul and finally made it over tonight in the rain. Wow , this place is great, everyone get their b**tts over there now. I had the Vegetarian combo plate that was the same type of sampler platter one would find in the Ethiopian places around town. But one huge difference, the seasoning was much nicer . I find the average Ethiopian stews to be good but often very salty and/or very spicy. A bit of that is ok, but not for a whole meal, in my opinion. I noticed cinnamon in one of the stews, something I haven't detected in this type of food before. Hard really to describe beyond what I have said, you just need to try it. And they use an injera that is made with more teff, and only whole wheat flour, no white flour, so it's a beautiful shade of brown.

                And as others have posted, the women who run the place are so friendly! They have been through a lot and have been running this place for a while, and more people need to know about it...

                And I got my food mega-fast so whatever issues people posted about as far as slowness weren't evident for me.

                They even gave me some samples of lamb and goat dishes - everything was great..

                So, jfood get over there...and everyone else...and please let me know how you like it...

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. I enjoyed my visit to Flamingo and thought the food was fine, certainly nothing wrong with it but I had to admit that I spent the entire meal wishing I had been at Fasika instead.

              Now, wondering if my trip to Fasika nearly a year before had been cemented in my mind and vaulted to an unreachable level thus making comparison to Flamingo unfair, I returned to Fasika less than a week later and found myself to be spot on.

              Flamingo is good but drive down the street a bit further to Fasika instead as you're likely to find a better meal in every imaginable way--aside from the friendly service.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bill Roehl

                This is really interesting to me.

                I love Fasika. But would like to help out a struggling restaurant. Maybe they are just different. I still want to try Flamingo.

                1. re: green56

                  huh, this hasn't been our experience at all. I think the food is as good as Fasika, if not better. We ate there last night and were very happy with our veggie sambusas (two with greens, one with lentils, I liked the lentil one best) and our vegetarian combo. They didn't have the beets last night and when we inquired about them, they told us that there aren't any more beets at the farmer's market. So! Personally, we love this aspect of Flamingo- that they get their veggies from local sources. We also asked about their meat sourcing-- all from family owned butchers.

                  The various lentil dishes we had were toothsome and tasty. My favorite dish is the mushroom- has a bit of a spicy bite. I've never had a mushroom dish at Fasika (or any other Ethiopian place, in fact) so it's nice to have something new. Added bonus that my husband does not like mushrooms so I get it all to myself! We've never had any of their meat dishes so I can't comment on them.

                  As someone who used to eat at Washington DC Ethiopian restaurants a lot, I have to say that Fasika doesn't set the bar all *that* high. I feel like Fasika is fine, certainly very good for this area (bit unfair to compare any Minnesota place with even the average DC place). But I think that Flamingo edges Fasika out by a good bit, with its insistence on fresh, local ingredients, their great ingera, the slightly unusual dishes (mushrooms & beet dishes are both ones we'd not encountered before) all made by women who care about their customers and their community. It's our go-to place for East African.