Sometimes, especially when you’re on vacation, you just want to get dressed up for a night on the town, including a fine dining venue where the food, service and ambiance will help create the memory of a lifetime.
Pensacola is fortunate to have several such eateries. Here is a sampling of some of the best. Call ahead for availability/reservations and dress code.
With a view overlooking Santa Rosa Sound from Pensacola Beach, the only thing better than the vista at the Grand Marlin is the food. As you might imagine for an established named after one of the most majestic creatures in the sea, seafood is the restaurant’s specialty. There’s an entire section of the menu called “Oysters and Seafood Cocktails” that features items like Oysters Rockefeller, barbecued oysters and Mexican shrimp cocktail. Entrees include blackened fish tacos and a tuna poke bowl. Their No. 1 seller is the Grouper Picatta, it comes topped in a Parmesan-crusted Panko crust and is served over a bed of sautéed spinach and whipped potatoes and topped with crispy capers.
Bonsai Pensacola Beach
Bonsai might be the new kid on the block, but its high-end Asian fusion flavors say otherwise. Set on the second floor of the Hilton Pensacola Beach, Bonsai offers sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico with complementary flavors. The menu boasts hand-rolled ramen along with an A5 Wagyu Striploin and caviar but your best bet is the Omakase Menu. Chef Omar Torres is quickly making a name for himself with fresh flavors and unique ingredients.
The sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico alone are worth the trip to DRIFT. Set atop its more casual sister bar, Casino Beach Bar and Grill, DRIFT offers fine Gulf Coast delicacies with more of a laidback coastal vibe. Our recommendation includes coconut crab cakes and any of the crudos to start followed by one of the fresh catches of the day for dinner. For those looking for a truly spectacular setting for Sunday brunch, make way for bottomless mimosas and the king crab omelet. Bon Appetit!
Located in the heart of Downtown Pensacola, Jackson’s is known for its long-loved classics, like Filet Mignon Oscar and Red Snapper Meunière, but the eatery also changes up its menu seasonally. The 2018 spring dinner menu includes a hickory-fired petite filet with fried green tomatoes and lump blue crab as well as pan-seared dry-packed sea scallops with watermelon salsa fresca, corn, avocado, tortilla chips and achiote oil.
This restaurant relocated to Downtown Pensacola from the posh Marcus Pointe golf community a few years ago. Its website says IRON offers “Southern contemporary cuisine fueled by local vegetables and herbs from the creative minds of true Southerners.” Its menu bears that out. Their “seed crusted Gulf catch of the day” is served with stone-ground cheese grits and pickled local okra. Its 24-ounce “Prime Cowboy Ribeye” is seared on a cast-iron skillet, served with roasted winter vegetables and black garlic butter.
Union Public House
Union Public House reminds us that the term “pub” came from “public house,” a place to get quality food and drink. Union Public House is true to that tradition. Their menu boasts the Lamb Duo, which includes a crispy confit leg and roasted rack, cassoulet, tomato, dry-cured olive, crispy mint and oregano, with turnip. The restaurant also offers gulf shrimp and grits, which include a shallot and coppa confit with tomato gravy and sage.
Angelena's Ristorante Italiano
Located in the heart of downtown Pensacola, Angelena’s recently opened in 2019 to much anticipation. Executive Chef James Briscione, the first-ever two-time champion of Food Network’s Chopped, brings his creative, Southern touches to this classic Italian cuisine: handmade pastas and thoughtfully-prepared vegetable dishes are served alongside an abundance of Gulf seafood. His wife, Brooke Parkhurst, curates the extensive Italian wine list, highlighting thirteen different Italian growing regions. The restaurant features a wood-fired oven that lends a unique flavor to everything from Neapolitan-style pizzas and meatballs and desserts.
The District Seville Steak & Seafood
In 1888, the physician and significant property owner, John Brosnaham, built a two-story brick and stucco structure on East Government Street. This building was built over a parcel of property that was the site of the Spanish Presidio (1752-1763) and British Fort Pensacola (1763-1781). The ground that Andrew Jackson walked, on his way to meet with Spanish Governor Callava for the transfer of the territory from Spain to the United States, on July 17, 1821, is now below your feet.
From the moment you step into the District, the same class and awl can be felt. From the white table clothes to the decadent interior, the District drips fine dining. Our recommendation - start upstairs in the lounge. Daily, they have a jazz pianist and it's the perfect place to connect before a nice dinner. If you're feeling up to it, they serve appetizers. Afterward, head downstairs for a dry-aged steak with a side of the lobster risotto, you won't be disappointed.
Well, that's a wrap. Whether you're celebrating an anniversary, a birthday or just simply would like a nice evening out, that's our take on fine dining in Pensacola.
Skopelos at New World
Skopelos on the Bay was a Pensacola institution for decades, located on Scenic Highway. After a few years of downtime, the restaurant re-opened at New World Landing in Downtown Pensacola. The new place includes old favorites like Scamp Cervantes, which is a scamp fillet topped with jumbo lump crabmeat, spinach and heirloom tomato tossed orzo pasta, and the Carpetbagger steak topped with shrimp, crab, Parmesan and cream sauce. New dishes include seared Pensacola red snapper and the open range grilled veal chop. Weekly, they specialize in vegan fine dining specialties and have a killer happy hour.
Located on Palafox in the heart of Pensacola’s entertainment district, Global Grill is a place to go to try a variety of culinary experiences in one night. Since it’s a tapas bar, you can choose as many different menu items as strike your fancy, and so can your table mates. And you can try each other’s to see what’s best. The cold menu includes options like a platter of robust global cheeses with salt and butter local pecans, Amarino cherries, local fig preserves, honey and fruit jelly with toasted crackers. Hot tapas options include crispy chicken wings, tossed in orange marmalade and house-smoked oatmeal, as well as lamb lollipops with Israeli couscous cake and sun-dried tomato jus.
Alice's Pensacola: Gulf Coast Restaurant & Wine Bar
You want classic New Orleans fine dining? This is your scene. From a table-side Caesar for two to escargot Alice's boasts a small menu with big flavors. Owner Alice Guy managed Joe Patti's from 1992-2002. During that period, she integrated a gourmet deli, sushi deli and wine shop into the acclaimed Pensacola seafood market, and in 2018, she opened Anna's Fine Wines on South B Street. Kitchen operator Russell Scarritt owned and operated Jamie's, a high-end dining restaurant on Zarragossa Street from 1999 until 2009. The restaurant features a strong focus on wine - old and new, value and high end, and even flights.
George Bistro + Bar
A restaurant with a distinctively urban feel, George’s menu features fresh baked bread and French cuisine. Their dinner menu includes a roasted chicken that is brined for 48 hours, stuffed with lemon thyme and rosemary, and served with parmesan and gruyere cheese potato gratin sautéed kale. The Fruits De Mer Squid Ink Spaghetti includes grilled shrimp, squid, tomatoes, garlic, scallions and fresh squid ink spaghetti.
We know we've given you a lot of food for thought. To search fine dining and other flavorful fares, scroll through the list below.