Every year when Best of the Coast rolls around, we inevitably get asked the same question at least a few hundred times: “You guys don’t really count the votes, do you? You just pick your favorites, right?”
So we’d like to go ahead and answer this question once and for all: Yes, we really count the votes. Every single one of them. Or at least the ones we can read. Some of you have some really, really terrible penmanship.
But seriously, if we played favorites, you’d know it. We’re a pretty small staff and we honestly don’t get out nearly enough. That’s why we rely on you guys to tell us what’s up.
We have to admit you have pretty good taste, and we were pleasantly surprised that you had the same affinity for certain restaurants, foods, shops and Irish Car Bombs as we did.
And although many of you may think we exhausted the number of categories that are admissible in a “Best Of” poll, a lot of our personal favorites weren’t actually included this year.
Here’s a glimpse of what the IN staff Best of the Coast list would include:
Best Bargain: Half-Off Monday Nights at O’Zone Pizza Pub
Working at the IN definitely has its privileges, but a huge salary isn’t one of them. So I’m always excited to save a little cash, and Monday nights at O’Zone are hands down my favorite way to do just that. The deal is pretty simple: half-off any large pizza. The only catch is that it’s limited to dine-in only. The wait is normally a little bit on the long side, but it’s more than worth it. And don’t worry about them cutting corners or sacrificing quality to still make a buck on Mondays. I promise you, it’s the exact same delicious O’Zone pizza you know and love, just a lot cheaper.
Best Hummus: Hub Stacey’s
I eat a lot of hummus from a lot of places—seriously—a lot of hummus. And while I’m pretty much a fan of any hummus I can get my hands on, my absolute favorite of all time comes from Hub Stacey’s. It’s pretty simple as far as hummus goes—just tomatoes and sprouts on top—but that’s what makes it so delicious. Well, that and the perfectly toasted pita bread that accompanies it, of course. Do yourself a favor and order some next time you’re there, and you won’t be sorry. Or, at least try The Baylen—a veggie sandwich featuring Hub’s hummus and homemade dill sauce.
Best Concert: David Dondero at Sluggo’s
Every time David Dondero comes to Sluggo’s—which is typically at least a few times a year—I make it a point to go check him out. His songs are a perfect mix of folk storytelling and social commentary, and if you haven’t been introduced to his music yet, you really are missing out on something special. He’ll be back at Sluggo’s soon—Monday, Nov. 1—touring in support of his latest album, “# Zero With a Bullet.” Like always, I’ll be there for the show, and you should too.
Best Restaurant To Take Your Pregnant Wife: The Melting Pot
Ok, so I didn’t make up this category solely to be a hint to my husband—well, maybe a little. This is also applicable for a pregnant friend, co-worker, you name it. What better way to show us preggos some love than giving us large quantities of chocolate and cheese, fondue-style? And all of those dippable, nutrient-rich fruits and veggies are an added bonus for that little developing cutie.
Best New Green Business: Growing Green Bums
I might be a little obsessed with all things baby, but how cool is it that we now have a cloth diapering store in our area? Support eco-mamas and future eco-conscious little ones, and check this new business out. Once you see how adorable—not to mention economical—their cloth diaper supply is, you’ll be hooked.
Best Pizza: Founaris Bros.
Mmm…pizza. Pensacola’s got a bevy of awesome pizza sources to choose from, but one that often gets overlooked in Best of the Coast is my personal favorite: Founaris Bros. I don’t know that I’ve officially had any other “Greek-style” pizza, but if their pie is any indication, the Greeks know how to make a pizza the right way. Blame it on my unhealthy love of feta and large quantities of cheese, but any place with a pizza deserving of the name “Cheese Wheel” has got my vote!
Best Future Cheese Fix: Wine World Wine Bar Cheese Shop
I don’t know exactly what this is going to entail, but it sounds like I’m going to enjoy it immensely.
Best Vegetarian/Vegan Dish: Vegetarian Pita, Aegean Breeze
I’m no vegetarian, but the Veggie Pita at Aegean Breeze makes me think it would be a breeze to be one. Spread with a garlic mayo, stuffed with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and eggplant, and topped with melted provolone cheese, it’s the only thing I’ve ordered there in the last three years, though I’ve tried to wean myself off of it.
Best Bread Pudding: Bread Pudding with Bushmills Irish Whiskey Sauce, McGuire’s Irish Pub
Along with Crème Brulee, Bread Pudding is one of my favorite desserts, and I think both deserve their own BOC categories. McGuire’s Bread Pudding is absolutely decadent—rich, creamy and semi-alcoholic. I usually feel about five pounds heavier after I eat it, but it’s worth it.
I will give an honorable mention to The Grand Marlin’s White Chocolate Bread Pudding, which melts in your mouth.