You’ve seen those travel guides that say, “Tour (Insert random destination) on $30 a Day!”
Sounds great, huh? Well, that’s fine and dandy if you like scrounging bread from supermarkets, but not if you like a nice IPA on your travels — or are hauling the kids! We have so many wonderful restaurants in the Pensacola Bay Area, and there are plenty that offers flavorful fare without breaking your bank. Take a look at these fair-priced “fooderies” around Pensacola!
Beautiful sugar-colored quartz sand and the gorgeous Gulf make Pensacola Beach famous, one of the top-rated beaches in the nation. And there are plenty of restaurants that might not make the travel guides for a magnificent view or famous chefs, but you’ll find the food is fanciful.
Cosse's by the Beach
63 Via De Luna Drive
Classic and scrumptious New Orleans seafood dishes, po' boy sandwiches, and oysters in a relaxed setting.
Hemingway’s Island Grill
400 Quietwater Beach Rd. Suite 16
This is a great lunch spot on the sound. Specialty such as the Cuban Pressed sandwich. Sliced Cuban Roast Pork and Ham with Swiss cheese, dill pickle, whole-grain mustard and mayonnaise on pressed Cuban bread. Kid’s Menu! Great Mojito’s too!
45A Via De Luna Drive
You gotta get up early to beat the crowd for breakfast at this much-loved local nook. I never do, but it’s still worth the wait. Traditional breakfast fare and lovely burgers for lunch. Open every day for breakfast and lunch from 7:30-2.
Counter-served pizza by the slice and stuff, with cold brew and sodas. Great little nook for those with picky eaters along the boardwalk.
Paradise Bar & Grill
21 Via de Luna Dr
You can drive, walk up, paddle or boat to The Paradise, it’s a casual spot with great rock and even better food. Relax in a beach lounger or cozy up to the bar. Amazing burgers and casual fare. The Paradise Burger is a half-pound of goodness. Also smoked tuna dip, pork rinds, you peel-em shrimp and shrimp salad! They have the Impossible Burger too.
Sidelines Sports Bar & Restaurant
2 Via De Luna Drive
Go for their wing specials on Thursdays. There are too many types of delicious wings to list here, but other favorite menu items include the chunky grouper nuggets or the Pete Rose chicken — chicken topped with smoked ham and melted Swiss cheese.
The heart of downtown and its array of fabulous restaurants continue to lure foodies and fake foodies (like me) alike. While I can drop some coin on good food and appreciate fine dining, I honestly prefer a slice of pepperoni pie over a painstakingly-prepared foie gras. And among all this finery, there are good eats to be had without breaking the bank. Here are a few of my go-tos:
916 E Gregory St, Pensacola, FL 32502
A favorite breakfast and lunch coffee spot, right at the foot of the Pensacola Bay Bridge. Bagelheads features tons o’ fresh-made bagels, gourmet-infused cream cheeses and fancy meats. My fave bagel is the Super Cheddar, and there are plenty of specialty sandwiches too!
Big Top Brewery
21 W Romano Street
You want food with your brew? Renowned Pensacola chef Dano Dunn brought the brewery/restaurant combo to downtown Pensacola with Sarasota-based Big Top Brewing Company. There’s a circus theme to the menu, and Chef Dano brewed up some his creative, fun fair fare like Mullet fish sticks and fries with jalapeño malt vinegar tartar. It gets bigger and better with the Smoking Cannon Cuban pressed panini and The Juggler: oysters and brioche with arugula and that now-famous jalapeño tartar.
Dog House Deli
30 S Palafox Street
Long ago, when I was a broke reporter working for the News Journal, I would take a break between hurricanes (it was busy back in 2005) and run to the Dog House Deli for a chili dog and red beans-n-rice. Price: $4.50. Times have changed, for sure, but the Dog House still retains its value for a hearty meal, with umpteen choices of dogs, soups and sandwiches. Plus they have beautifully renovated the space, re-using materials from the old bistro. It’s my favorite lunchtime stop on Palafox!
End of the Line Cafe
610 E Wright St
Long before the Impossible Burger went mainstream, the great folks at End of the Line were making fantastic vegan fare that could trick my carnivorous palate into thinking there was tuna in the tuna salad. Their beer and wine selection is for real too.
210 Palafox Pl, Pensacola, FL 32502
It’s as if World of Beer grew a pizza (and a taco - see Taco Agave). Signature and craft pizzas, whole or by-the-slice! They also offer subs and comfort foods with beer and wine.
Single Fin Cafe
380 N 9th Ave, Pensacola, FL 32502
Simple surf-themed breakfast menu offering Acai bowls and the Dawn Patrol, a bacon-loaded egg croissant. The Barnyard, loaded hash browns, would either power an all-day surf session or send me into a carb and protein coma. Casual and crafted dinner fare, offering vegan-friendly black bean or Impossible tacos and burgers to carnivore-pleasing roast beef sandwiches and mahi-mahi tacos and more. It’s all delicious. Smoothies too!
200 S Palafox St, Pensacola, FL 32502
Tequila and tacos on Tuesday — or any day of the week! Taco Agave offers 10 types of international cart-style tacos. Tacos: steak, buffalo chicken, jerk and firecracker shrimp and the pink taco, with Gulf yellowfin tuna, are amongst my favorites.
If you want to see why we locals love to live here, explore East Pensacola. Just about every day, the Graffiti Bridge at the 17th Avenue Trestle gets a fresh coat of paint — messages of joy, love and hope from the folks who live here. It’s the gateway to an area with historic neighborhoods lined with live oak, quirky local eateries, antique shops and boutiques, bay bluffs, a bayou — and great swaths of parks and bike and walking paths.
There are plenty of good stops in East Hill, but I chose one stop for this piece — Tacos Mexicanos taco shack. Then you cross Bayou Texar into the epicenter of wonderful dining dives: East Pensacola Heights. All these spots are within a half-mile!
Calvert’s in The Heights
3102 E Cervantes St, Pensacola, FL 32503
The British-themed restaurant offers pub fare and the usual American wings, burgers and such, but I do really like the Shepherd’s Pie - a wholesome bowl of mashed potatoes and beefiness. Also the bangers & mash and beef Wellington!
3000 E Cervantes St
Georgio’s layers and layers on the cheese on its Greek-style meaty pizza with gyro meat, and serves up fried green tomatoes and gyros.
2815 E Cervantes St
This joint is a burger and shake throwback to old Pensacola dining. It first opened in 1939 as Jerry’s Barbecue, and you get that old-school feel inside. Jerry’s burgers, rings and shakes are a must, or the diner go-to, the chicken-fried steak.
The Magnolia Grill
2907 E Cervantes St
Mac n Cheese of the day, anyone? Open at 5 pm from Monday to Saturday, a daily gourmet Mac n Cheese is served along with daily white-board specials and hand-held favorites such as pimento grilled cheese and spam sliders. They also offer an amazing brunch on Sundays!
My Favorite Things
2813 E Cervantes St, Pensacola, FL 32503
It seems like a fun, urban version of a Cracker Barrel gift shop. But the eatery it houses is seriously good. Mostly open for breakfast and lunch, they fly their bagels and lox in from New York and whip up Belgian Waffles. Dinner is open Thursday to Saturday. The small, but diverse menu offers dishes like Tuna Tacos, a Black Bean Burger and a ribeye that is simply amazing.
New Yorker Deli & Pizzeria
3001 E Cervantes St
Often packed for lunch and dinner, for good reason. New Yorker Deli offers an insane variety of deli specialties, spaghetti and more. They are known for their housemade chicken and pasta salads, along with their pies and calzones. You can’t go wrong.
Scenic 90 Diner
701 Scenic Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32503
Affectionately known as the shiny diney, this restaurant is designed like a ‘50s era diner and is a local favorite for daily specials, from breakfast favorites to meatloaf and other comfort foods. Their shakes and malts are amazing. So is their freshly-squeezed OJ!
3000 North 12th Avenue
Started as a taco truck, serving the real deal. Grew some picnic tables and a big, faithful pack of local faithful. Flavorful carnitas tacos, beef barbacoa, brimming with cilantro and plenty more. Authentic goodness.
It’s the heart of old Pensacola’s working community and the home of some famous diners. Great food at a great price is still the norm here.
4145 Barrancas Ave, 32507
Open Thursday through Sunday, Cub’s offers boiled crawfish, gumbo and other spicy Cajun eats served in a basic roadside joint with funky decor.
The Elbow Room
2213 W Cervantes St, Pensacola,
I’ll admit I have never seen this place in daylight. It’s still wrapped in 70’s decor and red lighting, which is entirely the point. The Elbow Room has wonderful pizza, PBR and BAKED hamburgers that are incredible. Don’t worry, if PBR is not your thing, they have decent beers too!
Saigon Oriental Market
604 N Pace Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32505
Roasted pig, roasted duck, or Chinese BBQ pork anyone? Saigon also makes some of the best Pho you’ll find anywhere. Bánh Mì, Phở, Bún Bò Huế, Bún Riêu, Crispy Roast Pork, Chinese BBQ Pork and/or Roast Duck.
Taste of Jerusalem
707 N Pace Blvd Suite B, Pensacola, FL 32505
Lamb Kabob, Schnitzel, oxtail gyro and other flavors a wonderful combination of Middle Eastern, Israeli and Palestinian food.
Once a sleepy residential road, North Ninth Avenue has swelled with the growth of Pensacola. There are plenty of dining delights here, restaurants and bistros not concerned with the lure of downtown. This is where the locals eat.
6404 N 9th Ave
Recently named a “Top 100 Places to Eat in 2020” by Yelp, this tiny Venezuelan joint is no frills, but prepare yourself for the best charcoal-style rotisserie chicken with "sabrosos" Latin-inspired side dishes on this side of the Gulf. Try the Pollo en Salsa — Pulled Chicken Stew with mixed vegetables, served over rice and beans with tortillas. Or Tostones, deep fried mashed green plantains, topped with garlic-cilantro sauce, ground chicken, pico de gallo, cheese and seasoned sauce.
4880 N. 9th Ave, Pensacola, FL 32503
Much more than your typical sushi restaurant with hibachi, Sake Cafe expanded to a bigger home inside a former church. They offer a killer happy hour with half-price select rolls and drink specials, but invariably I stick around for dinner. The Sake Cafe roll tops the traditional roll with seafood, avocado, cream cheese and salmon and tuna. Also But the biggest surprise is the Jalapeño Popper. This is not the typical fried poppers you find in other places. Whole jalapeño peppers are hollowed out, cut in half and packed with crab and shrimp. It has a kick, but not too much. But the flavor. Wow.
5046 Bayou Blvd, Pensacola,
Poke, such a simple, wholesome way to dine. And you can order online (rhyme unintentional). Tuna, salmon, crab, spicy kani, edamame, scallion, seaweed salad … the whole bit. Choose your base, proteins, mix-ins, sauce, topping and crunch!
Pensacola’s northern corridor, the Nine Mile Road area, connects the north Pensacola communities of Bellview, Beulah and Cantonment (inexplicably pronounced “Can-Tone-Ment” y’all). But you will find some seriously good eats and unique local flavors here — many of them tucked into little nooks dotting the bustling thoroughfare.
10015 N Davis Hwy. Pensacola
Located on the University of West Florida campus, Boneheads offers fire-grilled burgers that you can build your own. Must-tries: Piri Mushroom Burger, BBQ Burger, Philly Burger and more! Also on the menu is fresh grilled seafood and sides for a fair price. Make sure you try their many sauces.
Petrella's Italian Cafe
2174 W 9 Mile Rd, Pensacola, FL 32534
This quaint diner offers genuine casual Italian fare and weekly specials. The stuffed flounder special on Fridays with angel hair pasta and garlic wine sauce is to die for. Or you can’t go wrong with Saturday’s Ziti Laurie — Ziti tossed with grilled chicken, onion, bell pepper, tomato, mushroom, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan.
Sammy Barker’s American Street Food
875 E 9 Mile Rd, Pensacola, FL 32514
Its flavors can take you far away to Coney Island, the boardwalk where Brooklyn-ers go to forget they live in Brooklyn. Sammy Barkers twists up the Coney Island hot dogs and other tasty street fares, like the Pensaconey, dripping with pimento cheese, Applewood bacon sauce and sweet potato hay. Sammy Barker’s puts its own carney twist on street tacos, burgers and wurst, with the beer brat as my fave.
The name means “Lost Key” and according to legend, around 1693, Spanish explorer Sigüenza’s fleet found a lost passage, located near the present-day Alabama-Florida state line, only after being helped by a local Native American chief. Having found the mysterious bay, they named it and the adjacent barrier island “Perdido,” which means “lost” or “hidden.”
Now luxurious condos pepper the pristine coastline, but the eateries that call Perdido home share a similar recipe: serve great food and treat guests like family.
Hub Stacey's at The Point
5851 Galvez Rd.
Hub Stacy’s at The Point — The western waterfront cousin of Hub’s is on Galvez Landing at Innerarity Point. Beautiful view and great sandwiches, priced right! Live music weekly too.
Flora-Bama Lounge & Package
17401 Perdido Key Drive
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 for decades. And they serve food, too! The beachfront oyster bar serves up burgers, wraps, and po-boys that are quick, easy and oh so good.
This just goes to show, no matter what part of the Pensacola Bay Area you’re exploring, you’ll find all kinds of flavorful fare for a fair price too. So save your dimes and get to tasting!