Flamingo in St. Paul, MN

Lars Swanson / Heavy Table

Restaurants sometimes suffer quietly, but the story of St. Paul’s Flamingo restaurant and its fight for life merits telling.

Flamingo was born out of an unusual vision. Its owners, Frewoini Haile (above, left) and Shegitu Kebede (above, right), arrived in Minnesota in the 1980s and ’90s from the warring countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Recovering from traumatic pasts (Kebede was orphaned at age five and separated from her brothers in Ethiopia; Haile’s family was exiled from Eritrea), the two found each other and began thinking about the many women like themselves who were struggling to find a place in the Twin Cities.

Lars Swanson / Heavy Table

In 2006, Kebede received the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service for a cleaning business she started. Going Home, Inc., had the primary goal of giving refugee women the tools they need to thrive in a new and unfamiliar community. In addition to job training and cultural support, Kebede’s business fed a quarter of its profits back into the community. In the words of close friend Mona Carloni, Kebede was “teaching [women] from the inside out.” Since January of this year, Kebede and Haile have used this same model to create Flamingo, where they serve a mixture of Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Somali dishes, such as lamb-based stews and curries, lentils, collard greens, and injera (a soft, porous bread). Haile says both she and Kebede “know the pain that other women go through.” For this reason, she and Kebede not only want Flamingo to be a place to enjoy East African culture, but also a place “where women can accomplish their dreams.”

Lars Swanson / Heavy Table

But a passion for food and good intentions could not stop the electrical surge in June that left the women with a heap of useless appliances and a refrigerator of spoiled food. In an effort to regroup, they closed their doors for a few days, but the financial blow has kept them struggling to pay utilities and rent. Because the surge was out of everyone’s control, insurance cannot help the women recover their losses, and they have also been turned down for a loan. What they need more than anything are patrons. Kebede and Haile love to cook, but their food is really the catalyst to connect women in need with the community that surrounds them. A meal at Flamingo means hot, honest food, but also the promise of moving forward.

Flamingo
490 N Syndicate St
St. Paul, MN 55104-2500
651.917.9332

HOURS: Mon-Sun, 10am-9pm
Take-out, catering, and delivery are all available.

Lars Swanson / Heavy Table

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About the Author

Emily Schnobrich

Emily comes from a family notorious for dunking whole pieces of cake into cold glasses of milk. It’s no surprise she inherited their angry sweet tooth and a devotion to pudding. Between a string of restaurant industry gigs, she has tutored writing, biked across Quebec, studied cheese, and baked cakes professionally. A perennial Minnesotan, Emily is at home in South Minneapolis where parking is prolific and the livin' is easy.

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16 Comments

  1. I have never commented on this site but must on Flamingo. It is amazing food and a welcoming atmosphere. Perfect for groups ready to dig in and share in a delicious meal. I feel privileged to live in a place where I can experience so many wonderful cuisines! Thanks for info, I will make sure to seek it out in the coming weeks!

  2. Someone who has the time and the passion for Flamingo might want to look into grassroots financing.

    Good piece from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
    http://www.newrules.org/retail/article/grassroots-financing-underwriting-new-crop-neighborhood-businesses

  3. I also have never commented on heavytable before (despite being an avid reader) but I just wanted to say how much we loved our meal at Flamingo tonight! Both ladies thanked our group several times, and said they couldn’t believe the outpouring of support they were receiving.

    Not to mention, the food was fantastic!!! Everyone at our table of six got something different and everyone enjoyed their meal immensely. Also, we got a breakdown of how they make their injera bread (which was so delicious!)

    I wish these two fabulous ladies the best, and can’t wait to head back and have another wonderful meal!

  4. I have eaten here twice now and loved the food. The vegetarian items–the greens, a variety of lentils, and the mushroom dish–are absolutely delicious and the best Ethiopian food I have had in St. Paul. The prices are inexpensive, and the owners are accommodating and friendly. Wonderful place!

  5. Like Mar and Lauren I’m a first-timer commenting, but definitely have to throw my hat in the ring to support Flamingo, everything I’ve had here has been great and the owners are very friendly.

  6. I have eaten there several times in the last 2 weeks and my taste buds were as excited as I was. All food is made to order, always fresh and you get so much food for such an inexpensive price. Frewoini always comes by to chat with her guests and she makes us feel so at home. If you haven’t tried Flamingo, you’re missing a great meal.

  7. The food and The service was amazing. Heighly recommend to pay a visit. I know I’m defenetly going back.

  8. Delicious Food! Wonderful Service! Great Prices!
    The Flamingo Resturant kindly accommodated our business meeting.
    I highly recommend trying the this East African cuisine!

  9. Flamingo has become one of my favorites. The food is something special. Great taste, generous portions and reasonable prices. You definitely get your money’s worth here. Service is very friendly. I highly recommend Flamingo.

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