Greg's List of Vittles

Pensacola and Environs

Updated: 1/21/05

This page lists various restaurants in and around Pensacola, FL, that are worth mentioning, either because I like them, or everyone says you simply should go there and I had to find out. "Everyone" may be full of crap, so I've tried to be honest.

This isn't a complete guide by any means--caveat emptor, indeed. You should also keep in mind that my current occasional meat intake is now limited to fish, so any comment I make about other types of flesh from any of the following purveyors of comestibles is based upon trusted friends, or my experiences before around 2000. I've tried to note where restaurants are particularly vegetable-friendly, and/or will make dishes to order.

Ratings are obviously subjective,  and can vary from visit to visit. However,  if it's on the list regardless of the rating,  the only reason I haven't been more often is because I'm lazy, it's too far to drive, or I've gotten used to the higher-rated haunts. I've tried to include any special notes (like service comments, particularly good or bad dishes, etc.) in the comments below each listing.

And, in case you're wondering, none of the ratings below are included at any restaurant's request, I get nothing from these restaurants for including them, and I don't work for any of these. I also don't work in the tourism industry, I can't make you reservations, and I can't give you a refund if you eat at one of these and don't like it. The items listed are not ordered by rank or name--they're placed there in order of when I thought about them.

 

Recommend after a few visits,  but haven't been there regularly..

Recommend after multiple visits,  and will probably go again.

Recommend and visit often.

A regular favorite of mine--few if any complaints.

Would eat every meal here if I could.

 

All Pensacola phone numbers have area code 850. Numbers shown may not be current. Call the restaurant for information on credit cards, reservations, etc. since anything I mention might have changed. Any web-links shown were current as of the last search I made.

Also please note: after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, some of these may not be fully operational when you read this. Call the restaurant to make sure.


East Hill, Cervantes, Scenic Hill, Pensacola Civic Center and Gregory Street Areas

 

Excellent burger joint (as I recall), with even more excellent fried mullet (when fresh--they'll tell you on the sign), both of which are favorites of the local cognoscenti. Would seem to have a kitschy, diner-like decor, except that's what it's always looked like, even when it wasn't fashionable--it is, indeed, a REAL DINER. Jerry's was bought from its long-time owners a few years ago, but most of the charm remains (and the food quality is, by all accounts, as good or better). Not much here for vegetarians, other than fried stuff and simple salads, but for fish eaters the mullet is highly recommended if you get there early and they don't run out. 433-9910.

 

One of the best Chinese restaurants in town, Hunan's is known locally for its varied and huge buffet offerings, and unlike most Chinese restaurants in the area, the buffet is usually quite fresh and tasty. Both the buffet and menu have a large selection of vegetable/vegetarian dishes, and they will make most anything you request, if you don't find your favorite. They do a particularly good job of "make me something with tofu". 438-4787.

 

I'm told by trusted acquaintances that The Angus has some of the best dead cow in town (hence, the name). I wouldn't know, personally. I DO know they have outstanding local seafood, and being a Greek restaurant at heart, they don't skimp on olives, olive oil, and the like--anything fresh and broiled or "Greek style" is worth the trip. Vegetarian dishes are on the menu, and special orders have never been a problem for me. The Angus and Skopelo's are often used in the same sentence, e.g. "Should we go to The Angus or Skopelo's?" In my opinion, Skopelo's has the reputation that The Angus should have, and I always answer that question with "The Angus". They also have on-site catering and banquet rooms, if you need them. 432-0539.

 

Highly recommended by (1) older denizens of P'cola, (2) those who look for fancy trappings, and (3) locals who don't get out that much, Skopelo's has a very good selection of well-prepared seafood and traditional (and quasi-traditional) Greek food, but I think their reputation is a bit exaggerated for menu items. The chef can, and does, however, make a mean "special request" dish (even if all you do is request more garlic, or more feta, or "more traditional"), depending on when you're there and who's cooking. It is, of course, the de rigueur restaurant to impress a date, and I must admit, I still recommend it to visitors (though not as the first choice). Special orders (whether vegetarian or not) can be done, but often aren't appreciated during busy times. They have catering and meeting rooms. 432-6565.

 

To be honest, I haven't been in The Coffee Cup in a couple of years. I should go back, because I used to love it so. HUGE breakfasts--some of the best omelets you'll ever encounter, with a staff that seems to have been brought in from a 1950's era diner movie. A local hangout for Pensacola politicians, movers, shakers, and poseurs, which is part of the reason I don't go more often. It IS funky, though, and you can't go wrong with the breakfast menu (if you CAN get in and be seated). 432-7060.

 

Excellent food, both meat and non-meat, this isn't a "diner" in the traditional mode. Vegetable selections are outstanding, usually fresh and not all fried, though the fried corn fritters, okra, and whatever else is fresh deserve a taste. Located in an old hospital building (which looks nothing like a hospital building, at least one built in the past 50 years). They appreciate wine (both for drinking and cooking), and several items (mushroom sandwich, corn fritters, black bean salsa) are exemplary. Casual atmosphere that seems formal, if that makes any sense. Don't expect waitstaff and hosts who will pretend to be courteous, because you won't find them most of the time. 433-7074.

 

Probably the best local place for pasta dishes, especially the walnut pesto-filled items. Excellent salads, pizzas, and most anything else on the menu. The New Yorker (named after all those damned framed copies of the magazine on the walls) is well known to some locals, and completely alien to most in Pensacola. That's probably good, because the dining areas aren't very big. The rumors of their demise (since the place pretty much burned a few years ago) are not true--they are, indeed, open, and remain excellent. They used to not take credit cards--I got so used to not even asking, I'm not sure if they do or don't anymore. 469-0029.

 

Sort of a rite of passage for anyone visiting (or living in) Pensacola, McGuire's Irish Pub is a restaurant/pub/bar/whatsit that you must visit, at least once, before you shuffle off this mortal coil--and, if you're in Pensacola as a tourist, there is no excuse for not going there once, because most every stranger who learns you've been to Pensacola will ask. Then, you'll either have to return to see if it was as extraordinarily good but baffling as you thought it was, or if it was as bizarre and troubling as your sobered-up mind remembers. And, trust me, that previous sentence will make sense once you've been there. My memory, and every reliable source, says the burgers, prime rib, and steak are ridiculously large and tasty--my recent experiences suggest that non-meat dishes (including the fresh seafood and vegetable/vegetarian) are never less than very good. If nothing else, McGuire's makes some very good beers, all on the site, and in view of the dining areas--they also have a wine cellar that will sap your food funds straight out of your grandchildrens' inheritence, if you do it right. You should expect to wait for a table at most any time. And, bring a dollar to deface and staple to the walls. They have an offsite catering business, and there is no chance in hell you can get reservations or private rooms, unless you are not a mere mortal. They also have the head of a moose on the wall that drunk people like to kiss, along with random shouts and bursts of glee and jigs. 433-2349.

 

Bagelheads has two Pensacola area locations: (1) on Gregory St near McGuire's (444-9661), and (2) on Nine Mile Road near University Parkway (478-7479)--I'm not sure what happened to the Pensacola Beach location.  Both are open 6-early AM through 2 PM (3 PM for drive-up purchase of leftovers) for bagels and breakfast stuff,  and both are open all nights but Monday and Tuesday with pizza. Obviously, being a bagel bakery, they have "regular" bagels, but they also have some items called "bagels" which are quite good, but not what you'd consider traditional--fruits, cheese, grains, spinach, seeds, and whatnot are added, and screw the traditionalists. And, it should be noted for you Northern visitors, no, they're not the typical tooth-cracking Jewish deli bagel you'll find in NYC.  I like them very much, given the alternatives. And, with or without alternatives, their night-time pizza offerings are very good (no delivery--pickup or dine only). My main complaint with the Nine Mile Road location (where I go, often) is their order fulfillment--expect to wait, and be annoyed. Really, they'll probably piss you off, simply because they don't seem to know what they're doing at any given time.

 


Downtown Pensacola, Seville Square, South of Civic Center/Gregory St.

 

Sushi, seafood, sandwiches, and eclectic but not too screwy entrees--I only wish this restaurant was located closer to my home so I could decide if I really love it, or if it's really overrated. The sushi is fair to very good, depending upon what you order--I've had variable experiences, but the Dragon Roll seems to be a good sushi roll choice at any time. Sandwiches (vegetarian/cheese and seafood) are tasty. I haven't been there for dinner. Also, I HAVE been there during downtown festivals, and I recommend eating inside, or not going in at all--their dining area and staffing don't seem to be able to handle much more than 90% occupancy. Decent beer selection, and "special" vegetarian orders don't seem to be a problem (unless it's during a downtown festival, in which case, you're lucky to be seated at all). 433-1275.

 

A few words to explain the schizophrenic rating above.  "The Fish House" and "Barracks Street Fish House" are the same restaurant and bar--everyone in Pensacola knows this entity as "The Fish House".  "Atlas Oyster Bar" is a restaurant set up by the same owners, in the same waterfront complex, as The Fish House. They have different menus, which are related to each other, and share resources.  That being said, my range of ratings is less related to the quality of the food and service as it is to the atmosphere. The food, with few exceptions, has been very good, and that includes both seafood and vegetarian dishes (I'm told that the meat dishes are adequate to good). You can expect, however, to overhear and sometimes be privy to more neo-conservative drivel than any liberal person should have to listen to. Joe Scarborough used to be (and maybe still is) a regular (and, I suspect, an investor), as are half the lawyers in Pensacola, along with every other pinstriped Newt Gingrich wannabe within 50 miles. The rooms carry the stench of post-Reagan-era egomania, at least from around 5 PM until 7 PM, on weekdays. Politics aside, though the vegetarian dishes may sound like they're free of meat, be sure to ask for details. The Fish House chef, Jim Shirley, has a regular column in the Pensacola News-Journal, in which he tends to work meat stocks and bacon into everything imaginable.

 


University Mall Area (Davis Hwy) to Ninth Avenue, PNS Airport Area, Cordova Mall Area, Nine Mile Road

 

Like most everything else in life, Jerry's Cajun (not to be confused with Jerry's Drive-In, which is completely different) has lost its allure, and its food quality, over the years. It's still good, usually, but the number of poor meals I've had are beginning to approach the number of great meals, and I'm losing faith. Jerry's Cajun expanded from a tiny storefront to a large free-standing "house" a few years ago, and Jerry (the owner) has expanded from a great chef to a possibly disinterested owner (does anyone remember Emeril when he was a GOOD chef?). Anyway, Jerry's Cajun still has pretty good po' boys, an increasingly disinterested waitstaff (sometimes bordering on hostile), and is mainly redeemed due to its Gulfuletta. This monstrosity is a seafood version (hence,  "Gulf"--get it?) of the esteemed artery-clogging mufuletta, and is unbelievably delicious. The po' boys are usually pretty good (crawfish, NOT fried), and the seafood platters are usually good, but I've noticed there's more batter in the past year or two than there is fish. In fact,  lately, I can GA-RON-TEE that any fried fish dish will be more like tempura than the "cajun" dishes Jerry's Cafe offers. Jerry's would have been if Jerry's was as good as it was just a couple of years ago. 484-6962.

 

Four Winds is the Pensacola cheese and gourmet/specialty foods market, which also offers made-to-order sandwiches, salads, cheeses, prepared entrees, and other. You can get some very good food there (in fact, there is no better source of cheese in Pensacola). However, you can also wish to jam an icepick into your eyes there. That's why I buy my cheeses and gourmet/specialty foods elsewhere. Four Winds has a wide selection of items, as well as some very good prepared foods. Unfortunately, the owner has chosen to sell these in a most obnoxious and sometimes inaccurate way. You can decide for yourself. Me, I stopped going a couple of years ago when the owner tried to wrap and sell me a chunk of blue cheese that started out as Maytag,  became "just as good as Maytag",  and ended up being "why do you insist on Maytag?".  Long story. Also, beware when shopping there that when someone says "I'll GIVE YOU this" or "Just try this",  it usually means they'll wrap it up and charge you for it. 477-2808.

 

A welcome respite from the chain restaurants which usually surround a mall, Tu-Do is somewhat ironically located in an old fast food restaurant building across Davis Hwy from University Mall. They offer typical Vietnamese and a few other southeast Asian dishes, as well as "special" orders, if you ask nicely. There is a fairly large vegetarian menu section, and special orders have not been a problem for me. If nothing else, this is the place to get your $5 or less noodle bowl with herbs and nuts. Or, for about the same price, a fantastic tofu dish. Not on the menu, but appreciated--you can sit and eat noodles and drink coffee, read a book, and no one will ask you to leave. 476-1778.

 

Located in a strip mall (the Winn-Dixie shopping center on Nine Mile), in the midst of an area that assumes pieces of raw fish are bait, this restaurant is constantly crowded because of its hibachi tables. Luckily, for lunch and dinner, there is a dining area where you can order both Japanese and some Chinese dishes, as well as the best sushi in Pensacola. There is a full Japanese dinner menu (noodles, tempura, teriyaki, etc.) as well as a full sushi bar for those not desiring the hibachi tables. For those who DO want the hibachi tables, they have several, and the chefs are quite limber and skilled. There is a back room for parties and catering. And, again, they have the best sushi and sashimi in town, and they're in a goddamned Winn Dixie shopping center!  479-9111.

 

Probably one of the places you'd ignore in most cases (which I did for years), Taco Rock has some quite authentic Mexican food, and a decor you haven't seen since the last time you had a bong.  I can't offer a website, since I don't know if they have one, and I can't offer a phone number, since I've never seen any employee answer one--I'm sure they have a phone, but it might only take quarters, or require hand cranking.  Anyway,  based upon my visits,  it must be authentic, because most of the customers are happily speaking Spanish and watching Mexican TV.  I've been religiously going back through the drive-through most Saturdays and ordering the vegetable burrito (not on the menu),  with potatoes--damned near cranium-sized, and about $4.50.  Also,  the "hot" salsa is actually hot,  and actually fresh.  This is not a place for a formal dinner, nor even a place to sit down in, if you're all fancy and whatnot. On US-29 (Pensacola Blvd),  just before the Brent Lane/Michigan intersection near Pensacola Christian College.  Also note--the drive-through speaker DOESN'T WORK,  so you should just drive up to the window.  Someone will be with you that day.

 

Part Mexican, part Costa Rican, on Nine Mile Road near Chan's, this place is better than most local Mexican joints. Vegetarian section of menu has about 5 items, but you can do more than that with special orders (and there is a meatless tamale). Also, shrimp dishes are pretty good, salsa is tasty and fresh, as is the guacamole. 475-8535.