Just when we think we know all the restaurants in town, Urban Spoon comes up with a Pensacola restaurant we didn’t even know existed. It’s getting a big buzz, too, listed as one of the most talked about restaurants in Pensacola. Hoping it is too early for the Spring Break crowd, we head for the Native Cafe after early church. OOps!Too late! And it’s not the spring breakers, at least I don’t think so, these look like locals.
We wait for maybe thirty minutes on one of the sweetest Sundays of the year, not too hot, not too cold, a tiny bit breezy – perfect beach day, and we don’t mind at all sitting outside, waiting for a table or booth.
Once we’re in, we can see why people like it. It’s not so original as Andy’s Flour Power in Panama City Beach, but they have original art on the walls, a funky decor, and a LOT of customers.
We see a lot of huge breakfasts being delivered. The Crab Cake Benedict seems to be a big hit, all the platters look huge. People are digging right in and look happy. Service is quick and efficient.
AdventureMan has been dying for some Biscuits and Gravy. His favorite place for biscuits and gravy, Adonna’s, in downtown Pensacola on Palafox, no longer serves biscuits and gravy. He says these are pretty good!
The little Alaska girl who lives inside me wanted crab cakes, but not all the bread and sauce that comes with the Crab Cake Benedict, so I asked, and was able to order the appetizer Crab Cakes, which was perfect. It came with Remoulade Sauce – yummm.
LOL, you can see, as usual, I forgot to take a photo before I started eating. There were three complete crab cakes; just be glad I remembered when I did!
The food was good, but we probably won’t go back until October or so, when the tourist season dies down. The Native Cafe has been FOUND! Too many people, too long a waiting line. We have the luxury of being able to go when no one else is around except those of us who live here. (You can live here thirty or forty years and you are still not a local; local is people who grew up and went to school in Pensacola )
It was another endlessly rainy Saturday when my husband asked where I would like to go for lunch.
I knew immediately where I wanted to go. I love Five Sisters almost any day, but especially on a rainy Saturday. I like it that they have live music on Sundays, and sometimes on Thursday nights, but I really like it that there is no music on a rainy, dreary Saturday, so we can talk and hear each other.
Five Sisters is packed – it often is – with people seeking the same thing, a warm, cheery place filled with great smells and great cooking.
AdventureMan ordered the grilled shrimp platter:
And I ordered the Blackened Fish on Cheese Grits (sorry, it is a little blurry, I must have been shaking with hunger . . . )
I never get tired of Five Sisters.
“We’re going to drive ‘all the way’ out there,” AdventureMan tells me and we laugh, because ‘all the way’ is such a relative term. When we lived in Kuwait and in Qatar, we would drive a minimum 30 minutes to get to a restaurant, any restaurant, not only because of distances but also because of traffic, horrendous traffic, in the evenings. While the Seafood Platter Deli is 13 miles away, it takes us less than 20 minutes to get there. Welcome to Pensacola
This is a very unusual restaurant. It is so old-timey Gulf Seacoast, and at the same time, I thought as we entered “My Moslem friends would love this!”
Many of my Moslem friends think Americans are unbelievers. They think we don’t talk about God. They don’t know we pray – sometimes without ceasing. Just as I was astounded as I learned things about Islam and Moslem culture living in the Middle East, they were also astounded learning things about us, like that we take care of our families. Think about it – most of what many people in the world know about Americans comes from the impact of cable TV. They watch American TV and they think they understand American culture. Horrifying thought, isn’t it?
So how amazing is it to walk into a restaurant where, as you stand at the counter to order, and you look at the big menu on the wall, there is a stand, with a bible on it. And there is paper, and a pencil, and a sign saying “Prayer requests.” I don’t know about your restaurant experiences, but this is unique in my experience – in America. In the Middle East, there are all kinds of restaurants with Qu’ranic verses on the walls, and the sounds of religious services piped into the restaurant. People talk about God all the time. It’s a whole different world; and my Moslem friends would feel right at home in the Seafood Platter Deli.
Of course, in Saudi Arabia, we would rush to buy our pre-sunset felafels, and then sit and munch, listening to all the souk grates coming down as shops closed for the Mahgrib prayer. Everything closed, five times a day, in Saudi Arabia, for prayer.
At the Gulf Coast Seafood Deli / Seafood Platter Deli (I don’t know what the real name is, and both names appear when you Google it) there are scriptures on the wall. When you sit down, the little basket holding condiments tells you to “count your blessings.”
The interior dining room (as opposed to the deli section, and the counter where you order food when you come in) is wall-to-wall sea mural, family friendly, Fish and sea life everywhere. There are also families who pray when their meal is delivered to the table, before they eat. The wait-staff is patient, and personal. You get the impression they truly want you to have a good experience at this restaurant.
We were hungry. We are mildly disgruntled to see piping hot food delivered to tables around us who arrived after we did, but not very. Even though we are hungry, we know that our ordering our food grilled or blackened slows things up in the kitchen, where the majority of the meals are fried. It is really really hard for people like us to watch other customers thoroughly enjoying their fried shrimp, fried catfish, fried grouper, fried scallops, etc. They look SO delicious. Every now and then, maybe once every couple months, we slip up and eat something deep fried, just because yes, yes, it tastes so good, and we know it is like the WORST thing for us. What a pity that deliciousness can be so lethal.
Ah! There it is! Our meals! We tuck right in and then I remember “Oh no! I haven’t taken any pictures!” AdventureMan is used to this, and bless his heart, he stops eating so I can shoot what is left of his grilled scallops, so tasty and delicious, so fresh!
I had so much salmon on my platter that I had salmon and steamed vegetables for dinner, too! The salmon was copious, lightly blackened, seared on the outside, moist on the inside, just the way I love it. It was some of the best salmon I have had in Pensacola (not exactly salmon country, but that little Alaska girl still lives in my heart and I can’t resist salmon when I see it on the menu.)
There’s another thing we loved about the Seafood Platter Deli – remember Dembo’s Smokehouse? We love restaurants that honor their heritage, and the Seafood Platter Deli has this wonderful wall:
Last, but not least, the food was so good, and so plentiful, that we couldn’t eat it all and ended up taking some home. We also took home some dessert, one dessert, $1.99 for a goodly portion of Vanilla Wafer pudding, that old-fashioned kind, maybe Banana pudding. It was so GOOD, we wish we’d gotten two.
Gulf Coast Seafood Deli / Seafood Platter Deli
Address: 2250 W Nine Mile Rd, Pensacola, FL 32534
We love this place, and look forward to driving ‘all the way out there’ for more fabulous Gulf seafood.
LOL, this is hilarious, and also frightening when you think what might be in the preserved sandwich.
There are four videos showing food non-deterioration, by Melanie Warner, author of Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Foods Took Over the American Meal
We consistently hear good things about The Magnolia, a little boutique restaurant tucked in between a dog grooming establishment and a do-it-yourself laundry at the corner of Perry and Cervantes, in East Pensacola. What we hear, over and over, is how good the food is, so finally, we decided to give it a try.
Parking is limited in back, with crabby householders reminding you NOT to block their driveway, can’t say that I blame them. Several businesses share the parking area, and some of those parking are excess from Jerry’s, across the street, so things can fill up fast. It’s a busy corner, with Jerry’s, My Favorite Things, Taste of India, Magnolia’s, all together, and Georgio’s, Horizen, Cazadores and New York Nicks just steps away . . . there is always something to eat in this neighborhood.
Magnolia has an impressive bar, and seven or eight tables. They are friendly and welcoming, and you feel comfortable the moment you walk in. We saw a good selection of beers and wines, not overwhelming, but – as the new in word says – “curated.”
Our friends were right about the food. Every single thing we ate was full of flavor. We started with the Mushroom Soup; thank goodness I remembered to take a photo before eating every single bite! It was lush and woodsy, heavy with flavor in a light broth.
AdventureMan had the Hummingbird Sandwich (Hummus, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes & house-made olive salad on Italian) which he said was totally YUMMY:
I had the Almost Famous Rosemary Chicken Salad (Hummus, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes & house-made olive salad on Italian) served on Ritz crackers. Whoda thunk it would be such a dynamite combination? It was! Delicious!
We don’t often have dessert, but because everything had been SO good, when the owner recommended the Tres Leches, we succumbed. Oh my. Real rum, real cream and some delicious cake. Very clever, very unusual, very delicious.
We will go back again in a heartbeat – there are so many other things on the menu we want to try.
One of the reasons AdventureMan and I have been married almost 40 years is that we agree on some very irrational basics – like nothing says romance on Valentine’s Day like Italian food. He had recently been to Petrella’s and suggested I might like it – so off we went, on the worst day of the year to try to get in someplace without a reservation. I remembered all our Valentine’s Day dinners in Kuwait, trying to get in someplace, anyplace, Italian was out of the question, fully booked. We usually ended up bribing someone to let us have an early dinner, promising to be out before our later-eating Kuwaiti Valentines diners arrived; they would never even know they had shared their reservation with us.
We were in luck. Although every table in Petrella’s was taken, within five minutes one group left and we got their booth. AdventureMan had truly nailed this one; this is a neighborhood eatery, full of people who have been eating at Petrella’s for a long time. There were lots of couples, like us, but also many groups of four, many working people having their daily lunch, and a very large table of women affiliated in some way. We speculated, maybe church? Maybe a retirement home? Maybe a club?
Petrella’s took me back to my childhood, where Italian food was “foreign” food and very exotic. People didn’t eat out so much. The very most special restaurants were steak restaurants, or clubs. Even pizza was new, not uncommon; there were frozen pizzas and home-made pizza dough, but it wasn’t the normal American kind of food – meat, potatoes, veg. It was kind of “spicy.” Yes, I can hear you laughing, but things were different, eating out was not a daily or even a weekly event, eating out was something you did maybe once a month. Even then, it was sometimes, hamburgers! Dairy Queen was about the fastest-food there was and there were no McDonalds or Burger King chains, no Kentucky Fried Chicken. There was A&W Hamburgers; there were ice-cream and soda bars, and of course, in Seattle, there was Chinese and Japanese foods.
Petrella’s is comfortable. The salads and the dishes they served are the dishes Italian restaurants have been serving for a hundred years. The lunch specials are all under $8.00, and they all come with salad and garlic bread. They take it for granted you are going to need a box to take home the excess; portions are large. We also had our lunches for dinner
This was AdventureMan’s main course, the Baked Spaghetti:
and here was mine, Petrella’s Famous Marsala (with shrimp):
It was comfort food. Nothing fancy or unexpected, but good, honest ingredients, crafted well. It’s a kind of food that calls you back again and again when you want a good reliable meal. I know we will be going back, and we will probably take family and friends, it’s that kind of place.
They have an excellent website, with their complete menu.
“Happy New Year!” I called out to my Chinese friend in Aqua Aerobics.
“Happy New Year!” she shouted back, puffing just a little.
“Are you going out to celebrate?” I asked, with my find-a-good-Chinese-restaurant-agenda coming out.
“Yes, with a bunch of friends!” she responded.
“Where are you going?” I asked, genuinely curious as to where REAL Chinese people would eat real Chinese food in Pensacola.
“Happy China, over on Mobile Highway,” she told me.
I haven’t had really good Chinese food since leaving Kuwait, where we ate in a little dingy restaurant where a lot of Chinese people also ate. The food was not dumbed down, not at all.
“Will he fix you something special?” I wondered, and she replied that he would, several dishes, ordered ahead, for their large party.
So today, AdventureMan and I struck out to find the Happy China, and we did, to celebrate Chinese New Year, and it was good. I intended to order from the menu, but the buffet looked pretty good, so we decided it would be a way to get an overview. There were many many seafood items, and a noodle bar where you put together a noodle dish and then put it in warm broth to warm it all up. It was fun, the food was really good, and I look forward to going back and ordering off the menu.
On our way out, as we paid the very reasonable bill, I asked if they ever had any of the cats with the raised paws in white china with the colored paint. She said sometimes, but that they fly off the shelves.
“This year we have these ones, in gold, because it is the year of the Snake, you want something in gold,” she instructed me. I kinda liked the glitzy gold anyway, and they were $2.99, LOL, a small price for welcoming wealth into our household. The cat whose right paw is raised welcomes wealth, the left paw raised welcomes children, which are a different kind of wealth and are also welcome in our household, our own son and other people’s children, not more for me, please!
Yesterday, AdventureMan was on an adventure, but I knew there might be an opportunity to grab lunch with him ‘downtown’ so I suggested we try Carmen’s Lunch Bar, which has only been open four months. When I got there, it was full – inside and outside – but an ideal location opened moments later – we were in luck! I ordered a Cranberry Orange Iced Tea, just what the doctor ordered for the remnants of a bad cold still lingering, and shortly AdventureMan arrived, then another, and then two more – we couldn’t all eat together, but we found spaces for groups of two and three, oh what fun. (You can see more photos and take a look at the menu by clicking on the blue hypertext above.)
Here is how to find Carmen’s – next to the Bodacious Olive. There is seating at a large bar inside, against the window and at three or four tables outside:
In my group, we all ordered the North Carolina BBQ plate, which came with potato salad and cole slaw – all good. I loved the sauce, which had candied orange peel in it, piquant and tasty:
It’s not a large restaurant, but it has a happy buzz about it. It’s a mix, the downtown business crowd and locals dropping by for a good lunch and a good chat. They don’t rush you. The menu is concise, but offers an intriguing variety – you can’t go once, you have to go back and try those Moroccan vegetables, say, or the Chicken Tikka Masala. I’m intrigued by the Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs.
I even found a free parking spot, away from the nasty downtown ‘improvement’ board spots where you now have to pay for parking, not far away. There are also parking places behind the Bodacious Olive, which shares space with Carmen’s.
The story behind Carmen’s is also interesting. There is a couple in Pensacola, Quint and Rishy Studer, who worked hard and made a lot of money, which they are now using to benefit Pensacola. Carmen’s resulted from a contest; over 100 people submitted business plans to have this spot, Mari Josephs won. I am guessing some of the close runner ups will be featured at the Al Fresco lot nearby where airstreams are showing up with fun names, including Jerry’s Cajun, which a lot of people have missed greatly since it closed.
If you look at the photo of the exterior tables (above) you will see another building the Studers have bought and are renovating; I can’t wait to see what this building becomes. AdventureMan asked what I would do and I told him I would make two condos on the upper level, perfect for Pensacola as long as downtown remains sleepy once the sun goes down except for Gallery Night. Other than that, just a parade now and then, otherwise, fairly quiet and great location with one of those old Spanish balconies overlooking the street. What’s not to love?
Sometimes I can be too exclusive, literally, for my own good. The first time I saw this place, I said to myself “no no no no no.” The sign says it all. Not my kind of place. Full of things that are bad for me. Bad! Bad! Bad!
And yet, when The Black Bean was not open, and we were on our way to St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, one of the coolest places on earth, we needed breakfast. I needed coffee. You need a little fuel to run the engines, you know? So, sighing, we pull into Savannah’s.
As soon as we walk in, I realize I might have made a big mistake, meaning, if we hadn’t come here, we never would have known how cool this place is. Sometimes snobbery can get in the way of having a good time, you know?
It’s exactly the kind of small town breakfast place – and restaurant – that I grew up with in Alaska, and my husband grew up with in his small southern town. The furniture is all locally made. The place is full of town folk, local people who all know one another, and a few birders on their way to St. Marks. There is a large menu of choices; yes, I don’t see any healthy choices, and at some point, it just becomes irrelevant. This is a great experience.
AdventureMan orders the Biscuits and Gravy, a sort of quintessential Southern breakfast dish and I order a biscuit breakfast sandwich. It takes a long time – they are baking fresh biscuits. The coffee is good, not fancy, but well brewed and fresh.
When the breakfast comes, it is delicious. The biscuits are crumbly and flakey. The sausage is tasty. Yep, Pork Fat is Where it’s At.
Savannah’s Breakfast Buffet gives you an astonishing breakfast at very reasonable cost, great service. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and you can learn a lot about the community by listening to the local discussions. Here’s how you find Savannah’s:
“Have you eaten at Favorite Things yet?” our friend asked us.
“They have a restaurant?” I asked. I knew they had a little coffee shop and gifts, but I hadn’t heard they had a restaurant.
“Just opened,” he replied. “I took folks there for breakfast after church last Sunday. It was GOOD!”
So the next day we had to go, missing entirely the police shooting two burglars in our neighborhood.
I had driven by this place a million times, but I had never been in. It was cute, lots of unique gifts and good ideas, an old fashioned candy store and – a newly opened restaurant. Actually, they had just opened the previous Friday, this was still their soft opening while they work the kinks out of their system.
The dining room is cute, all different tables and chairs, all a country theme.
The menu offers a lot of options, breakfast options, sandwiches, entrees, local specialities. I overheard a manager talking it over with a long time friend; Favorite Things is associated with Jerry’s, next door, but “Jerry’s does all the fried food and we do all the rest!”
We ordered, then roamed through the store, looking at the gift offerings:
Oops! Food arrived while we were ooohing and aaahing over all the goodies.
AdventureMan ordered the soup and sandwich special with their gumbo and a turkey sandwich:
I ordered the Reuben sandwich on whole grain with a cup of the gumbo:
When I put the top on the Reuben, I saw something I really liked – look at all the grains on the top of the roll, and look at the whole grains in the chips:
We went back and tried breakfast, taking little-boy-Q with us, who was good as gold and ate everything with a fork except for the grapes. AdventureMan had a traditional egg special, little-boy-Q had parts of our meal and a fruit bowl, and I had the lachs and bagel breakfast, excellent, and I don’t even usually like bagels. Nice to know there is another good breakfast option near us.