First off, given some people’s passion around food, a few caveats…
By and large, this list will skip large chain restaurants. It doesn’t mean Buffalo Wild Wings isn’t a great place to get some wings, it’s just that you can probably get a very similar version of those wings at home, too. So, this list will be more locally based.
We’re providing five, because in a long weekend trip you can only eat so much. Lakeland is a large city with a ton of dining options, so there are a ton of other options out there that are worth checking out, too.
The food recommendations come down to what you’d typically eat after a ball game or when you’re looking to have a nice, enjoyable meal with your buddies after a day on the golf course. Fine dining recommendations these are not. Same as above, doesn’t mean Lakeland doesn’t have them, just means we’re not recommending you go to a tapas restaurant or have a fine dining experience after a day of beer and hot dogs at the park.
With that, here are TigsTown’s five places to eat in Lakeland…
#1: The Pizza Joint – Palace Pizza
Every trip needs to have a place to grab a slice of pizza, and our go-to for the last several years has been Palace Pizza in downtown Lakeland. About a ten minute drive from the ballpark, Palace Pizza has an excellent variety of food options to go with a lot of various dining styles. Grab a slice and go, or order a whole pie and a beer, sit outside and enjoy your food. A personal recommendation of mine is to get an order of garlic knots to go with whatever pizza toppings you prefer.
#2: The BBQ Joint – Smokin Aces BBQ
Admittedly, I had a go-to BBQ restaurant that used to be right downtown called Good Buddies BBQ, but they closed up their store front a few years ago and only do catering now, at last check. I’m a big fan of a nice pulled pork or beef brisket sandwich, and it’s taken a few years to find a new spot. My new reco I’ve only had once, and it was at their Plant City location, not in Lakeland (which just opened last fall), but the sandwich was amazing. It’s a bit further from the park, about 15 minutes away, but if you’re a fan of barbeque, I’d give it a try. The Lakeland location is apparently only open for lunch though, so best to make it a plan to swing in before the game.
#3: Seafood – Harry’s Seafood
Harry’s isn’t a chain, but it does have other locations around Florida. Nevertheless, unless you’re a Florida native, the big Harry’s sign on Kentucky Ave. in downtown should be a draw for you. They have an excellent variety of seafood, and many of them come with a bit of a kick, as they position themselves as a New Orleans style restaurant with jambalaya and po’boys. In addition, you can get more traditional fare like burgers, steaks and chicken, with everything very reasonably priced for the quality.
#4: Caribbean – West Caribbean Cuban Restaurant
Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of most Caribbean food types – but when you’re in Florida, you’re about as close as you can get to the best food from the region without actually going to Cuba or Jamaica. West Caribbean Cuban gets the reco here. It is on the south side of town, so it’s a bit of a drive no matter where you’re staying, but the food comes well recommended, and unlike many other family-owned restaurants, they maintain a complete website with menu and hours, so you can take a look at what you’d like before venturing out.
#5: The “Bar” – The Brass Tap
Again, not quite a chain with hundreds of locations, but they do offer a handful of places elsewhere in Florida and a couple other states. The reason for inclusion here is mainly because of their very extensive and impressive beer menu. They have 70 taps, and a ton more beer available in bottle for the beer drinker’s delight. The food is upscale bar food, with sandwiches and salads that make for a good meal, but its location within Lakeside Village means a dozen other restaurants are within walking distance if you want something slightly different to eat. A personal preference of mine is to grab a burger at Burger 21, and then walk down the road to Brass Tap for a couple of nice brews.