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:
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
One of the newer restaurants on the list, 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.
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.
This is the restaurant at the Hilton Hotel on Pensacola Beach, but H2O is open to the public. It bills itself as “Cajun-Asian” fusion. H20’s bone-in ribeye steak is grilled over an open flame and finished with house-made blue cheese and veal stock reductions. Another notable here is the Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse, which includes grouper, clams and shrimp in a tomato and fennel broth and is served with grilled French bread for dipping.
George Artisan Bakery & Bistro
A restaurant with 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.
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.
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.