Cover Story: New Kids on The Block
It’s sometimes tough to find good, local food around town—and even harder for the local restaurants just starting out to find you. For this year’s Fall Eat Guide, we thought we’d give credit where credit is due. We’ve highlighted seven “New Kids” that have either recently opened in the Pensacola market or are expected to do soon.
Each unique restaurant has a different story, but all share an optimistic vision of Pensacola and will be welcomed additions to our local dining and entertainment scene. Based on their owners’ commitments to quality and service, we believe that they will take root in this community and quickly develop loyal followings.
Here at the IN we love local businesses. After all, we are one. So, check out these new spots, visit their Web sites and spread the word.
Vic and Ike’s
104 S. Palafox Place
When Nick Fawal decided on opening a restaurant in Pensacola, he had two things on his mind: fine dining and affordability.
“I have an 11-year-old and a 15-year-old at the house and there aren’t many fine dining places that I can take them,” he says. “I wanted to create a place that people could find good food without shooting their bank account.”
Fawal, a Birmingham native, has been in the restaurant business for more than 25 years in various areas of the Southeast. After helping open two restaurants in Orange Beach, he decided to branch out on his own and decided downtown Pensacola was the perfect fit.
“I originally looked at Daphne and Fairhope…then Mobile and didn’t like the way it was going,” he says. “The beginning of the year I started looking in Pensacola and came across this location. I soon found out it was going to be open and with some negotiation, here I am.
Vic and Ike’s is described by as an American bistro; incorporating Asian, Mediterranean and Italian flare into a large menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and seafood. He also notes the commitment to locally-grown and health conscious selections. The restaurant has a relaxed dining and bar setting inside and several covered tables outside overlooking Palafox Place.
“For our menu this fall, we will bring in more seasonal items from our local farmers such as zucchini and acorn squash. We also would like to bring back duck and will probably go with a peach risotto and a pork loin.”
The full menu and updates on specials and events can be found online at vic-and-ikes.com.
The Leisure Club
126 S. Palafox Place
Early this year, Denise Berry and Kimberly Brill came up with a plan to bring a different kind of eatery to downtown. The two business partners in the Reel Centric LLC, a video advertising solutions company and Flash development firm, knew they wanted to open up a coffee shop in their downstairs vacant space, but also wanted to add a quality food and wine selection in a unique environment that people enjoyed spending time in—seven days a week.
“We wanted to do something where people come in and say, “this is the Leisure Club…a relaxed place,’” says Berry. “Our interior is based on a 60s feel.”
The coffee comes from Intelligentsia, a company from Chicago that provides direct trade with bean farmers. Berry says that by using Intelligentsia, they not only get quality, fresh coffee but different blends from different parts of the world depending on the season.
Food menu items such as gourmet paninis are made in-house with gourmet cheeses and Boar’s Head meats. The pastries aren’t prepared at Leisure Club, but are made by local chefs
“Everything is made from scratch…it’s very small, but what we’re trying to do is focus on certain items,” says Berry. “On the wine side, we’re continuing to expand our selection.
“People get to taste a lot of different wines here. Eventually we will have four tiers with 10 selections in each. Education is also a big part of our brand…we want to make it fun for people to come in and learn about wine and our coffee.”
Wine is currently offered by the glass, bottle or bottomless (where you can switch). Local and regional poets and musicians are scheduled on a weekly basis. For more information on Leisure Club events and menu items, check out their Facebook page, facebook.com/theleisureclub.
Savanna Blue Neighborhood Grill
4238 Fairfield Dr.
Savanna Blue Neighborhood Grill and Wowoblue Karaoke & Comedy Club is now open in Pensacola. The grill serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Menu items run the gamut from standard sports bar fare like mozzarella sticks and nachos to down-home dinner entrees like chicken-fried steak and gravy, to wings, to seafood platters filled with clams, shrimp and catfish.
Savanna Blue also features two-for-one wells and domestics all day every day, as well as additional daily food and drink specials. Check out comedy on Wednesdays, live entertainment on Fridays, karaoke on Saturdays, and more. For additional events and details, visit their website, savannablue.net.
It’s small. It’s quaint. And it’s just right…for Tex-Mex and beer.
Jackalope’s co-owner Leer Baker says the idea behind the business was to create a neighborhood restaurant that fit his and his wife’s love for Southwestern food.
“We lived out in Austin, Texas for a while and kind of enjoyed that kind of flavor,” he says. “The menu is all Tex-Mex stuff. We’ve recently added a few new things like the Garbage Bowl (beans, cheese, your choice of beef or chicken and topped with fresh veggies, sour cream and crushed tortilla chips)…that’s what we try for. Everything is generally spicy and jalapeno-based.”
Baker says he strikes for a low-key element with limited seating and a small bar for locals to enjoy. He and wife Windi had always wanted to open a restaurant and stumbled upon a great location in the Pensacola Heights neighborhood when they moved back to the area.
“It was one of those things we always said we were going to do and finally did it. I was a carpenter for a long time before moving to Florida.”
Right now Wednesday nights at Jackalope’s feature $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon beers and tacos. Baker says they will soon feature a Sunday brunch when the weather gets cooler.
“We’re going to put a fence out front and make a bottomless champagne brunch and trezo eggs.…nothing crazy because we are so small.”
For a list of menu updates and weekly specials, check out Jackalope’s Facebook page, facebook.com/jackalopesaloon.
Elise Coastal Dining
22 N. Palafox St.
In late October, Elise Coastal Dining is expected to open its doors to North Palafox Place. Described as a “modern” American food experience by co-owner Amber Rushing, Elise will offer a wide range of dishes, as well as distinct selection of wines.
Amber and husband Blake have trained as chefs in fine restaurants in various parts of North America, including New York and Vancouver. She says that although cooking will be centered on French and American styles, the restaurant will also offer a bit of Asian flavor in the mix.
“We picked up some Asian elements (of cooking) when living in Vancouver. And while there for two and half years, we decided that we wanted to have our own place.”
Blake, who currently offers cooking classes at Distinctive Kitchens, will be the head chef while Amber will manage operations.
“We hope to feature local and regional foods,” says Amber. “Inside will be real simple with organic sustainable materials and bamboo flooring. We’re trying to keep everything “green” without calling it that.”
Elise will have seating for 54 persons and be open for lunch and dinner.
Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grill
997 S. Palafox Place
Another Palafox newbie scheduled to open up this fall is Jaco’s Bayfront Bar and Grille. Jaco’s will overlook the water at Palafox Pier and provide customers a casual dining and social environment.
“The thought is if you’re walking into the place and you feel like you can move around,” says owner David Hambrick. “If you see somebody across the room, you don’t feel like you can’t go talk to them, or join them. It’s more fluid dining.”
The seating is also designed to allow visibility from anywhere. Seats will be elevated much like a modern movie theater. The interior will also have a retro feel to it.
“I wanted to make it feel like it’s not brand-spanking-new,” says Hambrick.”
Jaco’s is expected to open in the next few weeks with a menu consisting of flatbread pizzas, salads and small plates.
But don’t expect typical bar food quality plates. Hambrick says he’s hired a head chef to construct amazing dishes from bruschetta and garlic shrimp plates to rustic veggie and island style pizza.
“We’ll also be serving a lot of single serving items like crab cake and Portobello mushroom sliders.”
The restaurant will seat 80 guests outside and 100 inside. Jaco’s full menu can be found online at jacosbayfrontbarandgrill.com.
The Drizzle B.B.Q. and Grill
810 E Gregory St.
The same homemade barbeque…just a new look.
In June, Drizzle B.B.Q. and Grill left its longtime location on New Warrington Road to move to a larger building on East Gregory.
Manager Colton Brewton says the upgrade has given them a bigger pit and drawn in a different crowd.
“It’s given us a lot more headway and bigger dining area. We’ve also added some new brisquit (items) and barbeque pizza to the menu.”
The new location has also allowed them to stay open later—as late as midnight on the weekends.
And just as it always has been, Drizzle uses the same ingredients that are house made.
“There are no short cuts taken,” says Brewton. “We go the whole nine yards and make sure it is right.”