- Larry Nov 30, 2002 08:52 PM
I'm going to be in Pensacola on business for a few days. What are the best restaurants, any cuisine?
Try McGuire's Irish Pub. They have great fern bar fare, brew their own beer, and make the world's best onion rings.
McGuires is great. If you want something a little more upscale try Skopelos, Jacksons or Jamies.
I acknowledge that the original poster queried our collective knowledge years ago, but I think Pensacola gets little face time on Chowhound, and in that spirit (and also based on nicolaco's recent post) here goes:
DHARMA BLUE -- For my money, if I still lived in Pensacola, I would still be eating sushi every Monday night at Dharma Blue ($2 off every roll). In addition to having an attractive "artsy-Gulf" decor, the seafood (especially the sushi) is very consistent, and the prices, while not cheap, are reasonable. Dharma is easily among the best sushi I have had outside of Japan. (Side note: despite various other attempts, sushi anywhere else in Pensacola is deplorable, and I strongly recommend against going anywhere else, especially the other "upscale" sushi joints (including Horizen), where you will be charged just as much, if not more, for sushi one-third as good.)
GLOBAL GRILL -- On a Friday or Saturday night, I would head for tapas at Global Grill on Palafox. Although nothing on the menu will make you want to move to Pensacola, everything I have eaten there is above average (especially by Pensacola standards), the ambience is very nice (complete with a jazz musician on the weekend nights [and maybe also some nights during the week]), the service is friendly, if not always polished, and the wine list is decent. As an added bonus, if you are past the age where you need to be drunk off your face to talk socially to a member of the opposite sex [i.e., over 30], the bar scene at Global Grill is the best in the city (second only to Jackson's, perhaps [see below]). While admittedly they are few, the beautiful people of Pensacola come here to have a drink or ten on the weekend nights for sure.
JW'S INTRACOASTAL GRILL -- If you have time on your hands and don't mind a beautiful 45-minute drive west to Perdido Key, I would send you to my favorite restaurant in the entire area (and a find I was proud of up until my departure from Pensacola a few months ago): JW's Intracoastal Grill in one of the marinas on Perdido Key overlooking the water and Alabama on the other side. (At almost every sunset, you will spot dolphins bobbing and weaving their way back out to sea.) A small seafood shack with the freshest seafood and a gorgeous view: this is the only way to sum it up. JW, the owner, worked in the restaurant business for years before finally scraping together enough money to open this place up almost two years ago now. He gets his fish from a very small supplier, and nothing he serves is ever more than two days old. As such, his inventory is always low, and he may not be able to offer everything on the menu on the particular day you're there. However, if they can bring it before you, you can be guaranteed that the quality is first-rate -- and the flavor, consequently, is always mind-blowing. Pensacola is infamous for having incredibly mediocre seafood restaurants (most of them overpriced), given its location and fishing heritage. JW's bucks this trend and then some. You can e-mail me for directions (I don't think you can find it on the Web or elswhere) or you can call the restaurant directly: (850) 497-1761. Best during sunset.
JACKSON'S -- Jackson's is Pensacola's "fancy" restaurant. The food here, like at Global Grill, is above average, as are the prices. Jackson's has the typical $25-$30 entrees which "fancy" restaurants have, with the white tablecloths, the decor, and general ambience to match. I would go to Jackson's with clients to let them know I'm taking them to a "special" place -- the food will not be a disaster, and the service is friendly. Or, I would take my fiancee there to propose to her. Other than that, while Jackson's is pleasant enough, there is better food to be had in Pensacola for cheaper prices. Regarding the bar scene: all of the beautiful people of Pensacola who don't fit at the Global Grill bar (or feel a tad too old for that bar) make their way over to Jackson's bar.
THE FISH HOUSE -- The Fish House is Pensacola's most overrated restaurant and the only place I mention only to advise you to steer away -- far away. In my opinion, the Fish House has been trading on (1) its view; (2) its sleek decor; and (3) its excellent advertising for quite some time to pack all those folks in. Everything on the menu is incredibly overpriced, and all of the food is mediocre, at best. The Fish House is not as "fancy" as Jackson's, but the prices are almost equal. Despite that, people find the Fish House approachable for the same reasons they find Outback approachable: they have bare wood picnic-style tables, the servers are dressed in jeans -- how expensive could it possibly be? Soon after, they are saddled with an $80 check for a mediocre dinner for two with no wine. If you are concerned with food, do not eat at the Fish House, and, above all, don't even eye the sushi menu.
MCGUIRE'S -- McGuire's is hands-down the most well-known restaurant in Pensacola. Go once. Yes, you have to. (Has anyone ever been to Orlando without going to Disney World?) The beers are good, the "Irish" fare is edible, and the entertainment is first-rate. Don't waste your money on the $28 NY Strip or any other expensive entree. Choose an entree in the $10-$15 range, quaff a tasty beer, kiss the moose, and you're sure to have a memorable night once you put the check in the box for McGuire's.
ZEA RESTAURANT -- This small chain of restaurants from the New Orleans area is one of the best chains, large or small where I have ever eaten -- and the store in Pensacola is no exception. After JW's and Dharma Blue, Zea's serves the most consistently good food in the area: thumbs way up. The best deals are to be had at lunch, or, generally, off the lunch menu (I believe you can order off the lunch menu for dinner), but everything on the menu is executed very well, and never lacking seasoning. Most of the menu has a Cajun/Creole influence, but nothing I have had there has had that trying-too-hard-to-be Cajun/Creole feel to it. I would recommend the rotisserie chicken, any of the beef plates, and the red beans and rice. As close to a slice of New Orleans heaven as you can get in Pensacola.
SHRIMP BASKET -- If, and only if, you're feeling a hankerin' for fried fish done consistently well, head to the Shrimp Basket (note there are two locations, both equally good). The place looks like a bad fast-food chain, but the fried fish (go on the all-you-can-eat night if you can) is very, very hard to beat. It's never greasy, and always hot and crispy on the outisde. You'll enjoy it.
In response to BoboPolo: in my opinion, the only reason to go to New York Nick's is to watch a sporting event AFTER you've gone anywhere else in the city (including McDonald's) for a very, very, very filling meal. I should state that I have had many memorable evenings (days?) watching sports with many of my friends at New York Nick's -- this place is great for this -- but each event has never not been (almost) ruined by the absolutely terrible food I have been served. If you are a Chowhound, and only interested in good food, go elswehere.
I was just driving through Pensacola on the 29th. We went to a place called Jerry's Drive-In. It's apparently been around since 1939 and it's a cool old place. They're known for their hamburgers and seafood dishes. We loved it! There's all kinds of stuff on the walls and ceiling. And it's cheap!
Jerry's Drive-In is a local favorite, along with Marina Oyster Bar (some of the best raw oysters for a reasonable price-and other great seafood). Every time I go back to Pensacola I eat at both of these places.
Fish House, Maguire's, Global Grill, and Skopelos are all great (more up scale) places previously mentioned.
Eat! on Palafox downtown is my favorite upscale restaurant. Their flourless chocolate dessert is absoluetly delicious. They also have a Chef's table, which I have never tried.
Another new addition to downtown is Hop Jack's. They have a great beer selection in tap. The Beliguim fries are wonderful- they are fried in duck fat and come with a mayonnaise-garlic-y sauce (and they are great with Dogfish Head 60 or 90 minute IPA).
Anybody reading this heading for Pensacola...McGuire's has always been tops. Also, my Dad & Brother just recently moved from Pensacola, and all they talk about is how much they miss Sonny's BBQ. I went there once back in 2004...it was pretty good. Firehouse Subs is great for lunch. If you like asian fare, if they still exist, Yamato's and Hunan were always my favorites.