Lakeland, a city in Polk County, started coming alive during the time that the early European immigrants settled in the area in the 1870s.
With the introduction of rail transportation and the first freed slaves and railroad workers relocating in Lakeland in 1883, the city grew during the 1880s.
Along with European migrants, they came for land expansion prospects, which included the growth of the cattle and farming industries.
Lakeland is a thriving city, offering a satisfying gastronomic journey whenever you decide to visit the place.
Here are 15 of the best restaurants in Lakeland and what they're known for!
Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille
Perched on Kentucky Avenue, Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille offers a menu specializing in Southern and Cajun seafood dishes.
Aside from its delectable food, the restaurant is also known for its homey and cozy ambiance, perfect for family dinners or catching up with friends.
Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille continuously develops new items for its menu, and a must-try is the Crescent City Cobb.
With Crescent City Cobb, you'll get a taste of all your favorites in one dish, delectable chicken tenders peppered with eggs and bacon and tossed with Bourbon Street Ranch.
The Pub also features a daily happy hour, offering delicious treats at affordable prices.
Try going on a Tuesday for Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille's Fat Tuesdays, which extends happy hours for customers.
Fat Tuesdays have unlimited happy hours, which means more hours to enjoy good food and drinks at a discounted price.
And take advantage of Fat Tuesdays to try out 11 different drinks, such as Harry's Hurricane, Big Easy, or Bayou Bloody Mary.
Grillsmith - Lakeland
If you are in the mood for modern American dishes, head to Grillsmith - Lakeland.
The restaurant is located on Town Center Drive, one of the city's most popular dining areas.
Grillsmith - Lakeland offers beverages that you can pair with your meal, such as their line of handcrafted cocktails, beer, and wine.
Regarding food, classic American dishes with a twist, such as the healthy Avocado Toast, the protein-rich Steak & Eggs, and the Gasparilla Shrimp & Grits, fill the menu.
You can pair these up with their brunch cocktails, such as the Kicked-Up Cold Brew, Mimosa Bubble Bucket, or Fig & Pig.
They also offer a lot of specials, such as the celebration of fall during Campfire Cocktails, National Dessert Day, Vintage Tuesdays, and Tito's Thursdays.
If you need a gorgeous venue for your events, you can rent their private event spaces and avail of their modern American dishes and craft cocktails for your functions.
Grillsmith is perfect for families and friends who want to share good times and great food.
Smokey Bones Lakeland
Smokey Bones Lakeland prides itself as a restaurant specializing in good food, good drinks, and, of course, good times with family and friends.
The menu contains American comfort food, such as baby back ribs, chicken wings, burgers, and more.
You can find out when they are offering their all-you-can-eat wings promo for those with bigger appetites.
Or you can feast on their line of steaks, where you can choose the USDA Prime New York strip steak, offered at an affordable price for a pure gastronomic delight.
If those are not enough, go for their weekly buy-one-get-one special, which may be their wings, chicken entree, or pulled pork platters depending on the day of the week.
You can even join their Bone Club, where you earn points for every purchase of a plate of meat and receive exclusive offers and birthday treats.
Fish City Grill
From its humble beginnings, Fish City Grill now boasts 20 restaurants across the southern part of the United States.
The restaurant specializes in seafood, and you can get a taste of their refreshing drinks and savory dishes, including their Clam Chowder, Bill's Bloody Mary, and Chargrilled Oysters.
For the main course, you have a wide array to choose from, including Blackened Rainbow Trout and Alabama Farm-Raised Catfish.
You can try the favorites, such as Serafin's Fish Tacos, Andouille Grilled Chicken, and Garlic Caper Grilled Salmon.
Aside from getting a taste of their mouthwatering dishes, you can also help charities when you eat in Fish City Grill every first Tuesday of the month, as they give a portion of their entire day's sale to charities.
This campaign is Fish City Grill's way of giving back to the community, and you can be a part of it just by enjoying a meal in their restaurant.
Dressing up and fine dining is not usually what comes to mind when you think of Florida, but that's precisely what you'll find at Nineteen61.
Owner and head chef Marcos Fernandez created Nineteen61, a renowned top fine dining establishment in Florida.
This sophisticated restaurant is located on Main Street and is known for its modern Latin cuisine combined with Spanish and Southern influences.
Nineteen61 boasts that they only use the freshest ingredients for their dishes, which are all locally produced.
Best-sellers are their Filet Mignon, which uses beef tenderloin with Manchego risotto, or the Chipotle Salmon, which is made of honey-glazed salmon that you can enjoy with veggies and jasmine rice.
Of course, you can't have a meal without drinks, and Nineteen61 has a wide selection of alcohol, including Fonseco Porto matured in wood for 20 years or Graham's 30 years Tawny Porto.
Nineteen61 is the perfect place for date nights or bonding with your girlfriends during a girls' night out.
Terrace Grille Lakeland
A well-known upscale restaurant in Lakeland is Terrace Grille Lakeland, located in the iconic Lakeland Terrace Hotel.
Preserved elements of the original structure of Lakeland Terrace Hotel are part of the charm of Terrace Grille Lakeland, including its distinctive floor-to-ceiling bay windows, strikingly designed ceilings, and patterned floors.
Its gourmet kitchen uses the finest produce, native delicacies, and certified sustainably raised proteins, ensuring that every dish in Terrace Grille Lakeland's kitchen is freshly prepared daily.
When you visit during the fall season, don't miss the Grilled Swordfish Steak for a hearty and filling meal.
And if you're looking for something light, go for the Caprese Salad, a refreshing and healthy dish.
Terrace Grille Lakeland is also perfect for private functions and events, as it has venues that can accommodate business meetings or wedding banquets.
Fred's Market Restaurant
Serving it up Southern is one of the things that Fred's Market Restaurant is known for, as they give customers a taste of homemade Southern cooking.
This restaurant started as a roadside produce stand in 1949 and has become one of the most popular restaurants in Central Florida.
Fred's Market Restaurant boasts that their restaurant is a farm-to-plate dining experience, as their food is all freshly grown and harvested from their farm.
If you're in for some meaty dishes, try their famous Roasted Turkey, Mom's Meat Loaf, or Pulled Smoked Pork.
For those who want white meat, you can try the Crispy Catfish or Rainbow Trout with fresh vegetables.
Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant
If you want to experience dining in an open-air courtyard, check out Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant, a chain restaurant that serves Mexican cuisine.
Diners can choose to sit on the covered patio or dine al fresco to enjoy the beautiful weather in Lakeland.
This branch of Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant also has an extensive menu, which features classic Mexican dishes and their specialties.
Perched on Lakeside Village Boulevard, some of Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant's offerings are Pork Tenderloin Abrigada, the mouthwatering sirloin steak called The Ambassador, and Pechuga Con Calabaza.
Of course, Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant also offers various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Scarpa's Italian Restaurant
For the best Italian food to try in the area, visit Scarpa's Italian Restaurant, a family-owned restaurant serving authentic Italian dishes.
Scarpa's Italian Restaurant was founded by the Scarpa family in December 2013, mainly serving native Florida seafood and famous Italian cuisine.
The restaurant offers flavorsome antipasti, such as the familiar Bruschetta, Sausage and Peppers, Fried Eggplant, Prosciutto and Cheese, and Stuffed Portobello.
Veal is also one of the main specialties of Scarpa's Italian Restaurant, as they have Veal Marsala, Veal Canneloni, and Veal Parmiggiano.
The restaurant is open during lunch and dinner, so you can come any time to enjoy their food.
The Grilled Swordfish is also a must-try, with charred leeks and green olive for that perfect smoky flavor.
Ford's Garage Lakeland
Ford's Garage Lakeland is the perfect place for a traditional neighborhood hangout.
This restaurant is known for burgers made with 100% Angus beef and its wide selection of beers on tap.
Aside from burgers and beer, American comfort food, such as salads, wings, sandwiches, tuna, and mac n cheese, are also on the menu.
For seven days a week, Ford's Garage Lakeland serves Angus Beef Burgers, which are never frozen and are always fresh.
The burger joint also serves sandwiches, such as the French Dip, Philly Cheese Steak, and Cuban Sandwich.
There are also salads, such as the Black Salmon Salad, Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad, Chicken-Chop-Shop Salad, and Berries Gorgonzola Salad with Shrimp.
Ovation Bistro & Bar, Lakeland
Ovation Bistro & Bar, Lakeland, is the perfect place to go for succulent ribs and smoked meat.
Located on South Florida Avenue, the Bistro & Bar has an event venue known as Wilbur Hall.
The venue can accommodate as few as six to as many as 36 people for the celebration of special occasions, making sure to give you an experience to remember.
Their menu has American favorites and their own Ovation Bistro & Bar specialties, all prepared with the freshest and finest ingredients.
Some of the items on the menu are appetizers, such as Guinness Beer Cheese & Pretzel Bread, Margherita Flatbread, and Tribute Shrimp.
There's also the Mary's Lamb, Pork Shank Osso Buco, and New Zealand Lamb Chops for entrée options.
Frescos Southern Kitchen & Bar
Known as Downtown Lakeland's original gastropub, Frescos Southern Kitchen & Bar serves food at any time of the day.
Frescos Southern Kitchen & Bar boasts of their own cocktail creations.
Weekends are special as the bar offers unlimited mimosas, bourbon, whisky, and comfort foods.
Breakfasts are also extra special, with their Southern Griddle including servings of Sweet Buttermilk Pancakes, Biscuits and House Sausage Gravy, and Spicy Chicken and Waffles.
Specialty nights are also a thing in Frescos Southern Kitchen & Bar, as it has Tito's Tuesdays, Whiskey Wednesdays, and Uncorked Thursdays.
Perched on Kentucky Ave., Frescos Southern Kitchen & Bar is one restaurant you shouldn't miss in Lakeland.
Patio850 regularly changes up their menu to keep up with their customers' interests and give them a reason to return for more.
Patio850's executive chef Patrick Schaefer ensures their dishes are flavorful, delicious, and award-winning.
Try out their Fromage and Charcuterie Boards, which offer a luscious cheese collection in three different sizes.
Patio850 serves classic American fare that it reinvents with a modern twist.
The Chef's Corner Entrees are a haven for delectable dishes, with a choice of Cast Iron Seared Filet, Mocha Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, and Pan Seared Mahi & Burnt Orange.
Or you can go for healthier options and try the Organic Bleu, Chef's Cobb, and the Caprese "Patio Style."
Patio 850 changes its menu according to the season, so you'll have a different experience whenever you visit the restaurant.
Offering vegetarian dishes, Cafe Zuppina is one restaurant in Lakeland that you shouldn't miss.
The restaurant is located on South Florida Ave., and it serves healthy food without compromising the taste and quality of its dishes.
The cafe offers signature meat dishes, such as Zuppina's Delight, Shish Kebab, Chicken Limone, and Beef Wellington.
They only use the freshest ingredients for their dishes to give you a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Cafe Zuppina has a full bar serving craft beers and wines that will complement your meal.
Cafe Zuppina also boasts of its beautiful ambiance, with outside seating that serves glorious views especially during autumn.
Serving the Lakeland area for more than a decade, owners Berna and Erkan Nar established Cafe Zupina to introduce Turkish culture to the Lakeland area.
If you can't decide what you want to eat yet, check out The Joinery and enjoy a variety of dishes from seven restaurants.
The Joinery has a food hall concept, and it comprises different restaurants that offer American, Italian, Spanish, and other international cuisine.
The Joinery's restaurants are Ato, Ava, Gallito Taqueria, Mayday Ice Cream, Sabu, Super Duper Spot, and The Bar.
Japanese food lovers will enjoy The Joinery as it offers sushi burritos, dumplings, and gyoza.
Another Japanese fare you should try is the traditional ramen offered by Sabu, such as Tonkotsu Ramen, which you can pair with Menchi Buns or th Bakana! Bun.
For dessert, you can choose from various artisanal ice cream flavors at Mayday, including Blackberry Earl Grey, Mint Monster, and Queen Salted Caramel.
For those who want a laid-back afternoon, grab a cocktail at The Bar, which offers classic cocktails with a modern twist.
There you have it—the best restaurants in Lakeland that you shouldn't miss.
From Southern comfort food to international cuisine, there's something for everyone on this list.
So, what are you waiting for?
Book your trip to Lakeland today and enjoy a culinary adventure!