You won’t find much fancy, white-linen dining along Pensacola’s northern corridor, Nine Mile Road. But it’s certainly packed with flavor.
Nine Mile Road 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 — many of them tucked into little nooks of businesses dotting the bustling thoroughfare.
The stretch of Alternate Route US 90, called Nine Mile Road because it’s nine miles north of Main Street, has the University of West Florida at the east end, and the Perdido River Preserve as it merges with US 90 near the Alabama state line.
So let’s take a culinary road trip on the Nine Mile side — just not at rush hour, please!
Find Your True Grits — and Blend Your Own Flavors
True Grit American Bistro
6675 Pine Forest Rd #12, Bellview, FL 32526
First off, let’s make a pit stop off US 90 and Pine Forest, where we can find True Grit American Bistro. The unique concept opened in February with a build-your-own plate from a variety of home-cooked menu items.
There’s craft beer in bottles and cans, and wine by the glass or bottle. But first, let’s eat!
You start with the base: stone-ground gouda grits, Bistro Mac or “Sammich” — a hearth-based baguette.
Then you add the toppings. This where it gets interesting. True Grit has its recipe of toppings, and I couldn’t take my eyes off Big Lagoon, a blend of grilled Gulf shrimp, smoked sausage, sweet peppers and the like, topped with a Cajun cream sauce. Another big hit with the locals is Angry Bird, a spicy buffalo sauce with cheddar and buttermilk ranch.
Or you can Create Your Own Sammich: pick from a mess of grilled proteins like Angus beef, bacon, carnitas, chili and such, then add Farm Fresh veggies and cheese toppings, and finally, the sauces: Buffalo, beer cheese, Poblano Queso. The flavors can morph into craziness.
From someone who routinely goops chili on French fries, and once tried to put my mother’s liver dish in a sandwich with ketchup to make it edible (our Weimaraner saved me just in time), this could get dangerous. Technically, you can create a Mac-n-Cheese steak sandwich and top it with buffalo sauce. But should you?
Nope. I’ll stick with the chef-blended seafood in the Big Lagoon — over Mac-n-Cheese!
Low Country Boilin’ at Red Crab Juicy Seafood
204 E. Nine Mile Road, Pensacola
Fetch your fancy Jorts, Crocs and roll up your sleeves — there’s a low-country boil firing up on Nine Mile.
The words “Juicy” and “Seafood” don’t seem to fit, until you walk into this casual joint, then you’ll see the “juicy” in the seafood. A soccer ball-sized boiling bag of Cajun-spiced crab, shrimp and fixins drips savory juices as the server plops it on the paper table cover. It’s time to dig in, Cajun style.
Juicy serves up the Southern-style seafood boils (or steamed), with a blend of spices — hot, mild, spicy or garlic — adorning crab, mussel, crawfish, lobster, shrimp, clam or sausage. Their specialty is crab, including local blue crab, snow and king crab and the West Coast favorite, Dungeness.
Naturally, a nice cold brewski will help you wash it down. Save the potatoes for last — they soak up the spices into a lethally tasty concentrate.
Sammy Barker’s American Street Food
875 E 9 Mile Rd, Pensacola, FL 32514
Phone: (850) 912-6000
The Pointe Park Plaza has a gaggle of unique bistros tucked into its complex.
Let’s start with Sammy Barker’s American Street Food. Its flavors can take you far away to Coney Island, the boardwalk where Brooklyners go to forget they live in Brooklyn.
Sammy Barkers twists up the Coney Island hot dogs and other tasty street fare, like the Pensaconey, dripping with pimento cheese, Applewood bacon sauce and sweet potato hay.
They add a real carney twist on street tacos, burgers and wurst, with the beer brat as my fave. Then, there’s the staple: good ol’ grilled cheese melts. Sammy B’s smothers the White Pizza Melt with mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, parmesan and garlic oil. You might want to do some healthy heart stuff afterwards as penance for your ticker.
There’s plenty of draft craft to choose from, and a rows of community tables and an 18-seat bar. It’s like a taste of Brooklyn, without the accents and attitude!
The Bon Beans Organic Coffee, Tea and Juice
875 E 9 Mile Rd #3
Bon Beans (bonbeans.com) serves up Fair Trade organic coffee, teas and raw juices, with some gluten-free vegan eats. This coffee, from Project Congo, Project Chiapas, Colombia and Ethiopia, is so crazily good — it’s worth the round trip from the coast itself.
The raw juice features organic fruits and veggies that are prepped through a cold press juice system, locking in the nutrients and flavors.
And a few doors down, there’s more sweet treats!
Maynard’s Donut Co
875 E 9 Mile Rd #9
Locally famous Maynard’s Donut Co. serves up tasty doughnuts and other treats. Their acclaimed Southern Maid cake-batter doughnuts are made with the usual camouflage: glazed, iced, sprinkled, drizzled, sugared and more.
Now, being in the South, we have to add sausage to at least one thing on the menu — and a doughnut is a great place to start. Try the Kolaches — smoked sausages blanketed in doughnut dough, and baked with optional cheddar and jalapeno peppers. A few guilty pleasures won’t break your diet.
So whether you’re in the mood for seafood or sweets, there’s no doubt that Pensacola’s northern corridor is a flavor sanctuary for all.