Eat Play Stay: Pensacola

Mary Staes

Mary Staes

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Mary Staes

Pensacola is a city at the very western edge of the Florida panhandle known for its beautiful white sand beaches. Taking its name from a Native American group that lived in the area and was founded in 1559 by the Spanish, Pensacola refers to itself as America’s First Settlement. (St. Augustine, Florida, is considered the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the continental United States, founded in 1565). It’s a 3-hour drive from New Orleans and 6.5-hours from Orlando.

Pensacola offers a wide variety of activities, from downtown bars and restaurants to outdoor camping and hiking opportunities and, of course, its famous beaches.

Crabs on the Beach

Crabs on the Beach is a restaurant offering a variety of crab dishes, including Alaskan snow crab and its signature Fiery Balls of Crab, which include snow crabs and cream cheese coated in Japanese bread crumbs and fried. 

Children can play on the nearby beach while their families dine, and everyone can enjoy the restaurant’s hermit crab races.

Mi Su Food Truck

Part of Pensacola’s vibrant food truck scene, Mi Su dishes out items like fried chicken sandwiches and a Mi Su Melt burger made with a thin patty, chorizo mayo, American cheese, peppers and onions. It was founded by longtime service industry veterans Alden and Hylene Garcia after each of them was temporarily unemployed thanks to the pandemic.

Check Mi Su’s Instagram for regular updates.

Big Jerk Soda Co.

The “jerk” in the name refers not to anyone’s behavior but to the classic soda jerks who doled out carbonated beverages at old-time drugstore soda fountains. Big Jerk’s fruit-based flavors can be less cloyingly sweet than some of the big-name brands.

Perfect Plain Brewing Co.

This brewery takes its name from an 1820s description of Pensacola. It offers a rotating selection of beer, including lagers, IPAs, and seasonal favorites, as well as cocktails. Perfect Plain is also pet and family friendly, and the same owners also operate the Garden & Grain cocktail-focused bar in downtown Pensacola.

McGuire’s Irish Pub

Visitors to this bar that’s been around for more than 44 years will notice the huge number of single $1 bills attached to the walls, but they’ll also be able to try signature dishes like lamb stew, corned beef sandwiches, and steak. McGuire’s also brews its own beer, with brewery tours available, and offers regular live entertainment in a classic pub atmosphere.

Five Sisters Blues Cafe

This restaurant, located in a section of town with a deep musical history, features a menu of Southern and Gulf Coast classics like chicken and waffles, collard greens, and red beans over rice. Sunday jazz brunches include live music.

Coldwater Gardens

This eco-resort offers a variety of opportunities for glamping — that is, glamorous camping — including tents, cottages, and treehouse-style accommodations. There’s also access to a creek and hiking trails. Some produce is grown on-site, and you can also visit the resort’s chickens and koi.

A botanical garden-style environment is available for weddings.

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