The 15 Best Spots To Eat And Drink In Pensacola

Florida is a state that's certainly not lacking in destination-worthy dining. From Walt Disney World and the Florida Keys to celebrity chef hot spots in Miami, regional cuisine in between, and even the college town of Gainesville, the Sunshine State has emerged as one of the foodiest in the nation — just ask Michelin, which just this year added it to its elite roster of starred guides. But between the glitz, glamor, and tourist-trod restaurants in the larger cities and vacation meccas, Pensacola is a smaller — and vastly more underrated — gem of a food city with a flavor distinctly its own.

Less populated than its Floridian compatriots (looking at you, Tampa, Orlando, and Miami) and more akin in cuisine and heritage to Gulf Coast destinations like New Orleans, Pensacola is a sleeper hit of a melting pot of innovation, talent, and taste. Drawing inspiration and techniques from throughout the Gulf Coast, the deep South, and the Caribbean, it's a city that supports a wide range of dining styles and vibes, from high-end tasting menus and chef-driven seasonality to historic watering holes, chic cocktail bars, and beachside kitsch. A prime mix of old and new, of timeworn tradition and envelope-pushing ingenuity, these are the spots proving that Pensacola is the most underrated food city in the South.

Seville Quarter

One step into Seville Quarter, a vast seven-room complex of wining and dining in downtown Pensacola, and you could be forgiven for thinking you'd been transported to the French Quarter. Open since 1967 in a former cigar warehouse, this longstanding institution has the look, feel, and flavor of many a requisite New Orleans bar, complete with beignets, Irish coffees, hurricane cocktails, and live music that ranges from dueling pianos to jazz.

Each room at Seville Quarter has its own ambiance, from sprawling dance floors and courtyards to billiards rooms, alley bars, and a cafe offering the likes of beignets, coffee, and prime rib. The main menu for the complex offers an eclectic bevy of comfort foods, from seared crab cakes and seafood tacos to Cajun chicken pasta, shrimp po'boys, and requisite bread pudding. Whatever you do, be sure and try one of the signatures of Flaming Hurricanes at Rosie O'Grady's, the original bar area for Seville Quarter, while you're here.

George Bistro + Bar

It's the South of France meets the Southern U.S. at George Bistro + Bar, one of Pensacola's foremost chef-driven restaurants cementing the city as a dining destination. The handiwork of husband-wife team George and Luba Lazi, a well-traveled pair from Soviet Georgia and Kazakhstan, respectively, the restaurant is a love letter to their experiences overseas, their pre-Florida time spent in New York, and ultimately, their adopted hometown on the bountiful Gulf.

Seasonal ingredients and immaculate presentation are keystones at this perpetually buzzy, date night-worthy restaurant, where menus are constantly updating, service is warm, and the food is fit to be shared. Start with an order of George Fries, a menu mainstay that has heaps of fresh-cut fries with andouille sausage, cremini mushrooms, parmesan, feta, and rosemary, served with curry ketchup, basil aïoli, and roasted red bell pepper aïoli. Ever-changing entrees might include show-stoppers like a meaty local grouper with brown butter-roasted spaghetti squash or grilled lamb chops with gouda polenta cakes, while elaborately garnished cocktails skew just as seasonal with the likes of spiced pear margaritas, pomegranate spritzes, and moonshine-spiked eggnog.

The Garden at Palafox + Main

It's like a choose-your-own-adventure of dining and drinking at The Garden at Palafox + Main, an outdoor food hall filled with can't-go-wrong vendors offering a full slate of comfort cravings. The lofty, airy space is nestled right in the nexus of downtown Pensacola, filled with four airstream trailers, five kiosks, a cocktail and beer bar, and a fast-casual surf & turf restaurant from one of the city's best chefs — all under an umbrella-like canopy that keeps things mercifully dry and shaded.

In true food hall fashion, The Garden at Palafox + Main allows guests to peruse and pick their poison, with a something-for-everyone smattering of vendors offering Nashville-style hot chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches, tacos, gelato, coffee, poké bowls, and more. One standout is Pearl & Horn, a counter-service restaurant from acclaimed local chef George Lazi, featuring a surf & turf-style medley of New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, broiled oysters, shrimp BLTs, smash burgers, and grouper fish & chips in a pretty-in-pink space. For drinks, there's Perennial Patio Bar, a stylish and casual bar stocked with local beers, frozen cocktails, and seasonal sips.

The Well

For Miami vibes without the Miami price tags (or shockingly long 10-hour drive), cozy up at The Well, a chic neon-lit bar with a beachy motif of lush planters, flamingo wallpaper, and tropical-green banquettes. Tucked at the edge of downtown Pensacola, the trendy watering hole offers a curated selection of refined cocktails, beer brewed next door at Perfect Plain Brewing Co., and shareable small plates.

The sultry bar is the perfect place to savor local Floridian fare in both edible and potable form, from raw Gulf oysters and spicy tuna tostones to twee tipples in all different colors and flavors. This is the kind of place where discerning drinkers can opt for a classic Zombie or tiki drink — or get quirky with a Bloody Mary speared with a flamingo garnish, or a super-sized "table drink" served in flamingo punch bowls. The Well also offers a mean happy hour, along with periodic live music, adding extra incentive and an opportunity to drink in the vibe.

Perfect Plain Brewing Co.

An homage to the sheer perfection of Pensacola's coastal landscape, Perfect Plain Brewing Co. is a downtown brewery and taproom that lives up to its pastoral moniker with a rustic-chic space and a dynamic roster of fresh beer styles.

The brewery is comprised of a vast warehouse-style room and bar, in a historic building outfitted with vintage architectural signs. The beer list changes often, anchored by a few core mainstays — which are available in cans — like Yachtside lime lager, Citra Spin hazy IPA, and Pensacola Pog tropical sour. More esoteric seasonal offerings, meanwhile, include a carrot ginger Saison, coconut stouts, and orange-kissed American IPAs. The brewery also boasts an expansive back patio that's dog-friendly and equipped with food trucks, like Tacos Mexicanos, and the taproom routinely hosts events and watch parties, from Harry Potter trivia to Sunday football. Added bonus: Sister business Garden & Grain is the cocktail garden and event space nestled right behind the brewery.

Native Cafe

Far exceeding the call of beach cafe duty, Native Cafe is the ideal way to rise and shine on Pensacola Beach, an area of the city wholly distinct from downtown that's flanked by high-rise hotels, water sports, tourist spots, and miles of shimmering white sand beaches. Tucked away in a nondescript strip mall-style smattering of buildings across the street from the beach, the colorful, art-filled cafe meets morning muster with an array of wholesome classics and newfangled originals.

The bustling cafe, which exclusively features breakfast and lunch, serves a menu of American and coastal flavors in hearty portions — with periodic seasonal specials like pumpkin pancakes made from scratch with pumpkin puree and served in portions large enough to feed a family. Breakfast plates include biscuits and gravy, stuffed French toast, shrimp and grits, and something called a Pancake-wich, an egg sandwich that uses two flapjacks as bread. For something beachier, there's a crab cake Benedict, Florida fish tacos, and a Gulf Coast seafood omelet stuffed with grilled fish, plump shrimp, and crab meat, and topped with a drizzle of zesty remoulade.

Angelena's Ristorante Italiano

Amidst a spree of historic buildings, French Quarter-esque motifs, and timeworn architecture, one decidedly newfangled entry stands out for its modern decor and upscale Italian cuisine. Angelena's Ristorante Italiano is the type of swanky, posh hot spot that attracts decadent date nights and special occasions, as well as those just looking for a great glass of wine and some small plates.

Fusing Italian inspiration with Gulf Coast ingredients and seasonality, Angelena's is a singular fixture on the Pensacola dining scene, helmed by lauded chef James Briscione (you may have heard of him if you're Food Network-savvy). Dinner is a feast for the senses, with its smattering of plates small and large, from wood-fired meatballs and short rib-truffle arancini to pimento cheese, New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp with puffed pizza dough, and chianti-braised short ribs over creamy polenta. Pasta is a popular pastime here, with options like sweet potato ravioli and a molten bowl of lasagna swimming in eight-hour bolognese. If that wasn't enough, the restaurant offers a rotating pasta tasting menu, with three seasonal courses like herb Gemelli with green beans and cream of mushroom, and a Thanksgiving-inspired turkey- and potato-filled ravioli.


On the outer western fringes of Pensacola, literally straddling the border with Alabama, one iconic, enduring, and delightfully kitschy bar is a veritable rite of passage for panhandle imbibers. The venue is Flora-Bama, a frills-free collection of bars, pubs, and casual comfort food restaurants scattered along the beach and the lagoon. Originally opened in 1964, initially with just The Flora-Bama Lounge on Orange Beach, the institution has expanded into adjoining buildings over the years, to become a sprawling mainstay for live music, broiled oysters, and some of the best frozen cocktails in the state.

Nowadays, in addition to five music stages and a myriad of different rooms in vast wood-clad digs, Flora-Bama offers a few different areas to drink and dine. These include the Oyster Bar, where snackable plates include shrimp tacos, nachos, and all manner of oysters, from baked and char-grilled to raw. The Ole River Grill serves tuna dip, po'boys, and Gulf fish baskets from its waterfront deck, while Yacht Club skews a smidge higher end with the likes of hummus, tuna sashimi, blue crab claws, crab and parmesan hush puppies, and heaping platters of Greek shrimp nachos.

Bodacious Shops

It's coffee and breakfast with a side of all the olive oils you never knew you needed at Bodacious Shops, a hip bi-level cafe and shop in the heart of downtown Pensacola. Stocked to the gills with a dizzying array of foodie finds, kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, and home entertaining fodder, the shop is anchored by a huge olive oil section, featuring an array of infusions and flavors that guests are welcome to sample. Right across the hall, though, is a casual counter-service cafe slinging some of the best breakfast fares in town.

In addition to coffee, espresso drinks, teas, and cold brew, the cafe offers andouille sausage quiche, açaí bowls, flatbreads, breakfast wraps, biscuits, and bowls brimming with potatoes, eggs, and spinach. For something truly Southern, opt for the Bodacious grits, a creamy medley of gouda grits strewn with green onions, roasted corn, butter-infused olive oil, and heavy cream. Come afternoon, options expand to include salads, lunch wraps, and a particularly popular chicken salad sandwich — all of which are ideally enjoyed on the scenic outdoor deck.

Agapi Bistro + Garden

It's a vibrant mashup of Mediterranean fare and Gulf Coast provisions at Agapi Bistro + Garden, a bucolic bastion of refined coastal cuisine in a warm, stylish space that feels like a Grecian garden. Led by chef Gus Silivos, the ingredients at this cute cottage-like gem are sourced with as much care as the intricate dishes are presented, utilizing their local bounty of sustainable seafood, meats, and produce.

The ethos translates to some seriously unique menu options, like vegan charcuterie boards and blue crab moussaka with panko-crusted eggplant. Octopus comes as a char-grilled tentacle, while skewered kalamari gets dressed with pickled peppers, and slow-roasted watermelon subs in for typical tuna in a poké format. Other Mediterranean options include escargots, feta-smeared pita, duck confit, and fedelini pasta swirled with royal red shrimp, cremini mushrooms, black truffle cream, and shaved parmesan. Wine and cocktails are strongly represented behind the bar, but don't forget to finish with dessert — the "chocuterie" board is a sweet riff on charcuterie comprised of multiple house-made chocolates.


One of the definitional hidden gems on the Pensacola dining scene is literally hidden away within the Hilton Pensacola Beach, an otherwise unassuming tower of a hotel looming over the shore. Nestled on the second floor of the hotel lies Bonsai, a sleek Asian fusion concept with a penchant for pristine sushi.

When it comes to savoring the finest seafood, it helps to have a backdrop like this one, with panoramic views of the Gulf right outside the window. Inside, the scenery is just as photogenic, thanks to a top-tier menu of Wagyu beef, Japanese sakes, hand-rolled ramen, and Floridian-inspired maki rolls like the Florida Citrus with salmon, snapper, hiramasa, avocado, lemon, and salmon roe, and the smoked tuna, with avocado, cucumber, zuke, bluefin tuna, and hackleback caviar, a type of Southern-style fresh-water caviar found in the Mississippi River system, according to North American Caviar. The restaurant is particularly known for its omakase, menu-less tasting menus that showcase the freshest fish and the chef's whim.

Carmen's Lunch Bar & Tapas

The cultured European vibes are going strong at Carmen's Lunch Bar & Tapas, an always-bustling downtown cornerstone that feels more like a transportive lunch break to Barcelona than a typical afternoon in Florida. This is the kind of place where power lunchers, business suits, couples, and groups convene for a relaxed respite filled with wine, cocktails, and small plates that are big on flavor — all doled out in a hip, clamorous dining room anchored by a large U-shaped bar, with ample sidewalk seating out front.

The menu at Carmen's trots around Europe for its spread of shareable plates and snacks. Fan favorites include the always-fresh soda bread scented with fresh rosemary and dried cranberries, the goat cheese cake with fruit pepper jelly, and the Thai yellow curry crab chowder enriched with coconut milk, potatoes, and sweet peppers. In fact, crab is a key ingredient here, served in Spanish crab pepper poppers with Manchego and chorizo, as well as the indulgent Spanish crab melt, an open-faced feast of jumbo crab meat, chorizo, Manchego, lemon, and saffron.

South Market

After originating as an eclectic comfort food spot in Historic Pensacola Village, South Market is a restaurant that became so popular and beloved that it outgrew its confines, necessitating a move to a much larger — and decidedly more modern — space nearby. The appeal is apparent, both in terms of cozy ambiance and something-for-everyone menus, which include brunch, dinner, cocktails, and dessert.

Start with a featured cocktail, like the Nostalgia made with Caribbean Cognac, banana liqueur, amaro, and vanilla bitters, then dig into the huge dinner menu with decadent dishes like Cajun tuna dip, smoked salmon deviled eggs, scallop corn dip, grouper tacos, smoked duck breast, and meatloaf loaded up with truffle mashed potatoes. South Market is also revered for its oysters, with an on-site oyster bar shucking raw bivalves to order, alongside oysters Rockefeller and originals like oysters Tom Glenn, with white wine tasso cream, parmesan, and breadcrumbs. For something sweet, don't sleep on the apple bacon galette, which pairs nicely with an after-dinner cocktail like a Tiramisu Martini or Chocolate Peanut Butter Old Fashioned.

The Cabaret Pensacola

Home to one of the most surprisingly robust and well-attended Pride festivals in the South, (via Visit Pensacola), Pensacola's LGBTQ scene is as pleasantly surprising as the city's proclivity for craft cocktails and seasonal tasting menus. A prime example is The Cabaret Pensacola, an enduring queer bar and club that's as fun as it is inclusive and welcoming.

As one of the leading queer bars in Pensacola, The Cabaret is a rainbow-clad fixture downtown that's known for its high-energy environment and glamorous drag queens (via Ballinger Publishing). Any night of the week, it's the kind of place where social barflies can flock for entertainment, events, and shows — the kind of shows that involve incredible lip-syncing to the likes of Britney Spears and Beyoncé. The main bar itself serves a miscellany of frills-free mixed drinks, beer, and seltzer, with a small sidewalk patio for al fresco imbibing.

Fosko Coffee Barre

Coffee comes with a side of humungous crêpes and super-sized cinnamon rolls at Fosko Coffee Barre, a funky loft-like cafe on the main Palafox Street drag downtown. With a huge dining room and tons of space, it's an ideal place to hunker down with a bottomless mug of java and a laptop, or simply fuel up for a day in Pensacola with a hearty morning meal done right.

Coffee and espresso drinks come in a variety of styles and flavors, from nitro cold brew and white mochas to blackberry matcha and cortados. To nosh, crêpes are Fosko's bread and butter, available in both sweet and savory iterations like strawberry, banana, and Nutella, and bacon, apple, and brie. The tiramisu crêpe is quite the spectacle, served like a cake with 15 layers of crêpes infused with cold brew and Kahlua. Elsewhere on the menu, you'll find frittatas, breakfast buns, and a slew of sweets, each as oversized as the crêpes, like cookies, cupcakes, and cinnamon rolls.