Photo by @mallapalooza at The Grand Marlin

There’s simply nothing better than indulging in a luxurious epicurean spread when you really need it. A well-deserved vacation. An educational milestone. A business deal that went well. Or, simply, just because! Whatever the reason, you’re bound to find a fabulous restaurant that offers the perfect place for upscale dining to celebrate you, your family, your business or your vacation in Pensacola.

So let’s start with my favorite meal of the day – brunch. Sundays on the Gulf Coast mean brunch at Skopelos at New World Landing. Hands down, the best on the menu is the Stuffed Brioche French Toast. This dreamy concoction of a weekend staple starts with savory, homemade brioche bread that must have been made with the purest butter ever. It’s that good. Not to worry! The fruit topping will make you feel healthy... Pair it with some Conecuh sausage, a 70-year-old recipe that is a standard of the South from our Alabama neighbors. If you’re feeling seafood-y, get the Creole Omelet. The blackened shrimp and crab pair well with the creamy heat of the pepper jack cheese. (Insider tip: ask for caramelized onions and dine in the courtyard.) Now excuse me while I drool.

French Toast

If you’re down for upscale Southern casual, make sure Iron is on your itinerary for dinner – my favorite meal. This restaurant takes garden and farm fresh to heart. Get your start with the Boudin Balls – a house favorite – and the Chopped Root Vegetable Salad. You’re welcome. Might I suggest you slow down to let all of your senses enjoy this experience? After you’ve exhaled, ask award-winning chef Alex McPhail for his dinner recommendations. Grab a cocktail while he fills your mind with the possibilities. Or, just go for the duck. And this is not just any duck. It’s Ancho Chili Rubbed Muscovy Duck with a blackberry chili compote that adds a touch of sweetness designed to make you live a decade longer. It comes paired with braised Brussel sprouts, and if there is a correct way to eat Brussel sprouts, then this is truly it. Breathe awhile. Take in the intimate ambiance.

For my favorite meal of the day – lunch – The Grand Marlin on Pensacola Beach has the most amazing views of the Santa Rosa Sound with only the quiet lapping of the waves to lull me into another culinary delight. First, sit outside on the deck. You deserve it and the view makes the food tastes better. Nine times out of 10, my lunch starts with the barbeque shrimp and ends with the salmon and sweet potato hash. Fresh is the Grand Marlin’s middle name, so be sure to look for the chef’s special at the top of the menu. Or, go with the Grouper Picatta, and you can thank me later. Insider tip: take a late lunch and stay for the sunset. Better yet, take a late lunch, stay for the sunset, walk the beach and go back for dinner. Just be sure to start with the barbeque shrimp.

@ohmuhgwad - The Grand Marlin
Photo by @ohmuhgwad - The Grand Marlin

Truth be told, my favorite meal – breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack and dinner – can be indulged at many amazing places in Pensacola. Like Jackson’s Steakhouse in Downtown Pensacola. Whatever else you eat there, please get the shrimp and grits. It’s a local specialty not to be missed. (And, yes, it’s perfectly allowed to sop your plate with the bread.) Or the Perdido Key Oyster Bar, where the flounder is king and queen, and the view of Bayou Grande reigns supreme. Don’t be surprised if a dolphin or two greet you while enjoying your favorite meal.

Here’s my last insider tip: the absolute best place to have a fantastic epicurean spread when you really need it is to call ahead at any of these fine restaurants and order your breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner to go. Pack a white cotton tablecloth and head to any of our miles and miles of beautiful beaches. Enjoy the best cuisine we have to offer while enjoying the best view in the world. You deserve nothing less.