Lakeland: Brasa Latina

Brasa Latina restaurant exterior, Lakeland, FloridaWe were in north Lakeland recently to do some shopping and followed that with lunch at Brasa Latina, at Market Square Mall on U.S. 98 North, just south of the I-4 interchange.  We had been there for dinner before so looked forward to another visit.    The restaurant is tucked away in a fairly ordinary looking strip mall, where you would never expect to find such a delightful restaurant.

Brasa Latina specializes in Puerto Rican and international cuisine, describing their fare as “creative Caribbean fusion.”  Because I had been there before, I had some idea of what to expect in terms of the food.  But our pleasant server added a lot to this visit, stopping several times to chat with us, including a recommendation on how to easily prepare plantains at home.  She gave us plenty of time to make our menu selections but was quick to refill our drinks, including offering refills to go when we were finished.

Brasa Latina restaurant interior, Lakeland, FloridaBrasa Latina has a complete menu; for me, one of the joys of a good restaurant is a menu I have to linger with because of numerous appealing options.  There are soup/salad items, appetizers, and a long list of entrees.  We chose from the “sandwiches and more” section of the menu.  I went for a Cuban sandwich with mofongo (more on that shortly), and my wife selected a pulled pork sandwich with sweet plantains.  We drank simple iced tea, though the restaurant does offer several tasty-looking smoothies.

Cuban sandwich with mofongoI grew up outside of Florida and had never had a Cuban sandwich until I moved to the state in 2004.  I’m fairly picky about what goes on a Cuban sandwich (I prefer mine without salami).  I’ve had some very good ones and some real disappointments.  Brasa Latina’s is delicious, with quality ingredients and hearty without being overly filling.  This was my first time sampling mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish that seems to be derived from a west African dish called fufu.  The main ingredient in mofongo is fried plantain that is mashed with a little salt and garlic, and occasionally  flavored with meat or seafood ingredients (in my case, bacon bits).  A delicious new flavor for me, how wonderful to learn about a new food this way.  My wife’s pulled pork sandwich was equally delicious, topped with a generous amount of slaw, and the side of sweet plantains was perfectly prepared.

Pulled pork sandwich with slaw, fried sweet plantainsIf I were to change anything, I felt that the music they played was too loud; one of my pet peeves about eating out is how difficult it can sometimes be to carry on a conversation.  However, as I’ve written before, I’m more sensitive to this than most, so most diners probably won’t be troubled by this.  All in all, Brasa Latina is highly recommended, with superb service and delicious food.  With tip, our lunch total came to about $28 (the entree menu is pricier, so be prepared to pay more if you order from this part of the menu, but it will be well worth it).

If we’ve inspired you to try Brasa Latina, or if you’ve been there yourself and want to share your experience, please comment below.  And if you have any Polk County restaurant tips to share, we would love to hear them via our Contact Us page.  Thanks for stopping by and happy eating!

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