Chop Shop, Lakeland
We went on a weeknight around 8, so there weren't throngs of people. Quite the contrary, we walked in and weren't sure of whether someone would seat us or we seated ourselves. The bartender called us back to the bar and gave us the lay of the land: You order at the bar and someone brings your food out later. Since there was a bar, I looked to see what was on tap. Limited selection, but full liquor and I wasn't in the mood for a Guinness( the only one on tap I like), so I got a Woodchuck hard cider, Ed got a Guinness and Chef got a soda.
As I said, it has a retro vibe, the walls covered with various signs and pictures of motorcycles, cars, comic books and all sorts of memorabilia. There are about 25 tables in the place, 5 occupied and about a dozen people around the 3 sided bar. They've got a pool table.
While it looked like a cool place, the thing I'd been hearing is that they've got the best burgers in Lakeland. Now, I'm a huge fan of S&L Burger and thought those were the best-but it's not proper to claim one superior if you haven't had the other one. Of course, that means that we order burgers.
I got the Bubba, a classic applewood bacon cheeseburger. The burger is fire grilled, had a fantastic char, and good flavor. As it was untested, I went for medium well-should have stuck with my usual medium doneness. Still, I FINISHED this burger, when I usually eat about half of one this size. Ed was actually bummed, he was counting on getting the rest of mine.
In a nod to bikers, some of the burgers and decor are definitely motocycle themed. Ed got the Sturgis, a bbq burger with bbq sauce, pulled pork, and an onion ring, served on grilled Texas toast. Both burgers came with some wonderfully crispy fries that were perfectly salted. Ed was smarter, he ordered his medium and was rewarded with a somewhat jucier burger.
Chef, as we expected, went for something with chicken, opting for a chicken cheese steak that looked and smelled fantastic. He loved it and insists he will get it the next time we visit.
Oh yes, there will be a next time. While we were eating, Ed observed that for a small town chock a block with chain restaurants, we do actually have a variety of good quality, mom and pop type restaurants to choose from, too. Heck, right on Kentucky in the same block with Chop Shop is our beloved Bosphorous, another location of Palace Pizza, and there's Harry's, a chain that delivers good quality Cajun food. I think we're getting to the point that we can point the car downtown and be satisfied with wherever we land.