Lakeland: Highland City Diner

We had breakfast at the Highland City Diner recently. They have only been open a few weeks. We generally don’t go to restaurants until they’ve been open for at least several months, but we were so inspired by their social media posts and reviews we’ve read, we made an exception.

Highland City Diner restaurant exterior in Lakeland, FloridaWe liked the open decor – comfortable but not overly busy. They were playing music, mostly pop from the 1970s and 1980s (Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, etc.), which was at a soft enough volume that we could enjoy it but still have an easy conversation. We appeared to be the first customers on a weekday morning, but many others soon followed after us. Our server was very welcoming and pleasant during our entire visit. Service was also prompt and we didn’t have to wait long for our food. I had orange juice to drink. My one complaint with the entire meal, the orange juice was clearly out of a can, and not fresh. My wife had coffee, which she said was good “for diner coffee” (I’m allergic to coffee and trust that coffee-drinkers will understand that).

Highland City Diner restaurant interior in Lakeland, FloridaThey have clearly put some thought into their menu – it offers a lot of standard diner options but prepared in more interesting combinations. There were a couple of daily specials written on a white board. The menu was interesting enough that we had to spend some time making our final choices, and we look forward to going back so we can sample from their lunch menu.

Grits with cheese, bacon, and poached eggs, and a buttermilk biscuit, at Highland City Diner restaurant in Lakeland, FloridaMy wife ordered the “Southern Belle,” which is grits topped with cheese, bacon, and two eggs (she asked for poached), along with a buttermilk biscuit. The biscuit was a little on the dry side but had good flavor and was clearly freshly made. The grits were made to order and hadn’t been sitting around in a pre-made batch. They weren’t mushy or undercooked. The cheese was flavorful cheddar. The bacon was well-cooked and seemed drained of excess grease. The poached eggs were perfectly cooked, with solid whites but slightly runny yolks.

Sausage links and blueberry pancakes with granola at Highland City Diner restaurant in Lakeland, FloridaI ordered the “Savannah Smile” – 2 blueberry pancakes with granola, and 2 sausage links. The pancakes were outstanding. The granola gave the pancakes a nice crunch, not as much as you would get with walnuts but similar. It was a good flavor combination. Even without the granola, the pancakes were a generous size and had a nice amount of density. The sausage links were also very good. A lot of sausage links have a “fake spiciness” that I have a hard time describing but don’t care for. These were not spicy and not overly greasy. They definitely didn’t seem to come out of a freezer.

A wonderful experience! We’ve been to a lot of diners, and Highland City Diner is now one of our local favorites. The food was of generally higher quality than we expect from a diner. This is much more serious than a greasy spoon. With tip our total was $28. There was a pastry/dessert counter at the register – it was tempting but we were too full from breakfast to sample from it. Highland City Diner is currently open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch (with a brunch menu on weekends).  They are on U.S. 98 South at Clubhouse Road in Highland City. Enjoy!

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