The Pensacola Bay Area may be known for its sugar-white beaches, but its sugary treats are equally appealing. With thriving local restaurants around every corner, it’s no surprise that thousands of tourists visit our shores each year to have their taste buds satisfied, and our local dessert selection does not disappoint.
We wanted to dive deeper into this pie, literally, and set out to gather an insider’s take on the best desserts that Pensacola has to offer. After all, a balanced diet is holding a cupcake in each hand, right? Here are our choices, handpicked and recommended by locals, of course:
JW Renfroe Pecan Company – You can’t visit Pensacola without stopping at Renfroe’s to taste their pecan perfections. This family-run business has been a staple in Pensacola for sixty years now. Believe me, they know what they’re doing. Some of their most popular pecan treats include their New Orleans-style pralines, chocolate pecan clusters, glazed pecans and pecan fudge. I highly recommend grabbing a bag (or three) of their chocolate butter toffee pecans, as they are addictive.
Dolce and Gelato — Dive into the only handmade gelato in Pensacola. This hidden gem sits in a charming storefront, which resembles a vintage cottage, on Zarragosa Street across from Old Christ Church. The owner and gelato-maker, Brenda, walked away from her job as an attorney of 30 years to open her shop. Her gelato does not disappoint. The Lemon-Blueberry is divine for a hot summer day. For the more adventurous foodie, Brenda concocts all sorts of tantalizing flavors, ranging from Pineapple Jalapeno and Avocado Cilantro Lime to Curried Coconut and the Fat Elvis, which contains peanut butter, chocolate, banana and bacon bits — Yes, bacon bits.
Bubba’s Sweet Spot –This recently-opened candy store on South Palafox Street transports customers back to their childhood with its whimsical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” look and feel. The shop, owned by hometown hero and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, offers homemade candies, chocolates and treats as well as Southern Craft creamery ice cream made in Marianna. Be sure to check out the colorful wall display of Jelly Belly jellybeans and M&Ms. And you absolutely must try a chocolate covered pineapple or a freshly-made caramel and chocolate dipped apple! YUM!
Single Fin Cafe - Located in Waterboyz Surf shop in Downtown Pensacola, this cafe will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a hipster surfing community right within the city. Tropical acai bowls are popular among the Hawaiian surfing community and I was amazed to find a café creating them on the Gulf Coast. An acai bowl is basically a really thick smoothie made from the acai berry that is usually topped with oatmeal, fruit, and sometimes even peanut butter, and you eat it with a spoon. The acai bowl at Single Fin has just the right combination of thickness, consistency and flavor. It was delightfully topped with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, granola and a drizzle of honey. And it’s under $7, which is a steal for these tropical treats!
Chrisoula’s Cheesecake If you’re looking for a bakery that is near and dear to Pensacola, look no further than Chrisoula’s Cheesecake Shoppe. This charming bakery has been voted a winner of the “Best of the Bay” and “Best of the Coast” competitions. Chrisoula and her husband Tony were born and raised in Pensacola. Chrisoula grew up watching her Greek father in the restaurant business, which inspired the Cheesecake Shoppe now located off of W. Garden Street. After 19 years in the corporate world, Tony quit his job to start a cheesecake shop with his wife. Their cheesecakes are fresh, never frozen and the variety of flavors is sure to delight any customer. I highly recommend the classic strawberry cheesecake and the Reese's © cheesecakes. You’d be hard-pressed to find better cheesecake in the United States, but don’t take my word for it. Drop by for lunch and taste for yourself.
The Tin Cow - Adults are in for a real treat at this location. Visiting tourists should not leave the Pensacola Bay Area without trying Spoon University’s top rated milkshake in all of Florida, the Key Lime Pie Shake. Key Lime pie originated in Florida, and this funky burger joint has a great take on it – in a spiked milkshake. The establishment also offers a variety of spiked milkshake flavors, all can be enjoyed alcohol-free if desired. Grab a seat on the patio in Downtown Pensacola and get boozy with it.
Adonna’s Bakery – Adonna’s is a Pensacola favorite, and for good reason. This charming bakery delights customers with a variety of baked goods, ice cream and coffee. I highly recommend the lemon bars for customers that enjoy a sweet, tart flavor. Also try the red velvet ooey-gooey bar, which is a delectable baked combination of cake and cheesecake. Be sure to enjoy your sweets on the outside patio and do some people watching along Palafox Street, while you’re at it.
Dave’s Snowballs - Perdido Key arguably presents some of the most beautiful scenes on the Gulf Coast. After hiking through tranquil wildlife reserves or sunbathing on Johnson Beach within the Gulf Islands National Seashore, cool off with a frozen treat from Dave’s Snowballs. Located off of Highway 292, Dave’s has flavors as enticing as their eclectic, lime-green storefront. Choose from hundreds of possible flavor combinations to satisfy your sweet tooth on a hot day. Adventurous customers can also add a scoop of ice cream with their icy treat. Count me in!
Bushwhackers on Pensacola Beach - Visitors should not leave the shores of Pensacola Beach without tasting our signature drink: The Bushwhacker. Locals and tourists alike rave about this creamy, frozen concoction of Kahlua coffee liqueur, Creme de Cacao, Bailey’s Irish Cream, dark rum and milk. You can’t go wrong ordering one of these at a Pensacola Beach bar. However, the Sandshaker Lounge boasts the original Bushwhacker. In 1975, a previous Sandshaker owner visited the U.S. Virgin Islands and tasted their version of this chocolatey goodness. He then decided to put his own spin on the drink and bring it to the shores of Pensacola Beach where it has remained a staple beverage ever since.
The Grand Marlin - Looking for a romantic night out? Stop by one of Pensacola Beach’s most distinguished restaurants for a decadent dessert. Not only does the Grand Marlin boast spectacular views of the bay. This upscale restaurant has also won numerous coveted dining awards. We highly recommend trying their seasonal Butter Cake for dessert. The cake is seasonal in the sense that the Grand Marlin chefs add different fruit toppings to the dessert based on what’s fresh, whether it be bananas in winter or strawberries in spring. The summer version is a delightful spin on pineapple upside down cake. The dessert is composed of buttery pound cake, charred pineapple, caramel topping, whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Yum!