By Amy Sumerlin
It was a happy mistake.
I had lunch at Posto 9 a couple months ago with my lovely friend Linda, but I wanted to try out the dinner menu before I wrote this article. My husband, my mother, and I met there on a Thursday night. I went straight from work, so it was an early meal – beat the crowds, you know.
Not so much.
The mistake, you see, was not making reservations. We had arrived about 5:45; the lovely lady at the front counter told us she would be able to seat us at “about 8:00”.
“Or you could try our rooftop dining,” she said.
So, without hesitation, off we went to the third floor, a rooftop lounge that draws its inspiration – and its name – from the Rio de Janeiro beach Ipanema.
In fact, that beach is very much tied to the vision for the entire restaurant: One long stretch of sun-drenched sand, Ipanema Beach is divided by postos (posts), which mark off subcultures as diverse as the city itself. Posto 9, right off Rua Vinícius de Moraes, is where Rio’s most beautiful and tanned bodies migrate.
“Rio de Janeiro means ‘The Beautiful City’, explained restaurateur Marco Franca. “And we thought the name Posto 9 reflected exactly what we wanted the restaurant to be – a beautiful area where all aspects of society come together for a great culinary experience.”
The “we” to whom Franca refers includes himself and his wife, Grace, partners in the business, and often, Posto 9’s Executive Chef, Michel Revy.
Marco and Grace Franca moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Lakeland in early 2014. They left Brazil due to political, economic and social uncertainties. Lakeland was selected due to proximity of Marco’s Mother; and because it was close to two large international airports.
During the first year, Grace was living full time in Lakeland while Marco, a busy executive who ran PR Newswire throughout Latin America, commuted to Sao Paulo on a bi-weekly basis.
And while the Francas quickly came to love their new town, “we also knew that whenever we were looking for a great culinary experience, we were travelling to Tampa or Orlando.”
So the pair decided to combine their love for fine dining experiences and their entrepreneurial spirit, and open an outstanding restaurant here.
The concept of a Brazilian restaurant was confirmed based upon the positive reception their recipes received when their new friends dined in their home.
“Just by coincidence,” Franca continued, “I heard about Michel Revy.”
Revy comes to Posto 9 with 20 years of experience. He too was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and most recently worked as Lead Sous Chef at Publix Apron’s Cooking School in Lakeland.
Prior to joining Publix, Revy was Corporate Chef to Marius Churrascaria (a Brazilian steakhouse) in Rio de Janeiro and managed the successful entry of Outback Steakhouse into Brazil.
“We had fallen in love with downtown,” he said.
One day, while walking in the area, he came upon the building that housed the former Preservation Hall. The historic building on East Main Street, right across from Munn Park, was built originally in 1908. It had housed everything from a bank to a residence to a real estate office to a music store and most recently an entertainment venue.
Much of the building was in bad shape, and to make it beautiful again, required a great amount of deconstruction and reconstruction.
Franca is particularly proud of the fact that everything that could be saved, was.
In fact, the table at which we dined that night was made from wood salvaged during deconstruction.
Franca was pleased to find that the second floor, which had been sealed since the 1940’s, was still in relatively good shape, and now houses event space.
I was happy the minute the elevators opened. It’s a beautiful space, and the wind made the temperature perfect.
Our server, Kelly, was awesome: Friendly and efficient at the same time, she manages to make dining on that third floor feel as if you have been invited to an exclusive party.
Keep in mind the menu on the rooftop is different than downstairs – so several trips to the restaurant to get the full culinary experience, what Franca describes as “Brazilian Southern Fusion”.
We started out with the Po sto 9 Cheese Board ($18), a delightful beginning. I later found out that all the cheese is house made.
‘We use the freshest ingredients possible, and make everything we can in-house,” Franca remarked. “We filet the fish, cut the meat, and make the bread, butter and cheese ourselves.”
My husband then chose the X-Burger Pastel ($13): think perfectly spiced short ribs, aged cheddar, and poblano aioli in an empanada-type shell. He was served three, and two was enough for one evening.
My mother chose the Chicken Passarinho ($14): think boneless chicken pieces in Brazilian spices. Mom is the least adventurous, culinary-wise, and even she was tickled with the blend of spices that made it tasty but not too hot. She too had enough left over for the next day’s lunch.
I chose the Fried Grouper Sliders ($15), and will definitely order them again.
Is definitely bright for Posto 9: A fabulous venue, an adventurous menu that combines the best of Brazilian cuisine with Southern flair—try their Chicken and Waffles (with guava ketchup) or Shrimp and Grits (with roasted tomato sofrito), for example – and the result is a fabulous place to enjoy alone or with friends.
The 19,000 guests who have been served there in the first four months… well, that’s just the beginning.
FMI: 215 E Main St., (863) 499-0099; posto9gastropub.com