Explore Your City - Lakeland
I ignored Lakeland for a really long time. It was just this tiny little blip on the map in the middle of Orlando and Tampa that was only worth a pit stop for gas or perhaps a famous Parkesdale Strawberry Milkshake. Slowly but surely Lakeland continues to sprout up spots that are making people take a harder glance at it for more exciting reasons than being the home to grocery juggernaut Publix. So if you took a day trip to Lakeland where would you go? Honestly, you may want to ask a local instead of me, but I will share with you the places that I hit up recently.
The day began at the Poor Porker which I've already wrote about in greater detail here, but let me be real for a second. The Poor Porker on a Thursday verses Saturday is immensely different. I felt like I had the entire place to myself so I could explore every nook and cranny with ease, as opposed to Saturday where it's packed to the gills and you hope you can just find a spot to sit down to eat your beignets in the shade. Not everyone is able to go leisurely eat beignets on a Thursday morning, but if you get the chance I'd highly recommend it for a very relaxing and peaceful time, and you even get a chance to sit in the tee pee!
It still blows my mind how beautiful the entire space is. It get hate-jealously mixed with inspired awe that this is not my backyard, or that my house isn't even close to being as expertly decorated at this place.
A man noticed all of the picture taking going on (which on a Thursday meant far less judgmental eyes, another bonus) and encouraged us to take lots of shots and share with everyone. He was the father of one of the owners, and it was so beautiful to see such a proud papa beaming from what his child had created that so many people are enjoying.
On this adventure I got the Poor Porker which had been sold out on my first visit which had the perfect amount of bacon pieces atop this fluffy and light pastry, which meant a seriously sweet & savory situation.
For full porker mode, I also got the special that day which was Apple Pie beignets. They were pretty much better than any actual apple pie I've had.
I'm honestly relieved that there is 60 minutes of highway between the Poor Porker and I, because it might get me in some serious trouble if it was too close to home.
Yes, it's another gorgeous white minimalist coffee shop, but that hasn't come close to getting played out in a city like Lakeland. The baristas are friendly, the coffee is good, and the eye candy sure isn't hurting anyone.
I had already indulged in the Vietnamese coffee at Poor Porker earlier, so I was hoping for a seasonal tonic that I had enjoyed on a previous visit. No tonics on the menu today, but something even better. A peppermint matcha latte.
Sometimes matcha is served far too sweet, so I was a little hesitant (let't not forget the Disney Springs matcha incident) but the barista assured me of satisfaction. I believed his knowing facial hair and glasses and put my heart in his hands.
TRUTH: Matcha barista skills are on point over at Concord, because the balance on this Matcha had me swooning. It had such a refreshing flavor and creamy texture, far beyond any Starbucks wanna be. Also, I love ordering matcha because someone always asks "what is that green stuff" when I get it, and that is exactly what happened when another patron saw me my shooting my beverage. Keep on educating the masses Concord! #matcha4life
After scouting at Lloyd's of Lakeland, a superb two-story vintage and antique mecca, (where I bought a dope bolo tie) I headed to Simple Vintage right across the street.
This space had a pretty mix of home furnishings, antiques, and different artisan goods from various vendors. It looked like a great place to buy a gift or if you have the bank, get some great pieces for your home; but the most important thing we stumbled upon was ice cream. Yes, a random chest with a cow on it sat near the doorway and my heart skipped a cholesterol laden beat.
I was so excited because this wasn't just some random 7-11 style popsicle chest to keep shoppers cool in the Florida heat, this was ice cream from A Cow Named Moo. I had heard of these homemade ice cream sandwiches, but they aren't easy to come by if you are an out-of-towner. It seems like you have to be in the right spot at the right time, so I was surprised to stumble upon them here.
Two flavors were left in the chest that had a snowman in it singing for me to close the door. I quickly grabbed the Nutty Maple.
The cookie part of the sandwich was on point! Nice and chewy, no stale ends which is on my ice cream sandwich oh-no-no list. The other flavors they make sound pretty tantalizing. I would love to try goat cheese and cognac fig next time.
If you are wondering did this girl eat beignets AND ice cream within a time span of a few hours the answer is yes. But the feasting didn't stop there because much like Miley, I can't stop, I won't stop.
Many moons ago a friend took me to Fat Maggie's and to be honest I have no real recollection of what I ate or if it was good. Perhaps I didn't eat much so it didn't leave a permanent food memory in my brain.
I wanted to go back for a refresher despite the sugar binge I had been on all morning, but they were closing at 3pm and it was 2:49. With a guilt ridden face I slowly crept in for a table and Chelsea couldn't have been more accommodating and kind. I apologized for the bad timing and she assured me it was no problem and took great care of my feast mode.
Truffle fries, enough for a small army, corn dogs pops with the perfect consistency from a flawless batter, and a simple BYO hot dog with a side of bacon mac & cheese.
A mere $23 before tip and each bite was delicious.
By no means a healthy meal, but it left a permanent stamp of approval, and grease streak on my face.
Lakeland has more to offer than just these spots I'm highlighting, but don't take my word for it. Go and explore our neighbors to the west. Foodies and beer lovers can unite here. Check out Lakeland Brewing Company or Brew Hub which you may have noticed from I-4 for some tasty brews (bonus: Brew Hub had some pretty amazing pretzels the last time I visited).
It's clear that the growth will continue to sprawl within the city center, while more young entrepreneurs are diving into pursuing their passions in a community where that risk seems to be paying off.