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California Gold

Photography by Jason Stephens

Eating nutritious food doesn’t mean you have to cook all of your meals yourself. Lakeland’s newest Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is here to serve you wholesome meals.

Lakeland’s modern food hall, The Joinery, has a new voice in an already impressive chorus of diverse culinary vendors. Plenty is a new restaurant founded by The Joinery co-owners  Sarah and Jon Bucklew. The Mediterranean-inspired restaurant aims to celebrate the fresh and satisfying wholesomeness of seasonal produce, packing a lot of flavor into the tiny booth formally occupied by King State Coffee.

Sarah Bucklew, co-owner of The Joinery and Plenty

Plenty’s concept and brand are vibrant and colorful, influenced by Sarah’s 11 years in the Pacific Northwest. I was charmed by the tropical plant prints, quirky food puns, and playful multicolored dishware. Plenty is a brand that knows its identity and communicates it well.

Plenty’s concept and brand are vibrant and colorful, influenced by Sarah’s 11 years in the Pacific Northwest. I was charmed by the tropical plant prints, quirky food puns, and playful multicolored dishware. Plenty is a brand that knows its identity and communicates it well.

“Food can be really healthy and also really good for you,” says Sarah about Plenty’s menu. As The Joinery project was underway, Sarah had hoped for a West Coast-style vendor to apply for a space there. However, she never imagined that she would be the one to take up that responsibility when no such vendor could be found. After King State Coffee moved out of their space in March, the opportunity to implement Sarah’s vision for Plenty presented itself. With the help of Chef Nate Hardin as recipe consultant, and Ellie Leach as chef de cuisine leading daily operations, Sarah’s vision was brought to bear in the eclectic bowls-and-skewers the restaurant now features.

Tomatoes + Toasted Sourdough

Heirloom tomatoes, wheat berries, lacinato kale, toasted Born & Bread sourdough, sherry vinegar, and olive oil, burrata, basil, nigella seeds

The menu encourages guests to mix and match from a small but diverse menu of five bowls such as “Peas + Carrots,” “Bacon + Egg + Kale,” and “Tomatoes + Toasted Sourdough” ($12 each), with five optional protein additions such as harissa-basted tofu, organic beef kofta, and chermoula-marinated shrimp skewers ($2.50 to $4.50).

Mezze Hummus

(roasted garlic, beet, edamame), wheat berry salad, labneh, pickled things, crudité, picked herbs, flatbread

Sarah and Ellie plan on their menu changing dynamically with the season. Though loyal guests may have a favorite go-to bowl, the focus on fresh produce means that a premium must be placed on seasonality and availability. As Chef Josh McFadden says in his book Six Seasons, “P.S. don’t buy tomatoes in winter.” Plenty seems to take this advice to heart, and the results of that commitment speak for themselves.

For my first lunch at Plenty, I ordered the Peas and Carrots with a shrimp skewer. The staff was very kind and patient as I figured out how the menu worked and was able to provide helpful suggestions. English peas and roasted carrots are some of my favorite vegetables, and the dark char on Plenty’s carrots gave them a wonderfully sweet sumptuousness. The little gems lettuce and wild rice salad with cucumber and lemon was a tasty and substantial enough base, but I was glad to have the shrimp for the bit of protein. The green-tinged chermoula-marinated shrimp was the unexpected star of the show after the roasted carrots themselves, and I couldn’t have asked for a more complete and harmonious pairing.

Sarah and Ellie plan on their menu changing dynamically with the season. Though loyal guests may have a favorite go-to bowl, the focus on fresh produce means that a premium must be placed on seasonality and availability.

Chef de Cuisine Ellie Leach is excited to offer menu items that reflect the freshest, seasonal produce available.

 

I went back the next day for lunch with two companions. I tried the “Beans + Things:” a bowl of green beans, asparagus, lettuce, and wheat berries with house-made ricotta. An inclusion of fresh herbs was a revelation, adding a wonderful extra snap of brightness to the already zesty dish. The vegetables were prepared with the most minimal-possible intervention, being mostly cut and tossed with a somewhat sweet vinaigrette. I had the beef kofta skewer, served with a dab of tzatziki, which was filling but light and wonderfully herbaceous and paired well with the mild ricotta.

Peas + Carrots
English peas + roasted carrots, carrot-top chermoula, wild rice salad, roasted garlic yogurt, puffed rice, avocado, pistachio (gf)

My companions shared the “Tomatoes + Toasted Sourdough” bowl: a kale salad with wheat berries, burrata cheese, sourdough croutons, basil, and studded with beautifully fresh and sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes. The tofu skewer accompaniment was underwhelming compared to the outstanding shrimp and lovely beef, but vegan and dairy-free guests have a lot to look forward to in future iterations of Plenty’s menu. Though the eatery only opened in October, future bowls are already being designed and will feature pumpkin, beets, sweet potato, chickpeas, and lentils.

After a big bowl of veggies, guests can indulge in a little sweet treat provided through a partnership Catapult member Vegetation Plant Food. Mini chocolate chip, coconut, and pecan-cardamom can be mixed and matched (three for $5).

 

Availability and affordability of fresh, wholesome, plant-based cuisine continue to be the missing pieces in the American’s diet, and I asked Sarah about how Plenty provides its guests with value. “I’m learning a lot about what it costs to get good quality products” she says. “In other markets, it doesn’t matter how low the quality is and you can make a lot of money, but it matters a lot to me, and I don’t want to sacrifice that. I have to ask, ‘How can I be the change I wish to see in the world?’” Plenty aims to support guests who want to live well, starting with what they put in their body.

An inclusion of fresh herbs was a revelation, adding a wonderful extra snap of brightness to the already zesty dish.

Guests can expect to pay about $15 to $17 per person, which is in line with other Joinery vendors. The McGreers farm, Happy’s Place Farm, Fort McCoy, and Brick Street Farms are the local growers that are supported by Plenty’s decision to source locally. While “farm to table” is a useful marketing buzzword in many restaurants, no American cuisine has fully embraced the culinary implications of supporting local organic growers like the Pacific Northwest has, and Plenty is a fine reflection of that.

    I found The Joinery’s unique, casual context helps make Plenty’s cuisine and concept stick in my mind. In an economy that favors national fast-casual chains, it feels important for Plenty’s perspective on freshness and wholesomeness to be so easily accessible to Lakelanders. I finished my meals feeling energized, and the playful, zesty style is a treat for the eyes and the tongue. If you can break out of the old mindset of “meat and starch make a meal,” you will be delighted by one of Lakeland’s most creative new experiences in years.

The Joinery
640 E. Main Street
Lakeland, FL 33801
thejoinerylkld.com
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