Tonys & Lkld BBQ

Some duos just work even though they sound unlikely. Think Bing Crosby/David Bowie or Arnold Schwarzenneger/Danny DeVito. Joel Vann and Tony Guinn think the unlikely duo they’ve put together has the makings of a hit for downtown Lakeland.

Starting today, the spot at 213 E. Bay St. that houses Tony’s Studio B, Guinn’s wine bar/music room/gallery at night will host Vann’s Lakeland BBQ Company at lunchtime.

“We partner the space but not the business,” Guinn said. “He doesn’t want to be open dinner, I don’t want to be open lunch, so it works out perfect for us.”

Vann, who used to operate Good Buddy’s BBQ on South Kentucky Avenue, said he’s keeping the menu simple. It has five meats ranging from $7.99 to $10.99, four $2 sides, and a single dessert: chocolate banana pudding for $2.99.

“It’s different than what we did before,” he said. “There’s no frier, so we won’t have the same sides” as his previous downtown restaurant.

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Another difference, Vann said, is that he’ll employ some of the techniques he’s learned in competitive barbecuing to keep his meats moist. They’re cooked with natural gas over pecan.

Customers order at the counter and then find a seat. The space accommodates 50 inside and 12 at outdoor tables.

Vann says meals will come out quickly because the fare is in warmers, having been cooked that morning at his commissary kitchen 15 minutes away in Polk City. (He’s also planning to open a Polk City BBQ Company around Thanksgiving.)

“My ticket times will not run past 3 minutes once we get past the first few weeks,” he said. 

How about the transition from barbecue lunch spot with paper towels and sauces on the tables to tony wine bar?  “He’ll leave it at least as good as he found it,” Guinn said. “We know each other. He’s a straight-up guy.” 

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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