Let’s Eat

Lakeland is gaining a reputation as a food destination for good reason.

“When I first arrived in Lakeland in the very early 1980s the ethnic options were slim – Kung pao chicken, tacos and Wiener schnitzel,” said Eric Pera, retired restaurant and beer reviewer for The Ledger daily newspaper. “Now there’s a panoply of options countywide, including Haitian, Turkish, Greek, Vietnamese, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Colombian, Thai, Indian and more … It’s really an exciting time to live in Polk given the burgeoning foodie scene.” 

Here’s a sampling of our great independent restaurants so you can start to experience Lakeland’s local flavor. Want to know what restaurant is near you? We created a map of local eateries. The map will be updated periodically so may offer a more full list. Please check the restaurant’s website for current info on hours. 

Local Eats 

American: FrescosChop ShopGarden BistroCharlie’s Family Restaurant by Dee, The Brunch Box, Love Bird Almost Famous ChickenCob and PenDecisions Grill & Bar, Philly Steak and Wings716 Burgers and Brews

Asian: Peking House is an institution … a throwback to a traditional Chinese restaurant. Fancy Q SushiGosh Asian BistroTsunami Sushi, and New Moon Sushi serve sushi and gourmet Asian fare. Vietnamese fare can be found at Saigon Bistro and Pho Tan, and Thai food is at Thai Oishi or Spice, and The Rib House serves Thai barbeque and sushi. Try Sabu at The Joinery or Oksumi Ramen for Japanese ramen.

Barbecue: Jimbo’s Pit Bar B-QLakeland BBQ Company.Gaskin’s Barbecue and LobsterThe Red Top Pit Stop and Granger Sons and Barbeque

Bakery: Born & Bread Bakehouse, La Imperial Bakery, Hole in One Donuts and Charlie’s Mini Donuts & CoffeeLa Fleur Bistro

Caribbean: Jamaican Jerk Kitchen and Bryan’s Caribbean

Coffee (and Tea) Houses: Our independent coffee houses are a great place to meet new people and connect with the community. Black and Brew,  Hillcrest Coffee, Concord CoffeeMitchell’s Coffee, Tea Largo and Pressed Books and Coffee.

Diners and Delis: ReececliffCozy OaksHerby’s KitchenDowntown DinerDena’s PlaceFat Jack’sUncle Nick’sLake Morton Market and DeliDivicious Deli and Coffee ShopPurple Onion Deli and GrillWooden Spoon Diner

Greek: The Athenian Restaurant

Indian: Curry MangoMy Indi Kitchen, Cafe Roti

Latin: Nineteen61Elena’s Cuban CafeSweet Cup CafeBrasa Latina,Tropico Latino RestaurantZarza Latin Food and Grill, two Tatapatios locations and the new Sazon at Gary Road. If you want to keep it quick and simple, head to Silver Ring Cafe or Ole Tampa Cubans for a Cuban sandwich.

Lunch: Good Thyme, S&L Burgers, Britt’s CafeSubs ‘n SuchJulio’s Sandwich ShopCountry Chicken and Fish The Juice Box

Pizza: Palace PizzaPizzeria ValdianoPrimo’s PizzeriaJ. Burns Pizza Shop,MJ’s Pizza & Wings,  Romeo’s Pizza and PastaSouthside Palace

Seafood: Mister FishHarry’s Seafood Bar and GrillKrunchy KrabSB&B Seafood Market/Bar & Grill, and Riverside Seafood

Upscale Dining: Red Door LakelandTerrace GrilleScarpa’s ItalianBay Street BistroNineteen61Texas Cattle Company, Cafe ZupinaPatio 850, and Chef T’s Garden Bistro

Food Hall: Can’t decide on one place? Then a trip to Lakeland’s first artisan food hall, The Joinery may be in order.

Farmers Markets & Food Festivals

Downtown Farmers Curb Market. Head downtown between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Saturday (except in August) to grab fresh produce, baked goods, flowers and more. Insider tip: Sign up for the weekly email so you can be alerted to which vendors will be there and where they will be.

Pigfest.  The region’s best grillers come out for this two-day festival, now in its 25th year. You’ll taste all types of meats and serve as a spectator for kids, amateur and professional barbecuing competitions at this annual January festival. Insider tip: Go at an off hour to avoid the crowds and share food samples to cut down on costs.

Monthly Food Truck Rally. Since 2017, downtown Lakeland’s Munn Park has been home to a food truck rally on the second Thursday of each month from 6 to 9 p.m. Follow along on Facebook to see the truck lineup each month. Insider tip: Sit back, relax, and enjoy Munn Park while your food cooks.

Local Drinks

Beer, wine and cocktail aficionados have a variety of dining establishments, bars and tasting rooms where they can get their pour on.

Local craft breweries include Swan BrewingBrew Hub, and Dissent Craft Brewing. If you are into making beer as much as drinking it, check out The Lakeland Brewers Guild, to share advice – and beers – at regular events.

For beer-forward gastropubs, there’s Craft + KitchenCob & Pen. For inviting outdoor spaces with beer and wine, check out The Yard on Mass, which features a full bar and local music, or The Poor Porker, known for their bohemian decor and beignets. And while there are several watering holes downtown, Revival specializes in craft cocktail culture unique weekly specials.

Local Shops

While Publix Super Markets’ beginnings are in Winter Haven, the company’s headquarters have been in Lakeland since the mid-1940s so it’s not surprising Lakelanders have long fostered a love affair with all things Publix: subs, fried chicken, sweet tea, bogo’s and the scale at the front of the stores. Those who come from out of state will no doubt fall in love with Publix, too, but may find a second go-to fave, 

Aldi. Bargain shopping includes focuses on store brands at this rapidly growing German-based grocery retailer. You bring your own bags, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. Quirk: Shopping carts can be rented for 25 cents.

Gordon Food Service (GFS) is a great option if you are providing food for a large group of people. Think businesses, catering or party. Quirk: You’ll find cooking supplies, such as chafing dishes, that are hard to find in Lakeland.

Greenwise. In 2019, residents who were traveling out of the county to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods found a store where they could purchase natural and organic meals and products. Quirk: includes a wine bar and coffee shop. 

Harvey’s and Winn-Dixie. After two bankruptcy filings,Winn Dixie has reinvented itself, and its company is not only surviving but growing. Its five Lakeland locations (with two of them re-branded as Harveys supermarkets) are a favorite for those who want a supermarket feel but not the high-end prices. Quirk: You’ll want to join the Winn Dixie Rewards program for major savings.

Save-A-Lot. Without a deli or bakery counter, shoppers like this alternative to bigger chains. Bring your own shopping bags. Quirk: Take advantage of Temporary ‘n’ Terrific (TNT) name-brand items when they pop up in the store from time to time.

 Harvest Meat Market is perhaps the best-known meat market in the area, offering weekly specials and seven locations in Lakeland. If you’re hankering for fresh seafood, you’ll want to visit Lakeland Seafood Market.

Ethnic grocery stores: An explosion of ethnic grocery stores in Lakeland includes Jerusalem Mediterranean MarketThe Market at Cafe Zuppina(Turkish), Gigi’s Oriental MarketSV Oriental Market and Asian Food Mart. One beloved Mexican grocery store, Mega Mercado, doubles as a restaurant, and another well-established Mexican restaurant opened a grocery store, Tapatios TiendaFancy Fruit & Produce, a large Latin supermarket in North Lakeland, is a place to find tomatillos, prickly pear cactus fruit and guavas; you can grab a pastelito before checking out.

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