The owners of a restaurant coming soon to Lakeside Village say they will specialize in gourmet brunches with a Caribbean twist. Frances Palermo, who owns several beauty-related businesses, and Lisandra Bezares, a special education coach for Polk County Public Schools, plan to open Sorrel Bistro in August and will also serve breakfast and lunch dishes.

The location is a vacant storefront next to Crisper’s at 1560 Town Center Drive that most recently held a Smallcakes cupcake franchise. Hours will be 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

Palermo, 33, and Bezares, 42, are neighbors and friends who are originally from Puerto Rico. They came up with the idea in 2020.

“There isn’t a good place to eat breakfast, or a good brunch — only IHOP and Keke’s Breakfast Cafe,” Palermo said in Spanish.

“We started this project because there wasn’t a place to go to brunch. We see these places a lot in Miami, in Orlando and Tampa. You can go and eat an elegant brunch and in Lakeland there isn’t a place like this,” Bezares said in Spanish. “We like to go a lot to eat brunch in the morning. It’s important to us.”

Lisandra Bezares, left, and Frances Palermo

Bezares came up with the name of the bistro. She said sorrel is a flowering plant that is popular in Jamaica. It’s also sometimes called a roselle in other parts of the world,  and originates from West Africa.

The duo plans to serve typical breakfast foods such as omelettes, pancakes, and French toast, but with a tropical twist. They hope it’ll be a place where families come to dine when they want to have an elegant brunch. 

“Everything will be unique — exclusive with a lot of Hispanic influence,” Bezares said in Spanish.  

They will also serve “jugos naturales” or homemade juices and coffee from Puerto Rico. They plan to collaborate with local food producers and vendors from the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market. 

There will not be outdoor seating or delivery. 

The women are currently hiring 15 people including kitchen staff, servers, a hostess, and a barista. The chef will be a woman from Puerto Rico who specializes in opening restaurants, they said, adding that a consultant did a study and suggested they open the restaurant in the Lakeside Village location. 

The owners said the main challenges they have faced are finding good contractors to build out the inside and securing the license from the state. 

While this is the owners’ first time running a restaurant, Palermo has experience piloting other businesses. She’s the owner of Palermo Beauty Salon and Little Princess Palace Spa, both located inside Lakeland Square Mall, and Palermo Aesthetic Day Spa, which is located on U.S. 98 near Gibsonia-Galloway Road.

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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