Once a sleepy residential road, North Ninth Avenue has swelled with the growth of Pensacola.
Ninth Ave is a major commuter and residential road now, a hectic 4-lane vein flowing past Pensacola State College, Sacred Heart Hospital and Cordova Mall that connects north Pensacola residences and businesses with downtown and Pensacola Bay.
But slow down and you’ll notice there are plenty of dining delights here, restaurants and bistros not concerned with the lure of downtown. This is where the locals eat.
Let’s start at the southern end and move northward, starting with a surprisingly amazing casual fare inside a surf and skate shop, to fine-dining family fare. There is plenty of traffic-stopping eats along this thoroughfare.
Let’s roll, Ninth Avenue Eats!
Single Fin Cafe
The staff at Waterboyz Surf & Skate Shop was always keen to recommend the SPF 50 Sun Bum whenever my still-too-pale-for-Florida skin would stop by for paddleboard supplies. Then to my surprise, I saw the cafe tables. At first, I stuck with the 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.
The Single Fin Cafe has grown and expanded its offerings with casual dinner fare, shifting the surf and skate gear upstairs while leaving the downstairs to the café, and surf and skate fashion. The menu is casual and crafted, 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. Their smoothies are too!
Friday nights are the best with Open Mike Night — anything from rising young talent and stand-up to acoustic crooners and full-blown electric bands. And on Sundays, the surfers whip up a mean brunch, with bottomless pineapple/oj mimosas… Surf’s up!
The Hot Spot BBQ
I really don’t need to share the address for Hot Spot. All you need to do is roll down your windows and hang a hard right when you hit the delicious scent pumped out by the massive hickory smoker on the corner of Ninth.
You are on a cheat day for your diet, right? Ok cool. Let’s eat.
Hot Spot BBQ offers dine-in, carry out and catering. Their barbecue is a special dry-rub and cooked in outdoor smokers. Nothing complicated. Pork plate, chicken plate. Brisket. Ribs. You really can’t go wrong here. And for the health-conscious diners… Nothing is deep-fried, so there you go. Your diet is safe!
Bonelli’s Cafe Italia
The Bonelli family offers Italian tradition and Southern charm, tucked into Pensacola’s East Hill neighborhood. The restaurant is expanding its patio to create a beautiful outdoor dining atmosphere along with the cozy inside dining. The remodeling is set to be finished in November. Still, the inside feels like you’re at home with family, and that’s entirely the goal. This is what makes Bonelli’s family-crafted Italian fare one of the local favorite spots.
Try the Shrimp il Diavolo appetizer: Shrimp decked with tomatoes, Sal’s red sauce and a spicy setting that you can dial up from mild to Gina’s hot and … (scary) ghost pepper.
Aglio Olio pasta was a favorite of mine when I lived in Sicily, and Bonelli’s delivers with Roman’s Dirty Oil & Garlic. You can dress it up from vegan to meaty, with chicken or wild-caught Gulf shrimp.
And if your arteries can handle it, try the four-cheese packed, red-sauce soaked Joey’s Baked Ravioli, smothered in parmesan and mozzarella. There goes my EKG…
Much more than your typical sushi and hibachi restaurant, Sake Cafe expanded to a bigger home inside a former church. Needless to say, it has cathedral ceilings …
Bali-born owner-chef Wayan Sumadi and crew serve up some of the best sushi in town. They are a 10-time winner of the locals’ best sushi choice in the Pensacola News Journal’s Best of the Bay Awards. Sake Café offers a killer happy hour with half-price select rolls and drink specials, but invariably I stick around for dinner.
Try the Sake Cafe roll - which tops a traditional roll with seafood, avocado, cream cheese and salmon and tuna. Also, ask for a Tara Roll, it’s not on the menu but Chef Wayan will make it for you. You won’t be disappointed… Trust me. And if you’re feeling spicy, order the Jalapeño Popper. This is not the typical fried popper you find in other places. Rather, whole jalapeño peppers are cut in half, hollowed out and packed with crab and shrimp and then flash-fried. It has a kick, but not too much. But the flavor. Wow.
The traditional Italian pizzeria opened in 2004 with a special shipment from Italy: a 2-ton, 500-degree, hardwood-fired oven made of brick, pumice and clay. (This was not ordered on Amazon Prime).
Fresh homemade dough is prepped daily here, with a zesty crafted marinara sauce. Insert Italian-style pie here and they wood-fire it up for you, with a fresh chewy crust.
For a spicy side, try the Ricardo Pizza with spicy sausage, Capicola traditional Italian cold-cut ham and jalapeños… you’ll thank me later.
George Bistro & Bar
George Bistro & Bar created a reputation in the restaurant-packed downtown area with its finely crafted menu and gourmet weekend brunch, so it was a sweet surprise for many when it moved to its current location on North Ninth Avenue.
Nothing else has changed, and no corners cut. It’s still the excellent George Bar & Bistro that has spoiled the downtown crowd. Open seven days a week, with a weekend brunch and dinner, George Bar & Bistro offers fine dining with a family atmosphere.
George is famous for its brunch. The short rib omelet is their specialty, with caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms. But we love our seafood here, so the Coastal Omelette is a must with crab, shrimp, tomatoes, Gruyère cheese, spiced with avocado cilantro lime jalapeño sauce & fresh pico.
Sure, George prepares a crafted entree with a Chairman’s Reserve Split Ribeye and Greek-seasoned Lamb Chops, but you’ll never take the sandwich out of me. Try the Bonita’s Lobster Roll with Maine lobster, basil aioli and drizzlings.
Have a favorite place on 9th Avenue that we forgot to mention? Tell us below!