Ian Hildebrand, Staff Writer

The Mellow makes its Lakeland debut The latest entry into the competition for the most rad place in Lakeland is opening soon – and this time, it’s sci-fi themed.
Mellow Mushroom is a chain of restaurants that serve primarily high-quality pizzas and craft beers, the first of which opened in Atlanta, GA, in 1974 with the mission to “provide delicious food in a fun and creative environment.” There is already two locations in Florida – Port Orange and Jacksonville each have a site open for business.
The menu is the same at each location, but it’s fairly extensive. There’s the standard sizes and varieties of pizza, along with calzones, hoagies, salads, and appetizers – all made with quality ingredients, including, of course, mushrooms. What isn’t as standard is the selection of craft beer at each site. The Mellow Mushroom site extols the variety and character in their selection, stating that “each Mellow carries a unique collection of craft, local, regional, and international beers…” There are also vegan and gluten-free items for those with particular diets and palates.
One of the big draws of the Mellow chain is the custom theme for each restaurant. For our Lakeland location, the theme is sci-fi, and the owners have really gone all-out with the decor. You walk inside and are immediately greeted by two Star Trek Federation badges altered into a giant M, Star Wars chess tables, and a phone booth painted blue behind the front desk, in a tribute to everyone’s favorite time-traveling alien. The walls within are covered in murals, one in particular of Mr. Spock, and sculptures surround the outside of mushrooms, characters and another of Spock on a motorcycle. The entire place as a wholes is a brand-sparkling-new geek’s paradise.
Though no matter which establishment you visit, Mellow Mushroom is all about having a novel, funky, feel-good atmosphere. In keeping with the “free-wheeling hippy culture of the 1970’s” out of which the business was born, the franchise is built upon good food and better people.
The site has been under construction for about 8 months now, and as of this writing is now preparing for its grand opening, planned for March 21. If this article is starting to wet your appetite, the site’s address is 3555 Lakeland Highlands Rd, in southeast Lakeland, just before Polk Parkway. The restaurant is out of the way, but not hard to find. Just look for the giant mushroom at the door. Don’t worry; it is definitely friendly.