For my birthday this year, I decided I would take my family to Flying Mango. I had been there this past February with my wife and some good friends, and we fell head over heels for this place. It was an interesting experience. They feature barbecue (for their style of barbecue, I refused to shorten to BBQ). This isn’t bib overalls and lemonade kind of barbecue. This is barbecue, done smart. BBQ + IQ = Flying Mango. They take traditional BBQ dishes and modernize them, often times infusing other inspirations into them. For example, their Bass-Ackwards’ Chicken Wings utilize soy sauce. And their Orange BBQ-Glazed Ribs utilizes, well, an orange glaze. OK, so on paper it maybe doesn’t sound so profound but it is. Everyone raved about these orange glazed ribs. They were juicy, flavorful, orangy.
I had to fight to get this picture without hands in it, as there were multiple hands reaching for another rib. Here’s one with both the ribs and wings:
The wings that night were the second best wings I’ve ever had. The best I’ve ever had were the ones I had back in February there. I’m not sure what happened as they were more moist and flavorful last time. Regardless, second’s pretty damn good, but is it really when the best was your last performance?
I ordered the 24 hour brisket, refering to the number of hours they smoked this piece of meat. My father in law got it and agreed that Flying Mango has the best brisket. We both agreed that generally brisket is tough, dry, and flavorless. Not so with with Flying Mango’s brisket. But again, it wasn’t as good as the last time I’d had it. Similar issues to the wings, a bit drier, a bit less flavorful.
For my sides I chose the red beans and rice and the corn bread. Now these were quite good. Jethro’s Waukee also has a red beans and rice side which is just as good. But that corn bread, with honey butter is something else. Growing up in Bay Area, California, we would frequent Marie Calendar’s. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… that frozen food company that also offers an instant corn bread mix. Yes, it is the same company. But the chain, at least when I was a kid, had some stand up corn bread. I’ll go out on a limb and say this is even better. If the owners of Flying Mango are reading this I’m sure they are turning green that I’m comparing their sides to Jethro’s and Marie Calendars. Get over it, good food occasionally comes from mysterious places.
My mom must have ordered the dish with the longest name. She opted for their “Lime and Garlic Shrimp with Mango Salsa over Black Pepper Fettucine”. “Damn Good Pasta with Shimp” would have been fine by me. Besides making it really awkward to order if you’re imbued to order it by it’s full name, it’s quite amazing. We both agreed it had a light flavor, but the pop of lime was stunning. The shrimp was just OK. We both agreed that they were a bit bland.
Now for the bad… I understand that service can be hit or miss. But I firmly believe service is the foundation of any restaurant. It can make up for many shortcomings but without good service you have little foundation from which to build on. That was certainly the case with our experience. What could have been a very good experience was tainted by awful service. Let me explain…
- While sitting down to our table, my mom knocked over a water glass. You wouldn’t expect this to be a big issue. When we were at Cafe di Scala recently we sat next to a lady who knocked over her red wine glass, staining the white table cloth and leaving a puddle on the floor. Almost immediately two waitresses appeared with a new table cloth and worked together efficiently to clean up the spill. Both seemed unfazed and their waitress was very reassuring saying “not a problem, this happens all the time”. At Flying Mango, we got two huffy waitresses, one who seemed very irritated to be picking up ice cubes. My mom was very apologetic. While taking our drink order our waitress joked that she wasn’t going to be taking my mom’s drink order because she couldn’t trust her. Needless to say, my mom was less than impressed.
- When the waitress was taking my wife’s order, my wife whispered that it was my birthday. Not that she was expecting them to comp us a dessert, sing “Happy Happy Birthday”, take my picture with a sombrero on my head, or even tap dance on our table like Danny Kaye, but maybe a “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate syrup or a candle would have been nice. Apparently this was just too presumptuous. Our waitress’s response, “O…..K…..?”. Flash forward to the end of our meal…our waitress comes out with two desserts, and makes a very awkward annoncement that “they don’t normally do this, so don’t tell anyone” (sorry Honey, I’m spilling the beans). She also went on to explain that they felt bad for taking three steak orders only to later find out the restaurant was completely out of steak. Well, congratulations, you found a cherry for which to top this cake of a pile of heaping poor service.
But you better believe I had a part in eating those desserts. The chocolate cake wasn’t good. It doesn’t take much to please me with chocolate, mostly it just needs to taste like chocolate. This one didn’t, am not exactly sure why.
On the other hand, the bread pudding was stand up. The chunks of white chocolate and the mango glaze were great. This was the concensus at the time, avoid the chocolate cake and get the bread pudding.
Am I able to recommend the Flying Mango? I’m not exactly sure. In February it was a great restaurant and would have been on our favorite’s list. But this time, it was tainted by the poor service. The service really cast a dire shadow over what was to be a great 30th birthday. As long as you don’t spill your water or go there for your birthday you’ll probably be OK.
For the owners of Flying Mango, not all is lost. The same friend who brought us here back in February is still a believer and you haven’t lost him yet. I may even be willing to try it again sometime in the future if you can just improve the service.