When most people think of Florida, they think of Orlando, Disney World, Miami, Tampa, Daytona Beach...places further south than the panhandle. Bustling metropolises, white sand beaches, theme parks, and Mickey Mouse. Pensacola tends to be overlooked in favor of these lively destinations, but to be fair, it’s hard to turn down Disney World. However, many people still flock to the Emerald Coast for beachside locales such as Pensacola or Destin, cities that are generally cheaper than South Florida. Restaurants and bars near the beach tend to be crowded, especially during the summer. Skip the beachside bars and restaurants in favor of these places located in Pensacola. Except for The Leisure Club, most of them are located in downtown Pensacola.
McGuire's Irish Pub
This happening Irish pub is a favorite among locals. With its own brewery, McGuire’s brews five regular beers and rotates other seasonal brews. On St. Patrick’s Day, plenty of people gather decked out in green to drink one of McGuire’s local brews or an Irish wake, a green cocktail in a souvenir mason jar. They have drink specials every day including Margarita Madness on Monday and different specials every Thursday. Try their Irish Boxtys or the Combo Snack Plate. Word to the wise: split the Snack Plate with a friend because it comes with a lot of food. I learned that the hard way. There is a McGuire’s in Destin, Florida as well, so if you’re in Destin, you can lounge all day at the beach before ending your day in McGuire’s.
The Leisure Club Coffee Bar and Restaurant
This coffee shop is somewhat hidden, but worth the hunt. The Leisure Club is located on Office Woods Drive near Cordova Mall and the Pensacola airport. With its funky green chairs, white tables, and artwork, The Leisure Club is a quirky place to sip some coffee or enjoy brunch with friends. From 3-6, they have Happy Hour with a small selection of appetizers and desserts along with a buy one get one free for all beers and glasses of wine. I recommend their tomato basil bisque or their hand-crafted cheese board.
The Tin Cow
This burger restaurant is always a hit in downtown Pensacola, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. The Tin Cow is also on Palafox near the bars. You can order a burger exactly as you want it choosing the bun, meat (or veggie patty), cheese, and toppings. You can top your burger with everything from kimchi to dill havarti to spam to avocado mash. But if you’re indecisive, try one of their signature burgers such as the Triple Dog Dare or the Kobe Beef Slider. If you don’t want a burger, try their truffle parmesan fries or a spiked milkshake like the Cinnabun or the Russian Cow.
My friends and I spent many Friday and Saturday nights (and some weeknights) at Hopjacks chowing down on their brie, bacon and artichoke dip or their fries while washing our food down with either a Yuengling or another lager. Hopjacks has two locations, one on East Nine Mile road and the other on Palafox in the heart of downtown. By day, Hopjacks is better for hungry families, but by night, it becomes one of Pensacola’s lively watering holes with bands playing music.
Located across from Seville Square, Hub Stacey’s is another place to visit in downtown Pensacola if you’re craving a beer or live music. Hungry? No problem. Hub Stacey’s also has sandwiches named after streets in Pensacola like The Alcaniz, The Palafox, and The Twelfth Avenue. Hub Stacey’s is another place where families go to eat during the day but at night, you can listen to bands play music or sing karaoke on Saturday nights with Krazy George. Whether you’re at Hubs for a drink or a meal, it’s a fun place to start your night out.
Alex Moore is an English teaching writer. She likes traveling, art, music, and good food. When she's not teaching or writing, she's usually at a coffee shop, spending time with friends, or exploring new places.