Flamingo Dining Lounge: Renfrew, Ontario (Review)
The Need to Feed
It was a dark winter evening and we'd been travelling all day for appointments. I was 7 months pregnant and ferociously hungry. Since we were passing through town, I suggested (insisted) we stop to eat. I knew of a couple fast food joints near the highway, but wanted a healthy meal. There was an overly-priced place at the other end of town that served decent fare, but the streets were starting to ice over. I didn't want to drive all the way through town for a meal, so we decided to pull into the nearest restaurant and check it out. The restaurant turned out to be the Flamingo Dining Lounge. It looked kinda creepy from the outside, but our GPS indicated that it was the only restaurant at that end of town that wasn't fast food.
I was very surprised at what when found when we walked in. The place was dimly lit, dirty and only one table occupied even though it was supper time. The hostess desk was deserted. Besides the couple at the only occupied table, the only other person in sight was a dour-looking man leaning against the bar with a drink in his hand. We didn't know if we should seat ourselves or wait for the hostess, so we decided to look over one of the menus, giving the staff time to notice us ... assuming there was staff.
Having food restrictions, I've occasionally encountered the embarrassing situation of sitting down, ordering a drink and then discovering that the menu doesn't having anything I can or would want to eat. To avoid this, we often pursue the menu before taking a seat at a restaurant.
The menu here offered "the standard fare" with a lot of wheat-based items (eg. pasta, burger buns, breading on meats, etc.) which I can't eat. The few items that were (hopefully) wheat-free weren't really appetizing. Moreover, they were charging about $2 more than what I'd expect to pay for this simple menu. I looked at the prices and then glanced around the restaurant again. The place looked like it was ready to be featured in an episode of Kitchen Nightmares.
The (un)Welcoming Committee
As I was taking in the "atmosphere", I noticed the man from the bar swaggering over, glaring at us from under his eyebrows. I took an involuntary step behind the menu my husband was holding, completely creeped out. He stopped in front of us, leaning against the wall with arrogant ease, blocking our access into the restaurant. I can only assume that this was the restaurant owner.
He took a swig from his glass, looking us over slowly and then said loudly, "Perhaps you'd be more comfortable eating somewhere more your speed. Like the place next door." The couple at the only occupied table turned to stare and it took every ounce of restraint I had to not tell this creep to get bent.
For my readers who don't speak English as their first language, this was his polite way of saying: "You look like poor people who won't appreciate good food and can't afford what we offer, so get out and find something that poor people eat. Like McDonald's [literally, the place next door]."
Now, despite my sharp tongue, I have learned self-control over the years and mastered the art of subtlety when it comes to verbally eviscerating folk. So my response was a lot nicer than it could have been.
"Good idea," I replied to the owner with a wide smile. Then, I put a hand on my husband's arm and said, "Let's go to that classy restaurant on the other side of town with the good food and the friendly staff. At least that place is clean."
And, with that we left that nasty rat-hole and never looked back.
Other People's Reviews
Having been brusquely barred from the chance to try the food at the Flamingo Dining Lounge, I decided to do a Google search to see what others had to say about it. I came across 2 reviews that described the restaurant as "okay", but dozens of very unhappy reviews for this location.
Note: There were three reviews that raved about how clean the place was, how friendly the manager/owner was and how wonderful the food was. Given the consistency, similarity and overwhelming numbers of the complaints in comparison, the praise seems like fake reviews planted by the owner or his friends and family.
In review after review, the same nasty issues came up over and over.
The Staff & Service
- Staff was incompetent and/or rude;
- Manager/owner was rude;
- No one greeted or sat the customers;
- Customers had to get their own menus;
- Food and/or drinks were slow to arrive (x2);
- Orders or items were forgotten;
- Couldn't find the wait staff when needed for help, refills or dessert;
- Staff refused to speak to customers, but where chatty with each other;
- Customers didn't receive their meals.
- Restaurant was dirty;
- Dishes, glasses and/or cutlery was dirty.
- Food and/or beverages were made with rotten, sour and/or stale ingredients;
- Not prepared properly or to order;
- Bland, cold or tasted bad;
- Hair in the food.
On top of these horrifying review, there were a few bonus nightmares for some dinners:
- The menu prices were not up-to-date, so the customer received a nasty surprise when it was time to pay the bill;
- One reviewer's burger bun was covered in pepper and crumbs from something else. Their guess was that the bun was laid on a dirty counter while the burger was being prepared;
- The owner/manager hit on the customer, apparently fishing for a tip;
- According to a mom from Perth, Ontario whose 3 children were accompanying her, management actually tossed out another couple with children. The reviewer was clueless as to why since the children weren't disturbing anyone.
Based on our personal experience and feedback from those who were actually able to dine there, I give this restaurant the only ZERO star rating I've ever award using the following qualifiers:
- Building Cleanliness/Repair
- Customer Service
After the numerous reviews that end with "I'll never set foot in that place again!" or "Stay away from this place!" I'm very grateful that the owner chased us away before my empty tummy overcame my better senses that night.
As I grasp for a balanced way to end this review, the comment by reviewer SalesTech56 from Pembroke, ON comes to mind:
Bottom line--if great food and good customer service are important to you stay far, far away from this joint.
I couldn't have said it any better.
© 2012 Rosa Marchisella
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