Bubble Bar Cafe is here to change the preconceived notions you might have about Lakeland and its food scene. What used to be a coffee shop at 5327 S. Florida Ave. is now a bright space with robin's egg blue walls that match the recently launched cafe's fun, imaginative menu.
On a recent visit, owner Tram Toadvine and her employees were scrambling to finish up a last-minute order they received the night before for 150 cake doughnuts.
A warm welcome to the neighborhood indeed.
But Lakeland isn't new territory for Toadvine, who's also the owner of the nearby Southern Paws Pet Resort. She says her travels to various destinations over the years sparked her interest in food and served as the inspiration behind Bubble Bar Cafe. Her record for the most places she's eaten in a city goes to New Orleans, where she once dined at 14 restaurants in a day.
"Going to New York and California, there's always food everywhere," Toadvine said. "I think Lakeland wants to get into food, but they're just scared. I figured it would be fun for this town."
An assortment of Instagramable treats is featured on the lineup — doughnuts included. Employees, affectionately known as "Bubble Baes," encourage customers to unleash their creative sides through bubble tea flavors like coconut mango and iced mocha strawberry, edible cookie dough, and signature snacks like bubble waffles, which are prepared in an iron with circular grids (rather than a standard honeycomb pattern).
Fortunately, there's no limit to how many of the 30 toppings guests can select, but they do cost $1 each. Prices for the other items range from $2.99 for a scoop of ice cream to $7.99 for a sandwich.
According to Toadvine, 200 of the cafe's Grilled Chee-Dough sandwich — shredded Cheddar sprinkled between glazed doughnut halves and topped with crispy bacon — were served on grand opening day two weeks ago, making it one of the most popular (and indulgent) options.
There are also nonstop inquiries from folks who are interested in launching additional locations elsewhere, as the owner puts it. Plans for franchising are in the works, with stores possibly opening as soon as next year.
"This is the first location, and it's been really popular. We have franchises that are about to start in Brandon and Sarasota as well. The franchisees are close friends of mine," Toadvine said.
The 700-square-foot Bubble Bar Cafe easily sits around 40 people, whether they're high school students looking for an after-school snack or the lunch crowd seeking a solution to their sweet-tooth cravings. It's open noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.