Friends, you are tired. You can admit it. Tired, and maybe even a little... bored. You crave a change of pace and scenery, but more than anything, you want to experience new flavors! It is so easy to get into a food rut, when you are having to eat at the same restaurants, or worse, cooking the same dishes day in and day out. It's time to expand your culinary horizon, and there is no better place to do that than in the Pensacola Bay Area. What better way to recharge you batteries than to spend an entire weekend focused solely on good food? I've even put together an itinerary for you, so no excuses!
Friday Food Itinerary
Assuming you arrive on Friday evening, you definitely want to time your arrival before dinner (Squeeze in every meal possible, people.). After a day of traveling, you probably want something that is cozy and comforting, making Fisherman's Corner in Perdido Key the perfect dinner spot. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite restaurants in Pensacola because the restaurant is as charming as the food is delicious. From their unassuming, roadhouse-like exterior, you would never know that a chic Creole dining experience awaits you. Start off with something from their extensive wine list and maybe the smoked tuna dip or the corner crab cake. Then, you absolutely must order the shrimp and grits, which is basically heaven in a bowl. They roll their gouda grits in panko bread crumbs, deep fry them and then place this ball of goodness in a magical sauce filled with fresh gulf shrimp and Creole sausage. If you think you can soldier on, and I encourage you to try, order the bread pudding. You will not regret this decision, no matter how full you are. Looking for a post-feast nightcap? The famous Flora-Bama Lounge is only a few minutes up the Key, and they can make just about any drink you can dream up.
Saturday Food Itinerary
Start your Saturday with a European flair at George Artisan Bistro in Downtown Pensacola. Chic and sophisticated, it is the perfect place to sip your latte and ease into your day. They have several very popular omelettes, and their traditional French toast always makes use of seasonal fruits and flavors. You can't go wrong at George's, but I would recommend the savory bread pudding benedict. The bread pudding is made of biscuit and baguette with bacon, leeks, thyme and gruyere cheese. As if that is not enough, they top it with a poached egg and chive cayenne hollandaise. Get the parmesan truffle potatoes as your side. You're welcome.
After breakfast, head over to Palafox Street in Downtown Pensacola and walk through the rows of artisans, crafters and bakers at Palafox Market. Once you've made your way through the market, continue right down Palafox to enjoy the many shops, boutiques and art galleries. By the time you reach Main Street, you'll probably be thinking about lunch! How convenient that your little stroll took you right to Al Fresco, an open-air dining experience with four restaurants, each run out of an airstream trailer! This is perfect for parties with varying tastes, because between the chicken and waffles, tacos, barbeque and Asian food, there's something for everyone! My choice is almost always Z Taco, because who turns down tacos? My go-tos are Paco's taco and the signature z taco. Paco's taco is a delicious, fried mahi-mahi, while the z taco has slow roasted pork carnitas topped with pickled red onion, sautéed poblano peppers and their diablo queso. Throw in their chips and salsa, and this is a solid win, friends.
Stay downtown and take a culinary trip around the world at The Global Grill. The menu for this tapas-style restaurant has influences from all around the world, thanks to its Army brat chef and owner, Frank Taylor. Growing up on military bases around the world has given Chef Taylor an appreciation for various cultural flavors, which he seamlessly blends with traditional gulf coast fare. Since it's a tapas restaurant, you can try everything from the lamb lollipops with Israeli couscous to the lobster wontons. But one of my favorite dishes would have to be Chef Taylor's famous New Orleans-style barbecue gulf shrimp served on French bread and topped with a Creole butter sauce. Chef Taylor is also quite the fisherman, and his fresh catches often find their way onto the menu. You can't go wrong with any of the desserts, but I'm slightly in love with the carrot cake stack with candied pecans, pumpkin ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. It's the stuff that dreams are made of, friends. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks Global is awesome. Florida Trend Magazine has given Global Grill one of their coveted Golden Spoon awards five years in a row. How's that for an endorsement?
Sunday Food Itinerary
Sundays were made for brunch on the beach, and nobody does it better than the Hilton. At the Hilton's main restaurant H2O, Chef Dan Dunn changes it up every week, offering an inventive main dish like flounder roulades with jambalaya and andouille cornbread dressing-stuffed quail. They also have the brunch standards at their five buffet stations, including pastries, omelets, fresh seafood, salads and even prime rib. Then, my friends, we have the bloody mary bar. Yes, they had to devote an entire table to the bloody mary because where else would they put the more than 30 garnishes? Chef Dano, as most know him, is usually on hand, chatting with the regulars (of which there are many) and introducing himself to the new folks. Not only is he an incredible chef, but he's also a talented photographer and artist. He's the perfect ambassador for Pensacola Beach because he, basically, is Pensacola Beach. Quirky, cool, laid-back and friendly, but so much more than you see on the surface. He might actually have salt water running through his veins. Be sure to introduce yourself to hear some awesome stories. Then, once you've stuffed yourself to the point of physical pain, take 10 steps out the door and you're on the beach - the perfect spot for a post-brunch nap.
After brunching it up at the Hilton, you probably won't be ready to eat at lunchtime, so I would suggest skipping lunch and opting for an early dinner. At 3:30 or so, (they close at 5 p.m. on Sundays) I would head over to Five Sisters Blues Cafe in the Belmont Devilliers District, just a few blocks west of Palafox Street in Downtown Pensacola. The self-described "heart and soul food" restaurant's name is an homage to the owner's mother and aunts. A few of their amazing menu items are even attributed to the sister who pioneered the dish like Aunt Cora's blue crab cakes and Aunt Sara's southern fried chicken. Though I've never had anything there that I didn't like, my go-to is always the chicken and waffles. I don't know what Aunt Sara did to that chicken, but it is absolutely incredible. And, for dessert, you can't go wrong with the banana bread pudding. Unless you get it without their homemade ice cream on top. That would be wrong.
Now, that you have your trip planned (You're welcome), all you have to do is book your flight and your hotel room! Oh, and be sure to pack your stretchiest pants. You can thank me later for that one.