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Dining out: Don't pass up on Flamingo

For years, I've passed by the Flamingo Food & Spirits off Carowinds Boulevard, near Interstate 77. Recently, a friend and I stopped in for lunch. We were delightfully surprised by the better-than-average bar food with unique offerings such as fried frog legs and the friendly atmosphere from staff and fellow patrons.

The front room has a bar to the left with a sheet metal top and seats about 10. There are hooks, too, for purses or coats. There are several tables and booths and two televisions. In the back room is a pool table, electronic darts, a jukebox and one arcade game. There's no tropical feel one might expect with flamingos, but it is warm and inviting thanks to the service and fellow customers, who even waved as we left. It seems a good local hangout with folks at the bar talking and laughing with each other. It's a bar atmosphere, so the lighting is low. There are happy hour drink and menu specials, too. I was told the Flamingo sees a diverse clientele, and the menu brings in families.

Taking a seat at a booth, I noticed a Steelers flag in the window and several little flamingos strewn throughout the room. Some of the booths are a little beaten up. At the table was an appetizer menu, but the server quickly brought us the full-length menu that includes appetizers (from $2 to $8.50), sandwiches (from $4 to $7.75) and salads and entrees (from $7.25 to $12.75). The server said a new menu is coming soon with shrimp, fettuccine and dessert additions.

Appetizers include usual bar menu items, plus a few kicks. There are cheese sticks, fried mushrooms, tortilla chips, chicken tenders, quesadillas, an appetizer sampler, jalapeno poppers and caps, sweet corn nuggets, fried pickles and more. Though we wanted to try to the Flamingo toes — rib-eye steak in spicy dill weed — we opted for the medium chicken wings because they were out of rib-eye.

The dozen wings heaped the plate. The first leg I pulled was big, more like a turkey leg. The sauce packed heat with good Buffalo wing flavor, and the meat was tender.

The rest of the menu includes something for everyone, too. Sandwiches include club, BLT, fried tilapia, rib-eye, Philly cheese steak, barbecue, tuna melt, Reuben, grilled bologna and a build-your-own burger with options including chili and slaw.

Entrees include a 12-ounce rib-eye with salad and garlic toast for $12.75; chopped steak with grilled onion, fries and garlic toast; spaghetti with meat sauce, salad and garlic toast; and deep fried frog legs with fries and slaw.

My friend and I settled on the daily lunch specials. She had the cheeseburger made her way with fries, and I went with winter comfort food — chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Her large burger looked picture perfect, and she said it tasted as good as it looked thanks to the juicy meat and fresh toppings.

My chicken noodle in a large bowl was fresh and flavorful, too. And, for some reason, there's nothing like a grilled cheese made at a restaurant. It reminded me of my childhood, when that's all I would order out to eat. It took the chill out of the damp day.

We needed a box for the wings, having only eaten a couple apiece, and some of the burger. We were stuffed and happily satisfied. Neither of us had been before, but we agreed we'd go back. Sometimes, it pays to be adventurous and try dining at new places.

Catherine Muccigrosso, Lake Wylie Pilot editor

Flamingo Food & Spirits

Location: 377 Rubin Center Drive, Fort Mill

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, noon to midnight Saturday

Phone: 803-548-7340

Fax: 803-548-1686

Ambiance: American bar and grill