Looking for an authentic dining experience? Discover a hidden gem nestled inside Lakeland’s historic Dixieland community at Fat Maggie’s located on Dixieland Mall Lane.

Photo By: Sunny Central Florida

Dustin Olson, along with wife Heather Olson and long-time pal Kevin Berry fulfilled their dream when they opened Fat Maggie’s in December of 2012. A decade of drawing inspiration from the nation’s “mom and pop” restaurants led these owners to discover the type of dining experience they were looking to offer.

If you are anything like me, you’ll be pleased to find such a quaint restaurant with an inviting atmosphere. Be sure to notice the cool accents such as the Mason jar lighting, quirky salt and pepper shakers, and handmade wooden tables which all add to its own backyard barbeque setting.

With their spin on American comfort food and an eclectic Americana style, Fat Maggie’s not only delivers a genuine experience to guests, but a satisfying one as well. The chefs take American comfort food to the next level. Expect to find favorite items on the menu spruced up with an added twist of flavor like the macaroni and cheese with candied bacon, a salad with mini corndog toppers or a slice of cheesecake made with Nutella.

The owners believe that food should be an experience, and that’s just what I find every time I dine at Fat Maggie’s. You are sure to as well with options that include barbeque, burgers, build-your-own sammi’s, sides, and desserts. Popular dishes at the cozy restaurant include brisket that is seasoned and smoked for 16 hours, candied bacon mac and cheese made with the thickest cut bacon, and the scrumptious Ginny Lou’s Nutella Cheesecake.

My go-to meal is the pulled pork, smoked low and slow, accented with a tasty barbeque sauce along with a salad and the infamous candied bacon mac as sides.

If you are wondering just what candied bacon is, I’ll explain. Owner Dustin Olson described his first time tasting the sweet meat as “life-changing”. Inspired by Paula Deen, the crew came up with their version which consists of the thickest cut bacon covered in brown sugar then baked or occasionally smoked. Take it from me or anyone who has dined at the Lakeland restaurant that you can’t go wrong with candied bacon!

With the generous portions that Fat Maggie’s serves, I’m always more than satisfied after finishing my meal. Though, every now and then I find room to add a serving of the banana pudding made with whiskey whipped cream to top it off.

Something else that adds to Fat Maggie’s charm is the number of beverage options to complement your meal. My favorite is the seasonal fruit tea that changes flavors throughout the year. Aside from the homebrewed teas and the sodas served in classic glass bottles, you can choose from coffee, wine, and craft beer selections. A cool thing to note is that all of the beer served is brewed in small American breweries, and the coffee is fair trade. Fat Maggie’s was also the first Central Florida location to serve Intelligentsia Coffee.

The options expand beyond the food and drink selections, as you and your dinner companions can choose to dine inside or take in the fresh air on the patio or at a picnic table out back. As for me, I enjoy dining in any of the three settings for a different experience on each visit.