International food tour of Polk County, FL

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Cafe Zuppina | Photo by Tina Sargeant Photography

Hey, Lakeland. LALtoday intern Phoenix here. 👋 As a self-proclaimed foodie and amateur chef, I am always on the hunt for new + exciting international dishes. If you’re like me, I often find myself visiting local and internationally diverse grocery stores + whipping up recipes…but sometimes the ingredients and techniques can get a bit overwhelming. 

Fortunately, Lakeland is the perfect place to experience a world via international cuisine, no assembly required. 

With your help, we’ve compiled a list of 20+ authentic restaurants and food vendors from six global regions that we hope will inspire you to venture into a new world of global fare while supporting our local businesses. If you know of a place we missed, let us know.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, some businesses may currently be closed or offering limited services. Check their websites or social media for possible changes.

Fusion Spice Shops

🌎 One Good Knife | 502 E. Main St., Lakeland | This spice company offers authentic blends from across the world including Africa, India, and Latin America. 

Latin America + Caribbean

Markets

🌎 Bravo Supermarket | 2435 US Hwy 98 N., Lakeland | Foodies can find various Latin foods here + it’s a great stop for lunch. You can find Goya products, fresh meat, Puerto Rican and Cuban breads, empanadas, and freshly prepared hot dishes at this store.
🇲🇽 La Michoacana | 1725 W. Memorial Blvd., Lakeland | This Mexican grocery store and taco stand is regarded as a glorious hole-in-the-wall that is slowly growing in popularity with college students + young professionals. The authentic and affordable tacos feature meats like carne asada and lengua. Every visit is a virtual visit to the Land of Enchantment +  the storefront offers favorites from flan to peppers and spices.
🇲🇽 Mega Mercado | 2009 George Jenkins Blvd., Lakeland | Whether you are in need of restocking your stash of refried beans or an authentic Mexican dish at their restaurant next door, Mega Mercado is the place for you. Make sure to check out the bakery + dessert section. #TryThis: made-to-order guacamole. 

Restaurants

🌎 La Imperial Bakery | 830 E. Main St., Lakeland | Puerto Rican-style food. Since 2018 this family-owned bakery has been serving up baked goods, breakfast, and lunch. #TryThis: Guava and cheese pies + Tampa Cuban Sandwich.
🌎 Liamuiga Tinctures and Teas | 117 N. Kentucky Ave., Lakeland | Find quality tinctures, loose leaf tea blends, and pastries at this shop in the Lakeland Farmers Market offering a fusion of Afro-centric, Caribbean, East Asian, and European recipes.
🌎 Nineteen61 | 215 E Main St., Lakeland | Operating since 2015, this restaurant is inspired by Chef Marcos Fernandez’s parents and their exile from Cuba in the year 1961. They have Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner menus featuring authentic Latin American cuisine with a “modern twist”. #TryThis: arroz chaufa + seafood paella.
🌎 West Caribbean Cuban Restaurant | 2215 S. Combee Rd., Lakeland | Serving up home-style Cuban breakfast, lunch, and dinner for over 20 years.
🌎 Zarza Latin Food & Grill | 4648 Cleveland Heights Blvd., Lakeland | This restaurant blends the culinary styles of Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Cuba, and Ecuador into their menu.
🇳🇮 Casita Verde | 502 E. Main St., Lakeland | This restaurant offers Nicaraguan cuisine, including bunuelos, hand-pressed tortillas, adobo pork, empanadas + so much more. #TryThis: their specialty hot sauce.
🇨🇴 Sweet Corn Arepa | 117 N. Kentucky Ave., Lakeland | Offers traditional Arepas de Cholo made of sweet corn and mozzarella cheese at the Lakeland Farmers Market.
🌎 Vicky G’s | Caterer serving Lakeland | Craving Caribbean comfort food for yourself or your next event? This company offers all the fixings from empanadas to hot honey plantains and galettes.

Europe

British Isles

🇬🇧 Best of British Cafe & Bar | 150 California Blvd., Davenport | Specializing in British comfort food, this restaurant’s menu features afternoon tea, classic entrees, toasties, sarnies, a full English breakfast + more.
🇬🇧  The Proper Pie Co. | 145 Ridge Center Drive, Davenport | Founded in 2008, this shop whips up traditional pies, fish & chips, sweet treats + offers English groceries. 

Western + Central Europe

🌍 Bay Street Bistro | 211 E. Bay St., Lakeland | This restaurant’s menu provides a diverse representation of offerings with blended European cuisine at its heart. #TryThis: escargot + baked brie.
🇩🇪 Crumbles & Cream | 115 S. Evers St., Plant City | Baker + owner Grit Rambusch is a certified pastry chef trained in the south of Germany. Opening at its new location this fall, this bakery is the spot for those looking for a true taste of Deutschland.
🇫🇷 DOU Bakehouse | 830 N. Massachusetts Ave. A-, Lakeland | This patisserie bakes specialty macarons, cakes, cookies, and muffins. #TryThis: Rose Petal macaron.

Southern Europe + The Mediterranean

🇮🇹 Scarpa’s Italian | 1831 E. Edgewood Drive, Lakeland | Owned by husband-and-wife duo Glenn + Ashley Scarpa, this restaurant is inspired by traditional Italian cuisine rooted in the family’s own history of immigrating to America. #TryThis: gnocchi sorrentino + veal saltimbocca.
🇮🇹 Il Forno Italian Restaurant | 3615 Florida Ave. S., Lakeland | If you’re looking for Italian-style comfort food then this is the spot for you. Single-serve and family-style options are available for all appetites.
🇮🇹 Uncle Nick’s Italian Deli, Bagels, and Catering | 6955 Old Rd. 37, Lakeland | Fresh items are baked daily at this Italian deli. Whether you’re looking to pick up a batch of bagels or classic chicken parmesan then this is the spot for you. #ProTip: Order breakfast anytime
🇬🇷 Mediterranean Fresh Grill | 6035 Cypress Gardens Blvd., Winter Haven | Chef Chadi brings his Lebanese roots into this restaurant’s cuisine. #TryThis: flash-fried cauliflower + Lebanese style burger

Middle East

🌍 Jerusalem Mediterranean Market | 2068 E. Edgewood Dr., Lakeland | Experience the flavors of the Middle East, Mediterranean, and South Asia at this ethnic market. Halal and kosher options are available + pick up a wide variety of fresh bread and sweets, teas, couscous, produce, herbs, and more.
🌍 🇪🇺 Cafe Zuppina | 4417 Florida Ave. S., Lakeland | Owners Erkan and Berna Nar’s passion for each of their home country’s cuisine has led them to develop unique Turkish and Eastern European + Middle Eastern menu options. #TryThis: Romanian style brisket platter + grape leaves.

Africa

🇺🇬 Manna International Street Food | Food truck serving Tampa Bay + Polk County | Experience the flavor of Ugandan street food at this mobile restaurant. Often spotted at The Yard on Mass, we recommend trying the samosas + tacos.

Asia

Markets

🌏 SV Oriental Market | 839 N. Lake Parker Ave., Lakeland | This hole-in-the-wall Asian market carries various herbs, spices, and oriental foods and pride themselves in being one of the largest oriental markets in Lakeland. Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean foods are highlighted within this market’s aisles.
🌏 New India Bazaar | 2948 S. Combee Rd., Lakeland | This market is a great place to find authentic Indian foods from a friendly and helpful staff. The store has organized shelves + product descriptions that are clearly marked in English making it easy to find what you need. Various produce, spices, special curries, and rice range in price.
🌏 Gigi’s Oriental Market | 1751 E. Edgewood Dr., Lakeland | Gigi, local celebrity + owner, provides groceries, prepared foods, and gifts stocked to the brim. Paired with their selection of international groceries, Gigi’s is a total hit for Asian and Korean foods

East Asia

🇯🇵  New Moon Sushi | 4231 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland | You can find traditional Japanese menu options featuring sashimi, specialty sushi rolls, soups, and katsu. #TryThis: Tampa roll + chicken katsu.
🇨🇳  Shanghai Express | 2914 Florida Ave. S., Lakeland | If you’re looking for Chinese comfort food then this is the spot for you. This restaurant offers classics like egg drop soup, chow mein, fried rice + a variety of milk teas. Make sure to check out the little grocery store inside while you’re there.
🇯🇵  Sabu | 640 E Main St., Lakeland | Chef Ryan Neal opened this shop in 2018  to showcase ramen as not just a meal, but an art form. Here you can try traditional ramen dishes, steamed buns, katsu + milk, boba, and thai teas. #TryThis: spicy miso ramen.

Southeast Asia

🇹🇭  Thai Sweet Rice | 101 Ambersweet Way, Davenport | This family-run restaurant features authentic Thai dishes with options for kids + adults. Their menu offers a variety of options ranging from Thai salad, Thai noodles, Thai curry, and soups.
🇹🇭 🇯🇵  Thai Oishi Restaurant | 1535 Town Center Dr., Lakeland | If you’re craving Thai and Japanese cuisine then this restaurant has got you covered. With offerings like Thai fried rice, sushi rolls, ramen, and curry to choose from you won’t run out of options.
🇻🇳  Saigon Bistro | 1554 Town Center Dr. W., Lakeland | This restaurant’s menu offers an array of traditional Vietnamese dishes + beverages. Choose from options like rice noodle salads, egg noodle soups, rice plates, and sweet milk teas.
🇻🇳  Pho Tan | 2920 S. Combee Rd., Lakeland | If you’re a fiend for Pho then this is the spot for you. Explore their plethora of traditional dishes including Vietnamese bread, lemongrass vermicelli, and Southeast Asian beverages + teas. 

South Asia

🇮🇳  Curry Mango |  6625 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland | Open for lunch and dinner, this restaurant offers an expansive selection of traditional Indian dishes. Whether you’re looking for vegetable biryani or hearty butter chicken you’ll be able to find it at this spot.
🇮🇳🇵🇰  Cafe Roti | 116 S. Tennessee Ave., Lakeland | This restaurant fuses Indian and Pakastani cuisine inspired by the unique relationship between these countries. #TryThis: tikka masala + biryani and riata

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