The chefs at Bella Luna Pizzeria like to get creative in the kitchen, dreaming up unusual names for their pies—such as Mona Lisa and The Vatican—and tossing their thin New York–style crusts with unique toppings such as barbecue pork and andouille sausage. They even extend their culinary expertise toward vegan pizzas, topping them with dairy-free cheese and fresh vegetables. When they’re not perfecting their pies, the chefs keep busy slicing up meats for crunchy hero sandwiches and whipping up meatballs for spaghetti dinners. As the chefs bustle around the kitchen, customers await their meals in the bright dining room over pitchers of draft beers and bottles of sparkling champagne.
At The Butcher Shoppe, handcrafting sausage and sculpting fresh cuts of meat is a family legacy. Owner Kevin Green and his son Jordan will tell you that serving as a local expert on meat is not just a job; it's a way of life. When the father-son team welcomed Troy Moon of the Pensacola News Journal into their store, Jordan showed off his extensive beef knowledge, knife skills, and the tattoo on his arm, which depicts a snarling steak holding a butcher's knife in each hand. When asked how long he planned to work for his dad, the ambitious and dedicated youth replied, "Hopefully until he either gives up this one to me, or we open another one." Given their talent and close connection with their customers, that may not be a bad idea.
In addition to prime, certified Angus and choice beef, the duo showcases specialty items such as bison and alligator, providing a “how-to” cooking guide with each cut in order to ensure the best flavor. They also turn their patrons' wild game into sausage—adding hot Cajun spices, maple, or sage for an extra kick—and handpick marinades and barbecue sauces that are ideal for slathering on grilled meats or making slip ‘n’ slide journeys more flavorful.
Dave Bohannon had a simple idea for a restaurant: he wanted to open one by the water and craft a concise menu of uncomplicated, but immaculately prepared dishes. With this vision in mind, he and his wife Alice opened Surf Burger. She honed its decor with help from local artists, creating an interior where old beach-themed paintings line the walls and surf movies play against a soundtrack of island music. Not only do the couple and their children leave their mark on the eatery’s menu and interior decor, but on its guests, as well. They often venture from their respective posts to eat, chat, and get matching tattoos with diners, forging a sense of community and transforming one-time visitors into loyal regulars.
They bolster this friendly, low-key atmosphere with casual dishes such as burgers, chili dogs, and fish tacos, as well as sweet-potato fries and quarter-pound Cajun sausages inspired by down-home southern recipes. At a full-service bar, servers pour draft beers and blend frosty tropical cocktails, which arrive before customers seated in the beachy dining room or on the outdoor, dog-friendly deck.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop?s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M?s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
Near the bustling intersection of North Davis Highway and Olive Road lies a tranquil temple. It's not an Egyptian ruin or a place of worship but a shrine to eastern Asian cookery. Inside, brothers Irwan and Christopher Wong whorl squid, smelt roe, and escolar into made-to-order sushi rolls and craft Chinese classics such as orange chicken and kung pao pork without MSG. Diners can gather at tables trimmed with fresh flowers or pull up to a plant-lined sushi bar, which doubles as a stage for sparring samurai and geisha dolls. Here, the Wongs embellish Amazon rolls with fresh avocadoes and dot grilled chicken rolls with eel sauce and sesame seeds. On-the-go diners can retrieve takeout at the handy drive-thru window rather than having servers shot-put it through the front door.
Sunny yellow walls and park benches frame the entryway of CJ’s Kitchen & Grille, giving the cozy eatery the feel of a small, Southern town. Inside, baskets of fried fish and gulf shrimp, and platters of smothered pork chops and country-fried steak keep the Southern ambiance alive. A friendly wait staff shuffles fresh-made breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare from table to table, sating appetites with crab cakes, housemade tartar sauce, and hush puppies. Early-rising taste buds awaken from dreams about licking the surface of the moon to devour eggs paired with hash browns, grits, and andouille sausage, or to dive into homemade french toast made from Gambino's New Orleans' french bread.