I got invited by a good friend of mine to have a buffet dinner with her at the Mango Mexican Restaurant (formerly known as Sphinx) in Niles – a bit further than the usual area I cover, but why not? Plus, there was a free monthly hafla event going on, with belly dancing performances taking place on the mini dance floor in the middle of the restaurant.
First off, I’m not sure whether they were serving their usual food for the buffet, because instead of Mexican food, we got an assortment of mediterranean cuisine – pita, falafel, couscous salad, chicken shawerma, baklava…etc. So even though Yelp has very mixed reviews on both food and the service, I have to say that the food wasn’t that bad. The chicken was very tender and moist (if you took the dark meat), while their falafel was pretty good, though not as good as Oasis Café’s. Everything else was pretty normal, so nothing much to mention.
As for service, I feel just as mixed as the reviewers on Yelp. Since it was buffet style, the wait staff had it easy, but we still waited a long time before our drinks came. And we ordered Sprite. On the other hand, I caught a waitress joining in the festivities, which was pretty cute. The restaurant owner Esaam also performed a saiidi (male style), an Egyptian cane dance which was really impressive and very multicultural, especially in such an American suburb. Perhaps the staff prefer to entertain rather than wait on the customers.
The other belly dancing performances, however, were good enough to distract, so I wasn’t as concerned as I would have been about the restaurant’s service. Props to Zayna for organising the whole event, and for doing some impressive dances of her own despite being injured! She also kept her cool and filled in for the DJ, Instant Cash, who couldn’t make it to the event.
There was time blocked off for open dancing, so anyone who wanted to shake their booty were more than welcome to. The only drawback is that belly dancing only involves women, so the guys were stuck at their tables while ogling at the ladies (not that they seemed to mind too much). As for the restaurant itself, don’t bother going out of your way to visit unless you’re there for a dance performance or absolutely starving for food (you need at least $15; buffet is all-you-can-eat). 4/10 for this restaurant.