By Peter Edgar
During the end of last semester, two days after Florida Southern College students had completed all exams, the new Brazilian ‘gastropub’, Posto 9, held a formal grand opening. Located on East Main Street bordering Munn Park downtown, Posto 9 is the brainchild of Grace and Marco Franca, an entrepreneurial couple with a vision for Lakeland’s culinary future.
The story of Posto 9 is largely told on their website, posto9gastropub.com. Essentially, Grace and Marco Franca moved to Lakeland from Brazil and, finding a lack of fine dining in Lakeland, were inspired to create something of their own—Posto 9 is indeed thoroughly Brazilian. From the artwork that lines its walls (created by well-known pop artist Romero Britto, also on display in the Polk Art Museum) to the cuisine, and from the founders to executive chef Michel Revy, Brazilian influence coats the restaurant in culture.
The exterior and interior design of Posto 9 is both remarkable and significant; the outside of the gastropub has been restored to its look in 1906, when the structure housed the Central State Bank. Due to its age, the entire building needed remodeling, but in a hallmark of conservation, much, if not most, of the original brick and wood was salvaged and repurposed. The restaurant’s simple brick walls lets Britto’s art pop (pun intended)! Meanwhile, the comfortable leather or gray fabric seating options are incredibly comfortable and complement the marble and repurposed-wood tables.
Once one sits down and is finished admiring the elegant bar, eye-catching ceiling and wall decor, and the food at the adjacent table, one can choose from the menu. Lunch is available for a flat $15 on Monday through Friday, and for $20 on Saturday, and it rotates through a number of dishes ranging in meat and vegetable plates. Reservations can be made online and the menu is available both on Posto 9’s Facebook page and its website.
I attended a brunch event at Posto 9 on Sunday and enjoyed a range of delicious foods. There were two options of salad: a spring salad or a mix of red onion and sliced purple and yellow grape tomatoes. Next in the lineup were bacon, waffles, hard biscuits, and an exquisite sauce that I believe is a gravy with Brazilian chorizo. Then, there was a vegetable mix mainly composed of thin cuts of roasted sweet potatoes. All of these were unique in flavor and, combined, provided a culinary experience that is rare in Lakeland.
Posto 9 features 3 sections: a general dining area and bar on the ground floor, an events center/banquet hall on the second floor, and Lakeland’s first rooftop lounge, which houses “the Wave”, a long, curved bar. Unfortunately, due to complications with regulations and delivery delays, only the ground floor is open right now. The Francas must wait for the installation of the elevator to ensure that the whole restaurant is accessible to people with disabilities, in accordance with building codes.
Over the past decade, downtown Lakeland has evolved—accommodating new and engaging opportunities for business owners, Lakeland residents, and visitors alike—and permaneced: many Lakelanders couldn’t imagine a Munn Park that doesn’t border Nathan’s Men’s Store or the Explorations Children’s Museum. With its historically-designed façade and new purpose, Posto 9 fulfills both actions and will undoubtedly become an iconic landmark in Lakeland’s downtown scene.