Last month, my two older daughters and I went on a date. They are both particular about food so choosing a place everyone liked took a hot minute. I wanted a local spot, my middle child wanted pizza, and my oldest wanted hibachi. Long story short, we ended choosing Harry’s. It’s not local but my girls agreed so I agreed. I was hungry.
We parked in the garage on Main Street and walked the block to Harry’s. As we walked, we noticed the place was packed - people waiting outside, a full lobby, and all the outside tables were taken. We decided to not go in, and I asked if they liked Frescos? “Sure,” the oldest said. “I’ll get salad and French Fries,” said the middle (her go-to meal when she doesn’t like anything on the menu.)
We walked the block down Kentucky Ave, and to my true surprise, Frescos was dead. None of the outside tables were being used and only a handful of people sat inside. My daughters were happy to not have a wait.
My heart sunk. You see, Frescos is one of those treasured Lakeland spots in my opinion. They serve elevated Southern Food like deviled eggs with candied jalapenos, real grits with unique flavorings, and their bacon jam that makes you want to lick your plate. They also serve sophisticated drinks including an extensive whiskey menu, and the ever-popular bottomless mimosas at brunch. They don’t seem to need advertising because they always seem to be busy.
This evening changed my mind, however. Here we were on a Thursday night in early April. Harry’s the chain is packed, yet Frescos the local joint is empty. And its only a block away!
My hope is one day our local joints will be full, the line spilling into the street. I don’t wish death on chains. I know they do employ local people and I have worked in chain restaurants. However, there are plenty of customers to go around and I would like to see small businesses have as good as a shot as the big guy. That means getting the word out to consistently thinking about buying local whenever possible.
Local places cook real food. Local places work with local vendors. Local places give back to their community. Local places have owners who live in Lakeland and send their kids to our schools and shop at our stores.
When you know these facts, the local business’s ambience gets a little sweeter, the food tastes a little better, and when the owner smiles at you, your heart gets a little fuller.
Next time you find yourself at a chain restaurant waiting an hour for a table, think to yourself, what about local? Let’s walk a block to the local joint and enjoy a lovely meal that will give more than just good food and a full belly. They will give you a full heart, as well.