“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…” Or, in the case of restaurants, where the waitress knows your order. But there are also times when you want to go somewhere totally new and eat something fresh and exciting. Or a place where the tourists outnumber locals and you can lie and say you’re “Steve, from, um… Michigan.”
Whatever your fancy, the following list has you covered:
Eat Like a Local
Now that Sluggo’s has moved to just off Palafox downtown, dare I say it’s become even more popular. Locals know that even non-vegans can get down with the menu as it offers a fantastic array of hearty, but healthy, items such as a Mushroom Walnut Burger, Peanut Thai Noodle Bowl and pot-stickers. They also know that it’s the prime people watching post in downtown Pensacola. In one minute you can see a bike riding, townie hipster ordering a craft beer next to a lawyer in a suit who just ordered the tofu noodle bowl. Come one, come all.
101 S. Jefferson St.
Blue Dot Barbecue
Locals like to brag when they’ve eaten here, and why not! In an unmarked location in the heart of what was once known as the “Harlem of the South” it makes a great story. The fact that the counter guy gets annoyed when you ask if they still have ribs and they’re out, or if you can get cheese on your burger (you can’t), or if they have menus (they don’t) just adds to its appeal. It’s like Pensacola’s version of that Soup place on Seinfeld.
310 N. De Villiers St.
Scenic 90 Cafe
For a quick breakfast on weekend mornings, or a relaxed dinner in the evening, this is where the locals go. On Saturday mornings it’s possible you’ll see some community meeting happening over hash browns and pumpkin pancakes, some awkward brunch dates and a few elderly couples who have perfected their breakfast routine. Grab a paper (like this one) and a booth and bask in the glory of your good choices!
701 Scenic Hwy.
New Yorker Deli & Pizzeria
Inside this small house is a Pensacola gem that locals have been going to since they were children—at least this local. Try one of the many deli salads (like their “Rockefeller Pasta Salad” made with spinach, sun dried tomatoes and feta, or their Pesto Tortellini) and order a pizza to share. Call ahead and take out.
3001 E. Cervantes St.
Ozone Pizza Pub
With a loyal following, great music, extensive beer list and pizza creations so addictive they border being classified as a Level-1 narcotic—Ozone’s is a local mecca. Long-term residents know that fewer joys can be found in life greater than enjoying a Ponderosa Stomp pizza (bbq sauce, diced green onion, green peppers, bacon, cheddar cheese and spicy chicken drizzled with honey) with a side of cream cheese. Trust me.
1010 N. 12 Ave., Ste 111
In the spring and summer the front patio of City Grocery resembles a neighborhood delicatessen in France: all parchment wrapped sandwiches and wine bottles. For leisurely afternoon lunches fewer places offer a retreat as welcoming as City Grocery. Order from the back deli counter, grab a bottle off the shelf, and think to yourself “why don’t I do this more often?” as the world slips by.
2050 N.12 Ave.
Eat Like a Tourist
Peg Leg Pete’s
For its fresh oysters, baked or raw, plenty of outside seating, live music on the weekends, and its relaxed view on what constitutes appropriate dining attire (bikini top, sandals and a sarong?—Sure!) Peg Leg Pete’s is always a hit with tourists and locals who know that this is one of those rare gems that actually lives up to its hype.
1010 Fort Pickens Road
If your visitor exclaims, “I heard there was this dish I have to try—ya ya something!” then you know where you must go. While they’re chowing down on Grits a Ya Ya (smoked Gouda cheese grits smothered with Gulf shrimp, spinach, mushrooms, bacon and cream sauce) you can enjoy the view and the pretentious thought “only tourists eat that,” before seeing theirs and ordering one of your own.
600 S. Barracks St.
McGuire’s Irish Pub and Brewery
Hold your guest’s hand so you don’t lose them in the crowds and be sure to send them off to the bathroom—McGuire’s is a must see place for tourists and a weekly go-to spot for locals as the food is always spot on. End the night with stapling another dollar bill to the wall and an Irish sing-a-long or two. This is a place tourists wish they had back home and locals miss when they leave.
600 E. Gregory St.
The Grand Marlin
With fantastic views of the sound, a spacious open-floor deck bar and food that always delivers—it’s no wonder that The Grand Marlin is a must-visit place on any tourist’s list. Heck, locals can’t enough of it either.
400 Pensacola Beach Blvd.
People eat at the Coffee Cup because since 1945 people have been saying, “I can’t believe you’ve never eaten at the Coffee Cup.” The interior hasn’t changed since its opening and neither have the recipes. For a truly old-fashioned diner food experience the Coffee Cup is where to go. Long waits on weekends speak to the fact that our southern sense of nostalgia is as strong as ever.
520 E. Cervantes St.
When people come to the South they want to feel it, and where better than in a refurbished manor home overlooking the park? Its salads, sushi and entrees that cater to a wide variety of tastes keep them coming back, but it’s the charming interior that truly captivates. For locals and tourists wanting a night out that feels more Savannah than Panama City, this is the place to go.
300 S. Alcaniz St.
Eat Like A Foodie
Tu-Do Vietnamese Restaurant
While the interior may not be anything amazing, true foodie aficionados know it’s the dishes that matter. With an abundance of fresh cilantro and mung sprouts and pho dishes that blow anything from a buffet back to where it came from, Tu-Do can live up to even the sternest of food snob opinions.
7130 N. Davis Hwy.
For food snobs that react violently at the thought of pates and foie gras, there’s The Ever’Deli that serves up organic dishes and some vegan delights. With daily specials, an expansive selection of pre-made items and the feeling of satisfaction that results from eating a meal that’s actually good for you, The Ever’Deli is a favorite for those with discerning tastes and hot bodies.
315 W. Garden St.
Four Winds International Food Market
If you’ve ever been to a party and they’re serving Moldovan beer, Halal chicken and Halvah, chances are your host has been to Four Winds recently. And while the assistance can border on annoying (no, I don’t want to buy a whole rack leg of lamb) the store itself is worth browsing. Amongst its slightly chaotic shelves are delicacies from around the world. The back deli also serves up some of the best sandwiches and spreads in town.
6895 N. 9th Ave.
When the only way to satisfy your tastes is to do it yourself, then you my friend are on a journey to Joe Patti’s. Yes, the tourists come here, but no one does it like you do! Here you can pacify your nerves by picking out the exact fillet you want, or ask questions about where your seafood came from and how it was processed. Fresh caught or farm raised? Deveined and shelled or heads on? The choices are yours. Rest easy OCD foodie—they understand your type here.
524 S. B St.
Dinner with Chef Blake Rushing at The Lee House
A simple dinner date at a restaurant will not do for you, unique experience foodie, crave the mystique of the unordinary. For that, there’s only one thing: Monday and Tuesday night dinners with Blake Rushing at The Lee House. Four courses with wine parings for $65. Reservations required.
400 Bayfront Pkwy.
Eat Something New
Carmen’s Lunch Bar
Opening in late summer this restaurant, which won the $50,000 Pensacola Business Challenge, has already built up a lot of hype. Promising an “eclectic blend of southern and international cuisine” it has the downtown business crowd stomach’s grumbling already.
407 S. Palafox St.
The Bodacious Olive
With marinated olives, fresh pasta, a dizzying array of infused olive oils (like cilantro and roasted onion and California garlic), to balsamic vinegars (like wild blueberry and ginger) and gourmet salts, this gorgeous boutique is worth exploring.
407-D S. Palafox St.
Spiked milkshakes and a create-your-own-burger concept (you choose the bun, the meat, the toppings) make this place a welcome addition to Palafox. The good selection of canned beers make it a popular first stop on a night out downtown.
102 S. Palafox
Like meat? Like lots of meat? Then try out the Rodizio Grill where, in following with the traditional Brazilian steakhouse concept, they will literally just keep serving you until you say, “stop.” Their salad bar is also so fantastic that many come simply for that. A great addition to “restaurant row.”
605 E. Gregory St.