November 2007

Two Worlds Collide

Author: Linda Hopkins

Flamingo House of Doughnuts adds Mediterranean Cafe

Something’s in the air at Park Plaza. But don’t worry. The sweet smell of fried cakes and coffee wafting over the adjacent mailing facility and needlework shop is all natural and safe for the environment. Over the past two years, islanders and visitors alike have indulged in the best doughnuts in town with no known side effects other than sheer elation and the need to take an extra calorie-burning lap.

If it’s been a while since you stopped by for breakfast, you are in for a big surprise. Under new ownership, the Flamingo House of Doughnuts (now Flamingo) is still serving those decadent, to-die-for treats and a full menu of eggs, bagels and other breakfast specialties. What’s new is an authentic Mediterranean-style lunch and dinner menu. The unusual combination is creating quite the buzz about town.

Flamingo serves breakfast, including hot, made-to-order doughnuts, from 7:30 a.m.-noon daily. The lunch and dinner menu is available from noon-10 p.m., featuring a broad array of Mediterranean dishes in a casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere.

The lunch/dinner menu is based primarily on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine (Israel to Turkey). Most foods are either grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil. Main ingredients include seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, legumes and the freshest available vegetables, all punctuated with distinctive herbs and spices, lending an earthy, robust flavor of a world beyond our borders. “It’s very healthy,” said chef/owner Romeo Chammas. “Sometimes people eat healthy food because it’s healthy but not necessarily delicious. The food we serve is healthy and delicious.”

(For the less adventurous palate, Flamingo offers burgers and a variety of American-style sandwiches and entrées as well as kid-friendly chicken nuggets, cheese sticks and spaghetti. Cold doughnuts are also available in the afternoon and evening.)

Originally from Lebanon, attending culinary school in the Middle East, Chammas first came to Hilton Head Island to pursue an internship. Gaining experience in fine dining, he eventually opened his own catering company. People constantly asked where they could go to enjoy more of his cooking. That’s when he decided to open his own restaurant featuring the cuisine of his native land.

Although the surroundings are simple, you will sense an old-world respect for food—for the ingredients, the preparation, the act of eating, and for the restaurant patron. You’ll find that hospitality is one of Chammas’ keenest pleasures.

In the future, Chammas hopes to expand the business, possibly creating a separate space for the doughnuts and designing a more upscale atmosphere for the Mediterranean cuisine. For now, just close your eyes and open your mind to a new world of old world cuisine. Tasting is believing. You WILL be back for more.

For more information, call 843-686-4606.

A Mediterranean Feast

On a recent Friday, five all-American girls from Celebrate Hilton Head set out to see what the excitement was all about at Flamingo. We found our taste buds on a lunch hour trip to the Mediterranean and back as chef Romeo Chamma laid a feast before us unlike anything else in the Lowcountry.

Savoring the traditional hummus on toasted pita bread for starters, we were just beginning to peruse the exotic menu when samples of Baba Ghannooj, Tabouleh and Fattouch arrived. Next we were served Falafel, Shawarma and Kebbeh. To put it in plain English, we devoured crisp, colorful, lightly-dressed salads, succulent chicken, lamb, lean beef and perfectly seasoned ground bean patties with a side of golden, sautéed potatoes.

Just when we were commenting on the healthful qualities of the ingredients and cooking style, we concurred that we had saved just enough room for dessert. While the restaurant offers sophisticated selections such as knefeh, baklava and crème brûlée, our minds were set on the familiar doughnut. At the chef’s suggestion, we shared the “almond joy” and the “maple nut.” Divvying up was a matter of whose fork could fly fastest. Maintaining a shred of professional dignity, we restrained ourselves from licking the plates, but don’t think we didn’t want to! We all agreed it was time to “take a lap.”

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