Everybody always asks us if Best of the Coast is rigged by the IN staff. And we always laugh.
Because if that was true, all of our favorite places would win big every year, and you guys would probably catch on pretty quick. Or at least we hope you would.
So we decided to look over this year’s Best of the Coast winners and point out where our personal favorites didn’t make the cut. So to answer your question: No, Best of the Coast isn’t rigged. But if it was, it would look something like this:
Best Soup: McGuire’s Irish Pub’s Crocked Onion Soup is the best combination of salt, onions, cheese and bread—all of my favorite things. It’s a medley of onion reduction broth loaded with chopped sautéed onions, topped with toasted French bread and covered with oven-baked Swiss cheese. (Jennifer)
Best Cheeseburger: Tops Choice Hamburgers. It’s dangerous that Tops is about a minute away from my house, as I’m tempted to stop by and pick up a cheeseburger—with extra cheese, no pickles or onions—for lunch and dinner, every day. Tops Cheeseburger + Chocolate Milkshake = Heaven. (Jennifer)
Best Day Drinking: Sure, the small plates and flatbreads at Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille are great, but I also love to sit out on their porch on a beautiful day and have a cocktail while I admire the yachts I’ll never be able to afford. (Jennifer)
Best Photographer: As a photographer myself, I can especially attest to the amazing pool of photographic talent we have here locally. One I’d personally love to see as a BOC winner is Matthew Coughlin. He is a phenomenal creative portrait photographer, who does some stunning work with off-camera lighting. He recently posted a maternity photo shoot that makes me wish I were pregnant again, just to get some rad baby-belly photos. Make sure to check out his 365 photo project if you’ve yet to do so. (Sam)
Best Restaurant North of Nine Mile: If it were up to me, Jasmine Fusion would win, hands down. As a three-year resident of Cantonment, I would say it is by far the number one perk of living so far away from normal P-cola civilization. Their seafood martini alone is good enough to break my random bouts of vegetarianism. (Sam)
Best Pizza: Oh, Founaris Brothers, maybe one day you will make the BOC list for Best Pizza. Your cheese-wheel pizza steals my cheese-loving heart. (Sam)
Best Bartender: My adorable boyfriend is a bartender at Paddy O’Leary’s on the beach, so obviously if I had it my way, he would win this category. But personal biases aside, Forrest Gaston is honestly a really great bartender, and I’m sure all the Paddy’s regulars would agree with me. He’s super-fast, super-friendly and super-creative — especially when it comes to creating martinis and shots. If you don’t believe me, just order a pop rock martini from him next time you’re at Paddy’s, and tell him Joani sent you. (Joani)
Best Noodles: Ok, I know Best Noodles isn’t even a BOC category, but it should be just so Tu-Do Vietnamese Restaurant could win it. Not only are their noodle bowls delicious and filled with fun stuff like peanut sauce and veggies, they are also super cheap. And I’m a fan of any place that has Sriracha on the table, so Tu-Do wins big in my book just for that, too. (Joani)
Best Fro Yo Bar: This isn’t a BOC category, yet. But I predict it will be next year, and I predict that Berry Yogurt reigns supreme (or at least it should). Variety is key when it comes to yogurt bars, and this is where Berry Yogurt has everybody else beat. Their flavor selection ranges from the usual like Cali tart and mango to awesomely odd like taro (my personal favorite), and their topping selection doesn’t disappoint either. For me, mochi is the mark of a legit yogurt bar, and Berry always has that chewy goodness on hand. (Joani)
Best BBQ: IN readers know about my passion for King’s BBQ. Being from the Mississippi Delta, I’ve eaten my share of barbecue, and King Rivers’ large pulled pork sandwich is one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It reminds me of Abe’s in Clarksdale, Miss. (Rick)
Best Kept Local Secret: Native Cafe, on Pensacola Beach, is a jewel. Their Original Fish Tacos are a delicious, healthy alternative to fast food. I haven’t tried their breakfast menu yet, but the word is it’s the best on the beach, maybe the best in the area. (Rick)
Best Unsung Hero: John Peacock has worked behind the scenes on strong mayor and consolidation. His Panhandle Charitable Open has raised over $200,000 since he launched it 10 years ago. His latest initiative is to get the Escambia County School District to make its closed schools available for offices and meeting rooms for local non-profit organizations. (Rick)