Flamingo Mart now open


POSTED: Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A new offshoot of the lone remaining Flamingo Restaurant is open for business at 1221 Piikoi St., at Kinau Street, with parking entrances from both.

In addition to the Icee or chewing gum you've just gotta have before you hit H-1, you can pick up 32-ounce containers of frozen oxtail soup or Hawaiian beef stew to reheat for the hungry mob at home for under $10. Oxtail soup buyers get a container of bok choy and ginger for garnish.

Flamingo Mart also sells baked goods made fresh daily at the Pearl City restaurant at 805 Kamehameha Highway, including the restaurant's famous double-crusted banana pies, fruit bars and shortbread cookies.

“;Every day, almost 60 or 70 (pies) sell,”; said Kaygi Lee, who, with his wife, Gi Yan, bought the Pearl City restaurant in January 2009.

Flamingo's Windward City Shopping Center location closed in July 2007 after 20 years in business, and the Flamingo at 871 Kapiolani Blvd. closed in October 2008 after 49 years.

The restaurant company had been established in 1950 by the Nagamine family, which, at the time the Kaneohe lease expired and the Kapiolani restaurant sale fell through, did not have another generation interested in continuing the family business.

The closures forced Flamingo faithful to flock to the Pearl City restaurant for fixes of oxtail soup and banana pie or fruit bars.

Lee felt sorry for the far-driving customers but also saw demand that made expansion back into town a no-brainer.

A delivery arrived yesterday just after 1 p.m., and a woman buying a restaurant-prepared bento lunch quickly snapped up a $1.95, still-warm slice of banana pie for dessert.

Whole custard and pumpkin pies sell for $8.95, while whole banana pies are $9.95. Lunch bentos are $5.99 or $6.99, while breakfast bentos range from $3.99 to $5.99.

The shop opened on the 7,000-square-foot lot that had housed a 2,000-square-foot 7-Eleven for 20 years, Lee said.

A newer 7-Eleven is about a block makai, but he said he doesn't see it as competition because the Flamingo fare sets it apart.

Flamingo Mart will become a hybrid convenience store/bake shop and quick-service eatery, pending receipt of permitting for sales of hot food and a liquor license for alcohol sales, said general manager Alex Balch.

As for the convenience-store stuff, “;we'll keep what sells well,”; but, motioning to a row or two of shelving, he said they would be removed to make way for tables and chairs.

There will be seating for seven to 10 dine-in customers, Kaygi Lee said.

The shop has done no advertising, except for a sign outside. Still, customers have stopped in on their way to the airport, excited to have found a source of the legendary fare to take to their families, said manager Kevin Lee.

The Lees have not changed anything at the restaurant, Kaygi said, because it was a successful business and the longtime employees “;already know how to do everything.”;

Star-Bulletin “;By Request”; recipe-hunter Betty Shimabukuro's column tomorrow will feature a recipe similar to the restaurant's supersecret formula.