Mr. Flamingo, Mr. Featherstone, Mr. Pink and Ms. Sitherwood all in an Avian Mating Dance Orgy

Flamingos are one of the more recognized avian species in popular culture.  Whereas the bald eagle is synonymous with courage and nobility, the flamingo is a bit more mysterious and is often associated much less stoic characteristics.

The Flamingo hotel, for example, is the longest standing (and probably cheesiest) hotel on the famed  Las Vegas strip. Afterall, it is decorated with pink shag carpets and a live wildlife habitat featuring the namesake birds.

“Pink Flamingos” was a low budget movie directed by John Waters, the odd director who brought us the original cult classics “Hairspray” and “Serial Mom” was notorious for working  with even stranger actors and actresses like Divine, Traci Lords and Ricki Lake.

Although not entirely related, when I heard the name of the restaurant I couldn’t help of think of Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs .  In what I would argue is  the most famous Tarantino restaurant scene after the five-dollar milkshake in Pulp Fiction, Mr. Pink, played by Steve Buscemi, goes on a rant about the concept of tipping, arguing that it should not be an automatic gesture (he must have visited a few places in Toronto’s west end along his travels).


On the small screen, flamingos,  along with other Florida vestiges such as fancy cars, jai alai, dog racing, beaches and boobs were prominent in the iconic opening credits of Miami Vice.  Speaking of televisions shows, the short lived prime-time soap opera called Flamingo Road starred Morgan Fairchild and Mark Harmon dealt with the frantic and fast-paced lives of elite Floridians.

All of this said, perhaps the most recognizable use of the pink flamingo in popular culture is the plastic lawn ornament.  Primarily used to signify key life events (like a 50th birthday let’s say), this tacky accessory was first produced by Don Featherstone , an employee of the union plastic company in Massachusetts.  This achievment was significant enough to have him recognized  in a New York times obituary the day after his June 22, 2015 death.  Here are a few interesting facts about the pink flamingo:

  • They were initially offered in the late 50’s sold for $2.76/pair in the Sears catalog.
  • In 1999, the city council of Madison, Wisconsin voted the plastic flamingo, coined Phoenicopterus ruber plasticus by Featherstone himself, as the city’s official bird.
  • In the 2011 Disney film “Gnomeo and Juliet”, there is a flamingo named Featherstone which is an interesting twist given the well- established competition between the gnome and the pink bird for cheesy lawn ornament supremacy.

Probably the oddest use the Flamingo is the Quebec food company whose catch line is “an excellent source of fun”.  First, the primary foodstuffs produced by the Flamingo company are poultry products which is just weird.  Second, I don’t equate the consumption of chicken burgers as fun, yet alone an excellent source of it.

All of this said, I can only speculate as to the rationale behind Mr. Flamingo’s name.  I think some would  speculate that the bird symbolizes the simple yet swanky theme of the restaurant.  The menu consists of small plates which in many cases contain upper echelon foods such as oysters, fois gras and truffles.

Although, I would almost expect a cocktail to be named after Mr. Featherstone ,I couldn’t find one so I ordered the bourbon based Ms. Sitherwood ($14) instead.  The first page of a google search identified Ms. Sitherwood as the  Chief Executive Officer of The Laclede Group although I have no idea if that’s relevant at all.    It was served in a dainty glass adorned with mint leaves. The general vibe of the drink was a sophisticated but not mind-blowing  long island ice tea ($14).

Ms. Sitherwood $14

Before I go into the food choices, let me say that the staff were extremely accommodating.  The menu prices listed on the web are for a specific portion but they were more than happy to modify the portions and prices in some cases (eg. oysters and scallops) so that everybody had at least one piece.  Futhermore, they split the bill in 5 and printed one out for each of us.  These things seem simple  but can be surprisingly hard to find among  many Toronto eateries.

Since we had a fairly large table, we were able to order most of the menu.  First on the list was the steak tartare ($14) served with a quail egg and chips.  It had a symmetrical and pretty appearance and its moderate spice was driven more by pepper than other heat sources.

Steak Tartare with chips $14

The burrata ($16) was served with a gorgeous  tomato salad. The cheese was seasoned nicely and had a beautiful texture similar to that of a soft boiled egg; firm on the outside and runny in the middle.

Burrata $16

The lobster based oysters ($3.50/piece) wouldn’t have been my first choice but they fit the swanky theme of the place.  The lobster hollandiase had a sweetness and creaminess which nicely offset the salty and not over-cooked oyster, making  it a decent bite.

Lobster Baked Oysters $3.50 each

Based on other reviews, the scallops with popcorn puree and sea asparagus ($22.50 as shown) could very well be their signature dish. It hit all the elements of such a dish; the scallops were cooked properly, the puree was divine and the sea asparagus added the colour, texture and taste needed to balance everything out.

Scallops with popcorn puree and sea asparagus ($4.50 each)

The trout  was another tasty dish but  at this point the menu was getting a bit monotonous as many of  it’s elements were near identical to the previous two (oysters and scallops), adhereing to the theme of well cooked protein plus rich sauce plus green vegetable.


On paper, the mushroom risotto topped with shaved truffle may have been the  pinnacle of Mr. Flamingo’s swanky small plate experience.  Although I’m not generally a risotto fan, I appreciated the avoidance of truffle oil as an excuse for fancy flavoring.  It was a nicely prepared dish but was still highlighted by rich flavours similar to many other items on the menu.

Mushroom Risotto

The duck and steak were both nicely prepared but not unlike anything you can get at any other restaurant in the area.  It seems almost mandatory that these dishes appear on menus, prepared and seasoned the same way and served alongside the rather predictable sides.

After a meal in a place named after a suave and sexy bird serving oysters and  truffles,  I expected some kind of lavish desert. Instead, the sole offering was a donut with a sparkler in it.  It was a rather carnival ending to an otherwise posh meal.

Donut with Sparkler $6

My Take

I may have missed my calling as an ornithologist so I’m never upset when I can eat at a place named after a feathered friend (yes I must admit I like eating some of them as much as I like watching them). After my dining experience, I can’t say I was as excited as the majestic flamingo during its mating ritual but it was still a decent meal.


Mr. Flamingo offers a mix of the standard sharing plates seen in a lot of the area’s eateries with the addition of a few unique ones, in particular the scallops with popcorn puree. In general, the majority of the menu is a bit monotonous in flavour though. Overall,  it was a good experience, highlighted by above average service starting with the fact they will actually split a bill, a fact that may even convince Mr. Pink to throw a few bucks on the table after all is said and done.

Mr Flamingo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Why Can’t I Speak Easy at Speakeasy 21?

By definition, a speakeasy is an illegal establishment which housed alcohol during prohibition.  Since then, it is often included in the lexicon of terms used to make words like restaurant, drink and  food sound cooler.  Speakeasy 21 has recently opened in Toronto’s financial district and according to the webiste “is a Resto-Bar serving Contemporary Bistro fare with a large selection of custom crafted cocktails and spirits.”  It sounded like an interesting concept so I coaxed a colleague into joining me for dinner.

Any difficulty finding the place among the concrete jungle of Adelaide St. was negated by the loud music which emulated from the smallish confines of the bistro.  The tunes were audible from the sidewalk and got louder as we approached the front door.  After checking in using my reservation, only remnants of the after work business crowd remained along with a spattering of random people including some creepy guy who sat by himself drinking what looked like diet coke while scoping the crowd. We were seated near creepy guy at a small bar table close to the open kitchen.  The waitstaff consisted of a mosiac of men and woman who obviously took various lengths to mimic the retro looks of the 20’s and 30’s.  For example, one waitress was sporting the curly blonde locks and make-up reminiscent of Mae West.  Others wore the same outfit but looked more like they were attending a Jersey Shore prohibition party.

The music continued pounding which even made ordering difficult.  Nonethesless, I started with a libation.  Whether you want a martini, a mason jar or a drink on the rocks, it will run you $15.04. I opted for the Brown Derby and the result was a mediocre attempt at this bourbon based drink.

Brown Derby $15.04
Brown Derby $15.04

From the menu I started with the Bulgogi taco for $6.  My first thought was that this better be a damn good taco, especially if you have the balls to charge me $6 for it.  It didn’t live up to the price.  It was seasoned nicely but was pretty safe.  Although served with house made hot sauce, the small amount of condiments were a bit of a let down.

Bulgogi Taco $6
Bulgogi Taco $6

Next was the foodie mix salad (aka kale and arugula) for $14.  It was James Bond at a  McDonald’s….tasty and nicely but over dressed.  There could have been a few more treasures hidden within the forest of greens although I liked the radish.

Kale and Arugula Salad $14
Kale and Arugula Salad $14

The tuna crudo ($14) was seasoned  nicely with citrus and heat.  It was arguably the best dish of the evening.  The grapefruit, jalapeno and coconut atop the buttery fish created a bit of an orchestra in the mouth.

Albacore Tuna Crudo $14
Albacore Tuna Crudo $14

I was interested in the construction of the shrimp and chorizo sandwich so I ordered it.  It was a $17 filet-o-fish topped with a hot dog.  I don’t know what possessed me to order a sandwich with cheese on top of a  formed shrimp patty  but it really wasn’t appealing.

Shrimp and Chorizo Sandwich $17
Shrimp and Chorizo Sandwich $17

Finally, we ordered the butter chicken balls for $14.  A bowl of  three meatballs arrived swimming in a delicious gravy.  I enjoyed the coriander and mango flavours as well.

Butter Chicken Balls $14
Butter Chicken Balls $14


My Take

Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Boardwalk Empire, but my impression of a speakeasy does not consist of overpriced food and blasting music.  Sure the show is set in New Jersey but I don’t think it  means that your waitstaff can look and act like Snooky or Bow-Wow (or whatever her name is).  The $6 taco, $15 cocktail  and $17 dollar sandwich were disappointing.   The butter chicken balls and tuna crudo were decent but still priced in the echelon of Steve Buscemi’s pocketbook.  This place needs to decide what it wants to be; a retro hangout for overpaid suits with classic cocktails  or a loud Moxie’s rip-off with half ass food served by pretty girls .  Right now, it’s the latter.  Perhaps it should be called Speakloud 21 because it’s the only way you can hear a damn thing.

SpeakEasy 21 on Urbanspoon