Almost any travel destination outside of the Big Easy itself likes to tout its local “Taste of New Orleans” eateries. However, in Pensacola, we are truly lucky to be just a short drive from the home of Cajun and Creole cuisines. We have business owners and chefs that have hailed from Louisiana or split their time between here and there.
Here are some of the best NOLA-style eateries that the Pensacola area has to offer:
Ruby Slipper Café
This is a New Orleans-based micro chain (five kitchens in New Orleans and three elsewhere, including Pensacola). Located on South Palafox near Palafox Pier, Pensacola’s Ruby Slipper is a great place for breakfast to begin a day exploring downtown or for a lunch break. This place mixes the Southern charm of fluffy white buttermilk biscuits, thick cut bacon and crispy fried chicken with New Orleans staples of praline pancakes, Gulf shrimp and catfish. They sneak in some old school French cuisine with several dishes that feature hollandaise sauce and the delicious croque madame breakfast sandwich.
One of the newest restaurants on Pensacola Beach, Café NOLA is owned by Johnny Chism, proprietor of hospitality in New Orleans and Pensacola for years. It bills itself as “A little NOLA in PCOLA,” and their menu fulfills that promise. The Sunday brunch, just for example, includes shrimp and grits, roast beef eggs benedict with fried green tomatoes, beignets, crawfish and andouille omelet, bananas foster French toast and fried soft shell crab with fried green tomato eggs benedict. The menu sometimes offers a crawfish boil, all you can eat fried catfish and a roast beef debris po’boy. Café NOLA also features an extensive catering menu.
Brousard’s Bayou Grill
This longtime Pensacola establishment bills itself as “authentic bayou cuisine with a side of Southern comfort.” The menu will make you think you have stumbled into the French Quarter itself, with creations like “Grits-A-Gumbo,” which are Cajun cheese grits with crawfish bayou sauce, shrimp and oysters, topped with fried okra and crawfish and corn bisque as well as traditional dishes like red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee and the muffuletta. Brousard’s also offers a large line of take-home and catering dishes.
Located on the north side of Pensacola on Pine Forest Road, the Louisiana Lunchbox is worth the drive. The owners say the Louisiana Lunchbox is a family owned restaurant coming from the heart of Cajun Country. It features Louisiana staples like chicken and sausage gumbo, fried oyster po’boys and boudin sausage balls, as well as lunch plates like red beans and rice, Cajun steak with gravy and BBQ shrimp. The Lunch Box offers meals to go and delivery.
Feeling spicy? Located on the west side of Pensacola, Cub’s delivers heaping platters of mudbugs with just enough zap to get ‘cher nose runnin’ and lips tinglin.’ For over a decade, Cub’s has built quite a loyal fan base of those who like to ‘suck da heads.’ Cub’s originally opened in 2005 as a take-out restaurant, but since has expanded to a self-proclaimed “hole in the wall” location near the naval base. Using a spicy, savory Cajun recipe for their crawfish and boiling them up Southern-style corn, potatoes, sausage and mushrooms, Cub’s is always crowded. Other favorite menu items include a seafood bisque you could drown in, classic Cajun etouffee, piping hot crab legs and a seafood gumbo that will rival your grandma’s. All can be chased down with an icy cold Abita beer, and you’ll be transported back to Cajun country.
Joe Patti’s Seafood Market Beignet Stand
Any trip to New Orleans is incomplete without a serving of the piping hot, deep fried French doughnuts called beignets. In Pensacola, you can find this experience at a food truck stationed outside the front door of the world-famous Joe Patti’s Seafood Market in downtown. The beignets here come traditional style – simply covered in powdered sugar – or filled with any one of several fillings, like Bavarian custard, raspberry or chocolate. They’re all made right there in the food truck while you wait. Simply Heaven. In Perdido Key, visit Café Beignet in the Villagio Shopping Center. There you have two options to choose from – traditional or filled (with vanilla pudding and topped with chocolate drizzle). Either way, you choose, they’ll come piping hot and smothered in powdered sugar, so go ahead and order a Café au lait or a cappuccino to help balance it out. Perfection.
Have a favorite spot we left off the list? Tell us in the comments below!