My wife and I had dinner at MOJO Federal in Lakeland recently. Mojo BBQ is actually a small chain. It was started in 2003 and currently has eight locations, all in the state of Florida. Mojo Federal Swine and Spirits opened earlier in 2018 in an historic building constructed in 1917 as Lakeland’s first post office. The building was vacant more than ten years, so it’s nice to see the exterior and interior beautifully renovated.
The decor is very urban, with exposed rafters and brickwork. It’s a large space and there is even some outdoor seating. There is a bar area inside the restaurant, but also a separate bar next door (with a separate entrance) with it’s own limited lunch menu. My only complaint – music so loud it was ear-splitting. I think they occasionally have live music, but this was recorded and so loud I could barely distinguish between different singers. Service, on the other hand, was friendly and reliable during our entire meal.
Alcohol offerings are a big part of the MOJO experience. I don’t drink but my wife enjoyed a Floridian Hefeweizen beer from Funky Buddha Brewery. The menu has a lot of variations on barbecue entrees and sandwiches, along with a long list of appetizers, salads, and sides. I counted five different barbecue sauces at our table to complement any entree. Most of the meats are prepared with spices or dry rub.
For dinner, my wife ordered beef brisket with cheese grits and collard greens (each entree comes with 2 sides and two slices of Texas Toast). The brisket was very tender and flavorful (“divine” was my wife’s description). Collard greens were well-flavored without being mushy. The cheese grits were the best she’s ever had.
Being a former resident of North Carolina, I was pleased to see MOJO offers North Carolina pork, a pulled pork entree prepared “Carolina style,” with a vinegar based marinade. So I ordered that with BBQ pit beans and mashed potatoes and gravy. Really outstanding dinner. The pork was very tender and the vinegar-based sauce was a perfect complementary flavor. The beans were some of the best barbecue beans I’ve had in a restaurant, with some spiciness without being too hot. The mashed potatoes could have used a little more gravy, but the flavor was excellent.The gravy was nice and thick. (The small cup in the photo that looks like minced garlic was actually a type of cole slaw, which I’m not a fan of anyway so I didn’t sample it.)
The portions were plenty for us, and we brought home leftovers. With tip, our total was right around $50. Really, except for the obnoxious music volume, we were very happy with the experience. Well-prepared food, welcoming service, all in an historic downtown building. MOJO Federal is at 130 South Tennessee Avenue, at the corner of West Lemon Street, in downtown Lakeland. Enjoy!