Nestled on several acres of scenic Florida countryside in rural Polk County, halfway between Tampa and Orlando, is a quaint country-style luncheon spot that you might never guess was there. The Back Porch Restaurant in Lake Alfred, operated by Drew Wales and his wife Adrianna, serves 80-100 lunches of soup, salad, sandwich and dessert each day, delivered to your table in a quaint picnic basket.
The restaurant has a country charm and “tea room” ambience, with the main dining room featuring floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows, garden-style wrought-iron chairs, and tabletops handpainted with wild flowers.
Also located on the property is The Backyard Garden Shop, The Stable Home Décor, The Season’s Gift Shop, and The Barn Antiques.
“There aren’t a lot of places like us,” said Drew, “We’re completely family owned and operated, with no corporate involved — all in one location.”
Drew, grandson of founder Ednamay Wales, grew up on the property and says that most of his relatives, including his children, have worked in the business in one capacity or another. His brother, Justin, runs the décor and gift shop, while the antiques portion is run by his uncle.
The Back Porch menu features Wales family recipes and traditional favorites unchanged since its founding in 1986. With daily specials like cashew chicken salad, Thai mushroom soup, red pepper beef, chilled strawberry soup, pesto ranch pasta, green bean salad, and butter pecan Tipsy Cake (to name just a few), customers are greeted with a different dining experience each time they visit.
“We have people coming here from as near as Lake Alfred, and as far away as Tampa and Orlando,” said server Barbara Monday. “And we see a lot of the same faces again and again.”
On a sunny afternoon, you can dine in the air-conditioned interior or relax on the wraparound “Shady Deck” for a lemonade or frozen Wine Ice Stir, while enjoying views of the nature pond and surrounding vegetation.
Adjacent to the restaurant is the The Back Yard Garden Shop, an outdoor shopping experience under a canopy of native shade trees. Every nook is filled with seasonal blooming plants as well as decorative garden accessories such as birdhouses, fountains and arbors.
“It’s a refreshing change from all the theme parks and attractions,” said one grandmother, who was visiting from Orlando with her three grandchildren, Bryce, Chloe, and Allex Dervis, from Sumter, S.C.
“There’s a lot of cool stuff in here,” said Allex. “We’re having fun.”
Next to the Tea Room sits the The Stable Home Décor and Seasons Gift Shop, filled with framed prints, potpourri, candles, bath and body items, fashion accessories, lamps, floral arrangements and wreaths.
The seasonal section features a revolving display of holiday decorations to fit every season.
“We really like the coming of fall, when all the snowbirds come back,” said employee Donna Fellars, describing the transformation that takes place, with Halloween décor giving way to Thanksgiving and then Christmas.
The Barn Antiques, housed in a massive red barn structure on the property, opens the first Saturday in October and closes the last Saturday in May. The antique shop was the brainchild of founder Ednamay Wales, who opened the original shop in a small, tin-roofed building 60 years ago. Today, The Barn Antiques has grown into one of Florida’s most popular destinations for antiques, handpicked from sources both local and abroad.
The Back Porch Restaurant and adjoining shops, open year-round, are located off I-4, Exit 48, on County Road 557. For more information, visit them on Facebook or call 863-956-2227.