My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary recently and felt the event called for a special night out. Despite warm temperatures (this is central Florida), some holiday decorations were still out to add to our festive evening. For special occasions, it’s hard to do better than the Red Door Wine Market in downtown Lakeland.
Red Door describes itself as a gastropub; they have a considerable wine selection and regular live music. We sat inside but there is outdoor seating in a newly constructed outdoor patio. From appearances, it is a classic bungalow style house converted for the business, and it has all the coziness of a bungalow, including a fireplace. We had made reservations, but it was a weeknight shortly after the holiday rush, so the restaurant was quiet. (It’s worth noting that the restaurant’s low light made for challenging food photography, but at the same time provided a cozy and romantic atmosphere. Just realize that the photographs don’t nearly do the food justice.)
This was only my third visit to Red Door, but I’ve enjoyed excellent service every time. This evening was no exception, our server was cheerful and welcoming, happy to answer our questions, and well-versed on the unique menu. Red Door offers small plates and large plates, along with fresh salads. The menu changes frequently; the menu we ordered from was slightly different than the menu on the web site at the time. This is not a bad thing, be prepared for some pleasant surprises. We ordered three small plates to share and they made for a hearty meal for two people.
One thing I love about Red Door is the way it offers classic dishes in a unique way. Our first plate was beet tartare, a beet cleverly diced to resemble steak tartare, on mixed greens and topped with candied nuts and goat cheese. That was followed by tater tots and caviar: Tater tots freshly made from shredded potatoes topped with caviar. Finally, a cheese platter, with three varieties of cheese, crunchy crisps, fresh grapes and strawberries, and a cranberry jam that, to me, tasted similar to apple butter. All of the ingredients were of the highest quality and presented flawlessly. My wife had a glass of wine that she said complimented the meal perfectly. We also enjoyed water infused with lemon and mint. We ended our evening with sticky toffee pudding, actually a moist cake with toffee pudding and a generous amount of freshly made whipped cream (they thoughtfully added the candles to share our anniversary celebration). My wife had coffee with her cake; she’s serious about coffee and that was the only part of the meal that was not perfect. Otherwise, food this good should be enjoyed at a slow pace; we spent more than two hours at Red Door and never felt rushed.
If you’re going for dinner, Red Door is not inexpensive. With tip, our total came to almost $90. If you’re simply going for a shared plate and a drink, it clearly becomes much more affordable. It was a rare night out for us, in terms of the cost, yes, but also in terms of sharing such a wonderful combination of ambience, service, and food of the highest quality. Red Door is a real Polk County treasure; we look forward to celebrating future anniversaries there.
If we’ve inspired you to visit the Red Door Wine Market, or if you’ve been there and would like to share your experience, please comment below. And if you have Polk County restaurant tips, we would love to hear them via our Contact Us page. Thanks for visiting and happy eating!