Lakeland: Tom’s Drive In and Restaurant

I assume Tom’s Drive In and Restaurant (listed on some sites as just Tom’s Restaurant) in Lakeland used to be a drive-in. It seems fairly obvious from the name, and the layout of the parking lot looks like an old-style drive-in. We had a drive-in restaurant in the town where I grew up. I can’t say I remember the food much, but I remember the fun of going there and having the food brought out to the car on those clever window trays. That drive-in is long gone, but Tom’s, while no longer a drive-in, is still here in Lakeland. I haven’t been able to find any history on the business.

Tom's Restaurant exterior in Lakeland, Florida

Tom’s is a diner, and we were there following a medical procedure, so diner-style comfort food is exactly what we wanted. It’s not a large restaurant, but we were there on a weekday afternoon and had no trouble being seated.

Tom's Restaurant interior in Lakeland, FloridaThe decor, and the menu, are fairly traditional diner style. I haven’t been able to find an online menu, but they did have a whiteboard with daily specials, including vegetable sides available that day. Our server was very pleasant during the entire meal. There are plenty of windows and we appreciated all the natural light. It felt like the kind of place where a lot of customers become regulars. We both had iced tea to drink.

Cowboy burger with French fries at Tom's Restaurant in Lakeland, Florida

My wife ordered a cowboy burger, which came with one side, and she chose French fries. The cowboy burger is a beef burger on Texas toast with bacon and onion rings. The burger was a tad overcooked but the bacon and onion rings were delicious. The Texas toast was a nice complement to the sandwich. The fries were probably frozen, conventional diner fries, but still good.

Seafood basket with fried pickles and mashed potatoes and gravy at Tom's Restaurant in Lakeland, Florida

I ordered the seafood basket, which came with two sides, and I chose fried pickles and mashed potatoes with gravy. I love fried pickles, so it was a nice treat to see that on the menu. The mashed potatoes and gravy were probably out of a box/can, but I still enjoyed them – they reminded of a less peppery version of KFC’s classic mashed potatoes and gravy. The seafood included fish fillets, shrimp, calamari, and clams. I don’t have clams very often, so including them was a nice touch. I’m not entirely sure about fresh vs. frozen on the seafood – the calamari seemed like it had been frozen, but the fish fillets tasted fresh to me. Either way, the breading was well done, crispy without overpowering the actual food. I would definitely order the seafood basket again. A bonus piece of Texas toast came with the meal along with generous sides of tartar sauce and cocktail sauce.

So I can’t really claim they were working with all high-end ingredients, but the food was still tasty, with hearty portions (I was happy to have leftover seafood for lunch the next day), the service was good, and with tip our total was only $27. We enjoyed Tom’s Restaurant, it was just the place to relax with some old-fashioned diner food and good conversation. Tom’s is on North Combee Road in Lakeland at County Road 33A, just east of Lake Parker. Enjoy!

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