Restaurant Week Spotlights Lakeland Indie Dining

Shane LawlorShane and Laura Lawlor are thankful for local independent restaurants, so they picked Thanksgiving weekend to launch the first Lakeland Restaurant Week in which they “invite you to take a culinary journey, without leaving town.”

Starting Friday and lasting through next Thursday, five participating restaurants are offering full dinners (three courses or more) for a reduced rate of $36. It’s a labor of love for the Lawlors, who are self-funding the effort and say they receive no payment from the restaurants.

“Long gone are the days when you would have to drive to Tampa or Orlando to experience fine dining,” the Lawlors say on lakelandrestaurantweek.com. “New independent restaurants are proving Lakelanders want fresh and vibrant new taste sensations.”

Participating restaurants are:

For vegetarians, the best bet is New Moon Sushi, where there are vegetable options for each of five courses except the cold appetizer. Those who eat fish but not other meats will also find options at Patio 850 and Scarpa’s.

The Lawlors said they got the idea from similar events in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, where they lived before moving to Lakeland three years ago.

Laura, 28, grew up in Lakeland, while Shane, 38, grew up in Nottingham, England. They met in New York City, where he was a musician (he’s currently operations director for the Polk Theatre) and she was a model. She now coaches volleyball at All Saints Academy, works in marketing and owns L’amour Vintage Designs.

Shane said he and Laura approached about 10 owners at “all locally owned (non-chain) restaurants that had a menu which price-wise would fit with our $36 for 3-course dinner model.”

He added: “The ones that were interested thought it was an opportunity to showcase the chef and show what they could do. Hopefully it will draw people out to do something more than shop on Black Friday.”

They chose Thanksgiving week because it’s typically a slow period for restaurants, Shane said.

They’re already planning a second restaurant week sometime next summer and hope to attract 10 venues next time.