There’s an old cliché that food that’s good for you doesn’t taste good. But it doesn’t have to be that way, say Sarah and Jon Bucklew, owners of Plenty, the newest restaurant at The Joinery, the artisan food court at 640 E. Main St. that overlooks Lake Mirror.
The Bucklews, founders of The Joinery, say Plenty is in the business of preparing healthy food that tastes every bit as good as the food your doctor would prefer you to shun.
“At Plenty, the food is fresh and whole, with simple, pure and full nutrient-dense ingredients,” said Sarah Bucklew. “It’s low fat. We use full, heart-healthy fats.”
Plenty’s Mediterranean-inspired menu includes bowls and plates with names such as Tomatoes + Sourdough, Bacon, Egg + Kale, Peas + Carrots, Broccolini + Brussels and a mezze plate.
Diners can add several skewers: tofu, mushroom, chicken kebab, beef kofta or shrimp.
Some of the skeptics who have tried Plenty have been pleasantly surprised.
Chris Wagoner from Mulberry is a junk food junkie who loves nachos. “I’m a pizza and beer man,” he said. “I’m cool with Taco Bell tacos.”
Wagoner said if he hadn’t been familiar with Jon Bucklew he would “never, ever” have ordered anything from their menu: “Hummus, I hate it.” Or at least he used to.
“Jon told me, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ I was shocked at how good everything was. And I never knew a salad could taste so good.” Plenty makes all of its dressings from scratch.
It is inspired by Isreali, Palestinian, Italian and Greek dishes.
Sarah Bucklew learned a lot about restaurant experiences while traveling for her former job teaching people at colleges to use her company’s software. She ate out often and learned what she liked and what she didn’t.
Sarah Bucklew is the driving force behind Plenty, but initially she wasn’t quite sure how to pull it off. “I felt blind, deaf and mute, she said. “But I felt like I had something in my head.”
She got detailed advice from Tampa chef Nathan Hardin, formerly of Steelbach at Armature Works. And she got trial and error help from Catapult, a Lakeland business incubator on Main Street close to the Joinery.
At Catapult, Sarah Bucklew met the woman who would become the chef at Plenty, Ellie Leach. Leach is a polite antithesis of the ill-tempered chef.
The pandemic has made business at The Joinery difficult, and at times even hellish, the Bucklews say.
Jon Bucklew said COVID-19 has hurt Joinery business by about half, with some vendors doing better and some worse. “It’s a matter of how long you can hang in there,” he said.
They had to lay off Joinery bartenders and janitors. The Bucklews are the new janitors.
They opened Plenty in the space near The Joinery’s main entrance vacated by coffee and beer vendor King State.
So Ellie doles out menu items like Peas and Carrots that taste anything but bland. That’s because she adds numerous ingredients that include wild rice, avocados and pistachios.
Another item, Beans and Things, \includes assorted green beans, shaved asparagus, sourdough and wheat berries.
Delivery is available.