I'm thinking of an overnight at Chalet Suzanne. It's not a long drive from Bonita Springs and I could pair that with a visit to see the Frank Lloyd Wright campus at Florida Southern. From what I've heard, it's seen better days. At one time I believe their restaurant was considered one of the best dining experiences in Florida. Viewing the menu on the website, I'm a bit nervous. I'm not expecting a Michael's Genuine meal but if the food is passable, I could be okay with that. I've sampled some of their canned soups, including the famous moon soup(I think that's the signature sorrel) and they were pretty bad.
I ate there 25 years ago and then about 13 years ago and then once after 2004 (when Hurricane Charlie made a mess of the place). 25 years ago it was better than most places in the Orlando area (it isn't that close to Orlando but it drew sightseers from that area). I only remember their specialty appetizer: broiled grapefruit with a chicken liver on top....yech. So why did I subject myself again? I was looking for a place that would accept pets during a hurricane evacuation. The place had a broke down tacky charm. The food was still kind of sketchy. The last time we stopped by, we only had a glass of wine and moved quickly on. I think the original catch was that they had their own airstrip.
I was there maybe around the year 2000, it was supposed to be wonderful. Without getting into details, it was the crappiest food I ever ate and for the money, I wished I had bought 100 cans of Spam, which would have been a gourmet feast compared to that food.
Could the Terrace Hotel in downtown Lakeland work for you? It is a nicer hotel than the Chalet Suzanne with better food. It is also only a couple of minutes from Florida Southern.
329 E Main St, Lakeland, FL 33801
We had lunch at Chalet Suzanne about, oh, 3 or 4 years ago. I wish I could be kinder, b/c I'm sure it was something to see back in the day, but it was lousy. Nothing was inedible, and everything did taste like it was made on the premises, but the temperature wasn't right on anything, and it all tasted bland. I'm talking lukewarm, watery soup, cold day-old rolls, dry, skimpy sandwiches. The broiled grapefruit? DIY at home--they don't do the chicken liver any more, so you don't have to, either--and drink a toast to the glory days of Chalet Suzanne, because they is gone. (The totally time-warp, dusty decor and the waiters' outfits were more cringe-inducing than nostalgia-provoking. And when I say "dusty," I mean it literally.)
I'm so glad this post came up....are they still distributing their soups?? I dug through my cupboards and found a can of their famous Romaine soup inwhich the label says "it has been served in all the Governor's mansions and Apollo flights to the moon." I am afraid to open the can because it might end up flying to the moon through my kitchen!! Having eaten and stayed there several times back in the 70's, I think the whole scam, restaurant, B&B, soups was a marketing scam beautifully executed by Carl Hinshaw, the head honcho of the family. I remember articles in Gourmet, Horizon and the rest about how this whole enterprise was the cat's meow. Back then, it was in the middle of nowhere but people came from all over to eat that awful chicken liver & grapefruit mess, much less the rest of the bland, expensive food. I will never forget the first time I dined and stayed there, after dinner, running to the tiny, tiny bathroom in my dusty, dirty room to expunge my dinner contents, I hear this awful, loud clatter, like the whole building was shaking and coming down. To my dismay, it wasn't Santa and his reindeer, it was a private plane taking off less than 15 feet from my head in the toilet! All I could think of was, why didn't they take me away from this place with them!