Some names and places along Perdido Key have changed since I was the roving editor for The Pelican, a friendly weekly rag that covered all things food and fun on Perdido Key. The Reef is gone. The Flora-Bama Lounge grew some restaurants.
Today, more luxurious condos pepper the pristine coastline, but the eateries that grace Perdido Key all share a similar recipe: serve great food and treat guests like family.
First, many call their addresses “Perdido Key,” but officially on your GPS, it’s Pensacola. Just don’t tell them that!
I called (ok, IM’d) Jen and John McKernan, old friends of mine who still live on the key to share that local flavor. And their first stop? A truck.
Deep Blue Seafood Truck
The Deep Blue Seafood truck is a locals’ favorite lunch stop on the key, at Johnson Beach Road and Perdido Key Drive (where The Reef used to stand). Jen says they serve the best Po’ Boys along Perdido, thanks to lovingly-prepared fresh seafood and Gambino’s bread. Try the shrimp and snapper sliders, or the Seafood Philly, dripping with shrimp, snapper, onions, peppers and mozzarella.
Driving towards Perdido Key, if you aim at the Theo Baars Bridge and miss, you’ll land at Fisherman’s Corner. The little shack along the Intracoastal Waterway serves up some great casual Cajun Creole eats. The favorite: New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, which features jumbo shrimp sautéed in Yuengling, creole-herb seasoning and garlic butter.
Years ago, Lillian’s served award-winning pizza out of a little beachfront shack along Perdido Key. Then along came a condo proposal, and Lillian sold the shack. But the pizza didn’t stop there. She moved across the street and built a bigger place. They still make pizza dough every morning and concoct secret flavors. Lillian’s has been featured in Pizza Today Magazine and gained national attention with its award-winning seafood pizza.
Jellyfish brought cultured flavors of martinis and sushi to the Key in the wave of growth following Hurricane Ivan in 2004. It still retains a casual attitude, but the sushi is among the best you’ll find along the Pensacola Bay Area. The reason: fresh Gulf Coast seafood.
There are also oyster specials and seafood, such as pecan-encrusted grouper, and prime rib, meatloaf and ribeye for land-lubbers. And cocktails? Oh yes, try the Lost Key Lemonade with Tito’s or my favorites, the Jameson Green Tea and Loaded Bloody Mary.
Hub Stacey's at The Point
Unlike its Downtown Pensacola location, you can get to Hubs by boat or paddleboard!
Perched on Galvez Landing, The Point offers great sandwiches, localized to the Key’s unique flavor. Live music and an expansive deck make it a great hangout as you watch the boats and barges cruise the Intracoastal Waterway.
Across the south side of the canal — carefully traversing the boat traffic — you can find Sunset Grille at Holiday Harbour Marina. (Why the extra “e” on Grill, folks? This is Perdido Key!) The Grill(e) has a commanding view of the Intracoastal Waterway and a fantastic sunset. Specialty sandwiches include a Grouper Reuben and Sunset Fish Tacos. And a full bar helps the sun go down.
Flora-Bama Lounge & Package
We all know about the honky-tonk bar on the state line where mullet fly and everyone’s cares go away. The Flora-Bama offers live music 365 days a year and has for decades. They also serve food! The beachfront oyster bar serves up burgers, wraps, po-boys and, um, oysters. Try the Bacon & BBQ Fire-Roasted Oysters – chargrilled Louisiana oysters finished with Sriracha-cured bacon, butter, New Orleans BBQ sauce and cheese.
Flora Bama Yacht Club
Across the street from the legendary lounge is the Flora-Bama Yacht Club, which offers a more upscale menu with creative seafood dishes, cocktails and live music. The Yacht Club is located on the bank of Old River, so customers can come by car, boat or paddleboard. The restaurant also offers a “Hook & Cook” program for any fisherman coming off the water. Favorites: Try the Blackened Gulf Tripletail, served with creamy Cajun dirty rice and steamed local vegetables and topped with Orleans sauce.
Flora Bama Ole River Grill
Adjacent to the Flora Bama Yacht Club, the Flora-Bama Ole River Grill is also accessible by water and offers a family-friendly vibe with large, outdoor decks, big screens and a beautiful waterfront view. The restaurant offers classic seafood dishes, po-boys, burgers and desserts. Favorites: The Keylime Shrimp which is tossed in a spicy Blue Chair Bay Lime sauce and the Oysters McClellan – the Flora Bama’s original grilled oyster topped with green onion, bacon and smoked Gouda.
Lost Key Golf Club Restaurant
Lost Key Golf Club has a challenging, award-winning course, but as a non-golfer, I say skip all that stress and go straight to the restaurant. It’s a popular stop for breakfast and lunch with fine casual fare and happy hour specials so you can really enjoy watching others feed their golf habit.
The Crab Trap
Kin to the Destin and Fort Walton restaurants, the beachfront Crab Trap is a great spot for a casual lunch or family beach day – with a boardwalk leading to its back porch. Great family spot with a playground and a special menu designed just for kids, along with seafood specials for the adults.
Perdido Key Oyster Bar & Marina
Dockside along the expansive marina at Intracoastal Waterway mile marker 31, the Oyster Bar has been a mainstay for years for casual waterfront dining. Serving oysters on the half-shell, steamed, blackened or Rockefeller-ed, the oyster bar also offers classics such as market fish specials and Blackened Oscar.
Know that you're drooling on your screens, it's time for a food tour! Be sure to try and tell us your favorite dishes below.