The Pink Flamingo Diner unveiled what it calls a “different kind of diner” with a much-anticipated grand opening to the public on Feb. 20 in High Springs.
It does not take long to see what they mean. Not only does Pink Flamingo have a unique menu, but it comes with unusual entertainment and recreation activities. In addition to a full lunch and dinner menu featuring unique recipes for meats, seafood, sandwiches and pasta dishes, Pink Flamingo also offers a menu of vegan dishes. To keep the vegan dishes pure, cooks have two separate prep and cooking areas.
“We didn’t want to do this halfway and create a bad impression,” said general manager Mike Smith. “We wanted to get it perfect, both in service and staff before opening.”
Step outside and you’ll find a full bar on the patio, along with a stage for music entertainment. Located behind the restaurant is a new miniature golf course and a drive-thru coffee shop that includes soft serve ice cream.
The recently enlarged building features an eye-popping exterior with scenes of the natural beauty of North Florida, painted by Jim Wegman and other local artists. Wegman also painted a large propane tank as a submarine for kids to play around.
The diner itself has a long history. Twenty years ago, restaurateurs Mike and Judy Kearney relocated to High Springs from Virginia and opened three restaurants in the area: Lord Munchies Pizza Place, Deneno’s Italian Restaurant and Floyd’s Diner.
For the Floyd’s Diner concept, the Kearneys purchased a metallic covered diner called “the starlight” in Ormond Beach, then had the building transported to High Springs and decorated to resemble an old-style diner. They also brought their head chef, Tara McDermott down from Virginia to create a unique menu for Floyd’s Diner. Mike Smith and Carol Doherty worked as managers for the Kearneys.
When the Kearneys closed the restaurants in 2008, all three employees went to work for the Benson Family and helped open The Great Outdoors, which went on to win three awards for best restaurant and two Golden Spoon awards for its menu design.
In 2020, the Bensons sold The Great Outdoors to Dae Jung Kim, who wanted to create a unique, upscale restaurant in High Springs. The Kearneys still owned the Floyd’s Diner property and had leased the restaurant to several different owners. The last iteration—called The Diner—closed during the pandemic, so the Kearneys sold the property and restaurant to Kim.
Under the direction of developer Karl Spain, the idea to expand the diner into a destination for quality food, entertainment and family recreation took shape. Since Kim also wanted to have both restaurants serve unique, high-quality menus, he took the recommendation of the Kearneys to reassemble their winning team and convinced McDermott to return to Florida to oversee the menu creation and build a qualified staff.
After an extensive renovation, Pink Flamingo held a Feb. 12 opening reception and ribbon cutting, which was attended by city commissioners Ross Ambrose and Byran Williams, Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper and Vice Mayor Robert Wilford, along with Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson.
Prior to the ribbon cutting Williams presented a proclamation of appreciation to Dae Jung Kim for his revitalization of the diner and helping to create 75 new jobs at the Pink Flamingo. Williams also presented the key to the city to McDermott.
If you’re going:
- Location: 19726 NW US Hwy 441
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (breakfast hours will begin in March)
- Menu: Available at the Pink Flamingo Facebook page
- Reservations: call 386-454-5775