Not since celebrity bombshell Jayne Mansfield’s 1960 visit to the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa has there been so much buzz about the iconic midcentury modern hotel.
With a refreshed look and a spanking-new restaurant as hipster-slick as a pompadour with a mid-fade, it’s finally ready for prime-time lounging, people watching and, of course, eating. Possibly all three if you’re lucky.
Headed by Santa Rosa-based Point Group (who also did the Sandman hotel in Santa Rosa), the Flamingo makes us feel like we finally have a true destination resort for the under-60 crowd.
The public and private parts of the hotel are now clearly distinguishable, with the entrance’s move to the side of the resort and soaring windows framing a revamped pool area and restaurant with lanai seating at the new Lazeaway Club.
Veer to the left, then through the lobby/lounge to what used to be the old restaurant entrance. Though not much seems to have changed inside, outside on the patio you’ll feel like your’re on a mini journey to Palm Beach. Comfy chairs and loungers are the top choice if you want that laid-back experience, but four-top tables are perfectly lovely, too.
The pool area is bounded by clear glass panels, keeping dripping-wet kids from traipsing through the dining room and restaurant guests from taking up residence in the luxurious lounge chairs around the pool. It’s a fair exchange. It also makes for remarkably entertaining viewing from your dinner table as tots cannonball into the pool with nary a drop hitting you.
The restaurant had all but fallen off the map before the pandemic, though Chef Annie Hongkham did a great job with Wild Bird, a fried chicken takeout option during the pandemic. Now it’s re-envisioned through renovations made in collaboration with restaurateurs Anderson Pugash and Benson Wang of Palm House Hospitality, founders of Palm House and The Dorian, in San Francisco. Chef Sergio Morales, formerly of Sam’s Social Club in Calistoga, now leads the kitchen, serving up tropically inspired food with a strong California connection.
Though the restaurant is still getting up to speed with staffing and consistency, the food is certainly buzz-worthy, and several of our first-look dishes were impressive winners. The cocktail list is extensive, with plenty of tiki tipplers and slushy sips for hot days.
Overall, it’s a wildly fun culinary vacation by the pool with fresh, well-prepared island-inspired dishes that aren’t overly complicated, but perfectly enjoyable. Plan to grab a rum drink and stay awhile. Caftans encouraged.
Scallion Pancake with Trio of Dips, $14: A high point on the menu where everything just works in snacky perfection. Crisp scallion pancakes with homemade avocado sesame, soy chili and pimento kim-cheese (kimchee cheese!). We fought over this one.
Shaking Steak Frites, $36: Excellent grass-fed beef cooked medium-rare with a piquant soy lime sauce is a great pick. The cost of beef is skyrocketing everywhere, so I don’t begrudge the price. The twice-baked Texas fries were especially good dipped in the leftover sauce.
Chocolate Lava Cake with Caramelized Pineapple, $8: A lovely dish for sharing. I’m not usually a chocolate super fan, but the sweet pineapple was an excellent foil.
Coconut Green Curry, $21: Fresh, tasty and well-made with crispy tofu and makrut lime leaf. Seasonal vegetables make this a lovely vegetarian dish. But charging $3 for steamed rice on the side seems a bit excessive.
Lazeaway Smash Burger, $12: Two griddled patties of grass-fed beef with American cheeses, shredded lettuce, Korean chile barbeque sauce and a milk bun. Nicely done.
Ahi Tuna Poke, $18: The flavor of this dish, with tart ponzu sauce, macadamia nuts, pea shoots and nori, was spot-on. What weirded us out a little was the color of the fish, a dull pink that lacked the bright jewel-red color we’d like to see from sushi-grade ahi. Flavor-wise, it wasn’t problematic, though. Maybe an off day from the seafood market?
Lazeaway Club at the Flamingo Resort is open starting at 5 p.m. for dinner, Wednesday through Sunday. Extended hours coming in mid-July. 2777 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, flamingoresort.com