There’s just something special about sharing a good meal with family and friends. My mother recently traveled from Atlanta to spend time with me here in Pensacola. As I helped her unload her car full of eight suitcases – yes, I said eight – the first thing she said was “Hurry up and get my luggage up the stairs. Yo momma is hungry!” And Lord knows you should never cross a hungry woman… So I decided to show her some of my favorite spots around town that have blessed my soul with delicious food, friendly service and an experience that you can only get here in Pensacola.

In my time in Pensacola, I've been fortunate to dive into some outstanding dishes and order rounds of to-die-for drinks and I want to share with you a few of my go-to restaurants that are hidden gems. These places won’t necessarily always show up as top choices on Google when looking for tasty dining, but give these five restaurants a try and I guarantee that you’ll have an Instagram-worthy food experience.

1. Who in the world can pass up a good-old-fashion burger?

Located in the historic the Belmont-DeVilliers district in Downtown Pensacola, Blue Dot Barbecue is home to the best hamburger in all the land. Open only for lunch, the joint certainly isn’t Cinderella’s castle, but there is always a steady stream of traffic flowing and the burger will make you want to slap yo mama! The juices from this cheese-less burger combined with the onion, mayo and mustard are simply heaven in a greasy bun. Blue Dot also sells a rib sandwich that puts McDonalds’ McRib to complete and utter shame. Come with cash; you’ll be SOL if you don’t! Blue Dot Barbecue Blue Dot hamburger pictured

2. I’m a sucker for a good meal and a perfect view.

Red Fish Blue Fish Restaurant on Pensacola Beach will not only provide you with some of the best southern-style dining in Northwest Florida, but will give you a place to kick back and watch countless beautiful sunsets overlooking the Santa Rosa Sound with a glass of wine or a Bushwacker in hand. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining areas, a stylish cocktail bar and patio and a food menu full of a variety of choices. If you can brave the chilly weather this holiday season, I highly recommend that you drive on down to experience delicious seafood with a beach view If that usually only comes with a premium price.

3. Looking for a more casual place to take the family this holiday season?

I suggest putting Polonza Bistro on the top of your list while here in the Pensacola Bay Area. This restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday, and will steal the heart after your first visit. I can’t tell you how many times I have had lunch at Polonza Bistro with fellow co-workers, friends and yes, creepy blind dates. From slamming pancakes and incredible coffee in the morning, to mouth-watering sandwiches and daily specials for lunch (go on a Thursday, you absolutely must try their Chicken Pot Pie), Polonza Bistro provides extra scrumptious options that will leave you satisfied until you come right back the next day for more.

4. Trying to watch those calorie intakes before putting on that New Year’s dress or tuxedo?

Ever'man Natural Foods is a co-op based, nonprofit grocery store with the top organic ingredients in town. The Ever'man Deli has great selections for those who have dietary restrictions or want to shed a few pounds before beach-body season comes around. The store’s organic produce, meats, juices and desserts will have your body feeling like a million bucks. I’ve had some of the best sub sandwiches and cookies any food junkie could ask for. Dining healthy will never feel so good until you give this place a try.

5. Finally, one of the coolest venues to dine in the Pensacola Bay Area is actually located inside the world-famous National Naval Aviation Museum.

Cubi Bar Café is not only a restaurant, but a popular museum exhibit for anyone looking to take in the history and culture of naval aviation. From the moment you step foot inside, you’ll realize that this dining location is like no other. Most of the menu items are named as a tribute to aviation, and I highly recommend the Chicken Pita Pilot. You will fly to the sky with their sandwiches, soups and wine. Cubi Cafe Got any suggestions? If you’ve experienced a great dish that you want to highlight, or you have an off-the-beaten-path go-to spot we should try in the Pensacola Bay Area, then tag, mention or highlight us on social media and get the word out! Gotta run! Momma’s moved onto desserts now… Stay tuned for my top picks!

By Javon Lloyd