I created this website years ago to help people find the many hidden gems that are dotted across the fine city of Lakeland. Ironically enough, I only recently discovered one of Lakeland’s finest and most well hidden gems; Hallback’s Bar & Grill.
Like most Lakelanders, I only remember the fact that Lakeland has an airport once a year during the annual Sun ‘N Fun event. A day or two later, I forget about this place because no commercial flights frequent this airport.
The first time we decided to eat at Hallback’s, we realized that we weren’t the only ones who had forgotten about this airport. It was completely deserted on a Saturday afternoon. If you walk inside the main entrance, you’ll see one of our country’s smallest baggage claims to the left. To the right, you’ll see a staircase that leads upwards to Hallback’s. We walked into the restaurant and didn’t see a single soul. Here is a shot of a cute and empty bar.
We only had the whole place to ourselves for a few minutes. A couple wandered in behind us and asked if the restaurant was open. When I explained that I didn’t know, they exclaimed “We flew all the way here just for lunch and they might not even be open?!”
That’s when I began to realize that I discovered a special place. That’s also when a waitress walked out and sat us in booths along the window. When you decide to give Hallback’s a try, request a window seat. The view is unique.
We learned that the couple behind us really did fly in. This restaurant is a destination point for people with private jets. We got to see a few come and go. Better yet, we got to listen in on the radio chatter as they were guided in by the air control tower. Each booth is equipped with a set of antique transponders and headphones. Not all of the transponders still work, but the operational ones are a real treat and a ton of fun.
Watching planes take off and land while listening to weird aviation terms like “bogey” and “niner” makes the it worth trip to the airport. On top of that, the food is worth the trip as well. The owner, Mr. Hallback, creates a lot of the Southern BBQ items on the menu himself. We can affirm that he does an exceptional job on the brisket. The brisket cheese steak was killer!
Although the BBQ here is legit, it didn’t take us long to find out that the Sunday brunch buffet is truly what Hallback’s is known for. We asked a lot of questions about it and learned that “Grandma” hand makes most of the dishes each week. Naturally, we had to investigate.
We came back on a Sunday and had a very different experience. The few private jet aviators were replaced by droves of hungry locals dressed in their church clothes. For $16.95 each, they were all gorging themselves on an all-you-can-eat, high quality Southern cooking. Here is a glimpse at some of the goodies.
You are looking at collard greens, butter beans, fried fish (with tarter sauce), fried chicken, oxtail, pork, and mac n’ cheese. I could taste Grandma’s TLC in every bite.
If you don’t want to sit with crowds of church goers, the good news is that you can spend your $16.95 on a large to-go box that you are allowed to stuff to the brim. The bad news is that if you’d rather come here for dinner than brunch, you are out of luck on most days of the week.
If you think about, it’s hard to see planes land in the dark anyway, so make a day of it. You owe it to yourself to make the drive (or take the flight) to one of Lakeland’s best kept secrets. After you do, you’ll never forget about this airport Hallback’s Bar & Grill ever again.