Pensacola, Florida. Home of the Blue Angels, emerald waters, powder-soft white sand, and currently Florida’s number one beach! Growing up here I have been able to watch my hometown grow into the bustling tourist town it has become. With help from Quint Studer and his team at Studer Institute, our downtown area has begun to thrive with new stores, cafes, restaurants, and a baseball team. So if you’ve chosen to visit the best-kept secret of the Florida coastlines there are some things you should know, like where the locals like to go out to the beach, the best restaurants and bars in town, as well as our secret sunset spots.
So let’s get the need to know things out of the way first! If you’re visiting Pensacola in the summertime you are going to want to be in the know of our traffic situation. Stay up to date on traffic by texting “32561” to 888-777 and you’ll always know when you’re about to hit a wreck on the bridge or get stuck in a little bit of beach traffic. For all of the insights on our weekend events – there is something going on almost every weekend – you should check out Visit Pensacola’s site! They can guide you to the best places to stay, events to attend, and even a beach camera so you can check out the weather and waves.
So, as a born and raised Breezer I’ve grown up riding my bike all around Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach. Now I am living downtown and am walking distance from the nightlife Pensacola has to offer (even if I don’t go out a lot). As a local and previous waitress I have been asked often where are the best places to eat, watch the sunset, go out at night, etc… so here is an official list of all my favorite places from Pensacola to Pensacola Beach!
- Jerry’s Drive-In is a locals favorite! You will need to have cash for this place but don’t worry they have an atm in case you forget. You can expect good, simple, fried food here with some delicious milkshakes and locally brewed beer. My go-to: cheeseburger with hush puppies and Jerry’s sauce with a glass of cold Jerry’s Red Ale.
- Single Fin Cafe is a cafe inside of a skate shop and yes, there is a skate park in the back. This place is honestly so cool and is somewhere I go frequently for breakfast and lunch. You can expect good acai bowls, personal pizzas, sandwiches, tacos, and live music here. My go-to: Sunval Tacos or the Pavanes Acai Bowl.
- Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille is right at the end of Palafox Street and is one of the best places to watch the sunset. I used to be a server here so it’s hard to say what is my favorite item on the menu cause I would eat all of it hahah but I will say that they hands down have the best fried Oreos I’ve ever had.
- Food Trucks can be found in a couple of places. My favorite is Nomadic Eats and they’re open Monday-Friday 11am-3pm and can be found at City Hall. You can also find food trucks at El Fresco on the corner of Palafox and Main or you can find a good one every day at Perfect Plain!
- Casino Beach Bar is right on the gulf at Casino Beach, which is the main beach parking lot. They have delicious drinks but it can be challenging to park here since it is the most popular place to park at the beach. My got-to: Casino Beach Burger with a Coconut Mojito, if I am splitting the burger I get extra fries because they are that good.
- Dog House Deli is great for breakfast or lunch and you can find the downtown or at the beach! They have some awesome and unique menu items and have been a family run business in the area for years. My go-to: Flyin Hawaiian hot dog, Truffle Skillet, French Toast Bites, Bacon Infused Double Bacon Cheese Burger – it tastes like you’re just eating bacon!
- Native Cafe is right on the beach but does get packed so show up early to avoid a wait.
Get a Litte Fancy
- Jackson’s Steak House is a really nice restaurant downtown. I’ve had dinner and lunch there once and the food was delicious! For lunch, you get a martini with each entree ordered! I haven’t gone to Jackson’s enough to recommend something but everything I’ve tried is so good.
- Grand Marlin has half off oysters every Monday and that is my favorite thing to share with people hahah but really, half off oysters is a great deal and this restaurant is right on the beach at the beginning of the bridge. I love their strawberry mango mojito ( can you tell I like mojitos?) and their menu changes daily…. so basically everything here is super fresh and so freaking good! You can’t go wrong with the market fish or lobster fingers. For dessert try the praline ice cream sundae.
- Restaurant Iron is a newer restaurant that is in downtown Pensacola on Palafox street. They offer late night specials on the weekends and have such a unique menu by chef Alex. I highly recommend checking this place out even just for a drink and a small plate, you will not be disappointed.
- Union Public House is another new restaurant with craft drinks and unique dinner plates. You can find Union House right by the baseball field and they have cute outside seating with some games to play in the grass.
It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere
- Bridge Bar is my favorite place to grab a sunset drink. They are right at the end of the bridge on your way into Gulf Breeze. There is always a sunset crowd when it is nice out so get there early so you can find a seat!
- Perfect Plain is a new brewery in town that has a bunch of new brews always coming out. They opened in 2017 and have such a good atmosphere that is very open and great for photos ( of course I mention photos haha have you seen my gram?) Perfect Plain also has some fun games to keep you entertained and lots of family styled seating.
- Pensacola Bay Brewery is one of my favorites and was the first brewery in town. They are another cash only place that also has an atm. Great beer, great location, and has a park right in front of it where you can take your beer and sit in the grass.
- Red Fish Blue Fish has one of the cutest locations, aka great spot for photos too! I like their backyard seating and firepits. They have a few good drinks but this place is mostly for the atmosphere.
- Old Hickory Whiskey Bar is for all of the whiskey and craft cocktail lovers. Their menu is changing every season and they were voted one of the top whiskey bars. What I love about Old Hickory is the culture they have created where they really make their customers want to be a part of their family. Also… great atmosphere with lots of old time furniture and chandeliers made from whiskey bottles.
- Restaurant Iron is a unique restaurant in downtown Pensacola. They have a specialty drink list and a late night special on the weekends.
Toes in the Water A** in the Sand
So if you’re like me when you go to the beach you don’t want to be surrounded by tons of people where you feel like you don’t have any space because you can hear the conversation of the people next to you. Sooo this list is for those that like to feel as if the whole town isn’t at the same beach spot as they are. GET OUT TO THE BEACH BEFORE 10 AM. Beach traffic tends to start building around 9:30 am now that summer has started.
- Neighborhood Streets 14th – 23rd. You can park along the side of the road on these streets but they do fill up fast!
- Past Portofino Resort there are a few parking lots and you can also park along the main road and walk to the water from there.
- Park East is past Portofino as well and has an artificial reef that you can snorkel.
- Fort Pickens or the parking lots before you reach the park
There are a lot of different places that offer live music around town! So to name a few…
- Bands on the Beach is every Tuesday evening during the summer months
- Seville Quarter has a dueling piano bar, and four stages for live music. This place is huge and is really like 5 bars in one.
- Paradise Bar & Grill is on the sound side at the beach and offers live music most nights.
- The Shaker Bar
- Single Fin has open mic night on Fridays and on Sunday mornings they have live music during brunch!
- Vinyl Music Hall is always having concerts going on so you can probably find a show while visiting.
- Five Sisters Blue’s Cafe has live music on Sundays for Jazz Brunch.
- Islander is a typical beach bar that has an upstairs balcony where they will have bands playing live music on the weekends.
Downladable Version: A Local’s Guide to Pensacola