The locally owned Wildman’s Restaurant steakhouse is nestled in downtown Pensacola, where it draws diners inside with the aroma of sizzling steaks, po' boys, and seafood. On weekdays, chefs add new items to an ever-metamorphosing menu of lunch specials—from Monday’s butter chicken to Friday’s barbecue pork ribs. Throughout the day, chefs pair burgers and sandwiches with french fries, while carefully hand-cutting and grilling rib eye, filet mignon, peppercorn, and New York strip steaks. The menu is about more than deep frying American favorites, however. Wildman's also participates in the Escambia Healthy Choices Restaurant program, striving to promote healthy habits by presenting steamed or grilled alternatives to fried entrees. An example is the grilled rib-eye steak, which weighs in at 12 ounces—one ounce for each way to hilariously attach a steak to a windshield—duct tape, scotch tape, glue, ribbon, magnet, rope, string, silly string, caramel, maple syrup, Vermont maple syrup, holding it there forever.
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Open only for lunch on weekdays, Norma's On The Run serves healthy meal options quickly, allowing customers to place orders ahead of time by phone or fax. An army of soups, sandwiches, and salads leads the blitz on hunger, and almost any two items can combine forces in various combo meals, such as a small soup with half a sandwich, and a fruit cup with a salad. Vegetarian options include the garden veggie sandwich and nature nut salad, and sweet teeth can be sacrificed to cookies, bread pudding, or ice cream cups. No single menu item or combo meal costs more than $10, which is equivalent to 375 Greg Oden rookie cards.
Blue Dot Barbeque doesn’t need to be flashy or showy. One small sign hangs beside the blue-brick building’s front door—no flashing lights, no giant marquee, and absolutely no skywriting. The owner chose the name in honor of his aunt and uncle—Blue and Dorothy Robinson—and this casual, down-home inspiration influences the hole-in-the-wall eatery’s spirit.
Surrounded by nondescript white walls, patrons snag a stool at the counter or grab a seat at one of the diner-style wooden tables. Orders of grill-fresh hamburgers and rib sandwiches emerge from the kitchen tightly wrapped in foil paper, releasing a burst of savory aromas as soon as they’re opened.
Many people argue that Blue Dot's burgers are the best in the area. In fact, a group of nine friends on a quest to find the best burger in Northwest Florida embarked on the NWFL Burger Tour in 2012. After sampling burgers from 14 different local and chain restaurants, the group rated Blue Dot as the best.
The balcony at Helen Back Again affords views of bustling Palafox Place below. As guests sun and people-watch, bartenders keep busy doling out ice-cold beers. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, fresh ingredients are tossed onto award-winning pizzas with a butter garlic crust lauded by writers from Esquire. Helen Back Again caters to bar and restaurant employees, and they have a deep and abiding appreciation for the military. Open 7 days a week, they host live entertainment as well as Military Night, Guys Night, Ladies Night, Bike Night, and Sin Night, in addition to broadcasting all sports games on a collection of HD televisions.
The Leisure Club stocks and serves an inventive selection of wine, craft beer, coffee, and pairable edibles. Start sleepy mornings with freshly brewed Intelligentsia coffee ($2.50–$3) or up the barista artistry with a frothy cappuccino ($3.50–$4). For lunch or on-the-go munchy thoughts, nibblers can snag a custom grilled cheese ($6) or an equally grippable and grain-laden selection, such as the hammed up Amore sandwich ($9). Leisure Club's drink list has 20 vintages available by the glass ($7–$10), half glass ($4–$6), or bottomless glass ($32–$44), in addition to craft beers poured with care, compassion, and the assistance of gravity ($2.75–$6.50).