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BEST OF THE COAST | Vol. 11, No. 38, October 15, 2009
(Best of the Coast 2009)

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Winner: Best Restaurant Overall, Best Seafood Restaurant, Best Place to Meet Friends After Work, Best Gumbo, Best Selection of Wine by the Glass, Best Place to Eavesdrop
Top 3 Finishes: Best Chef-Jim Shirley, Best Original Menu, Best Oysters, Best Wait Staff with Personality, Best Bar To People Watch, Best Restaurant with a View, Best Outdoor Dining, Best Looking Wait Staff,  Best Bloody Mary

Carrying a long-known reputation for great food, a relaxed environment and an eye-appealing wait staff, The Fish House has once again been named the cream-of-the-crop for Best of the Coast eats.

"We're just grateful people voted for us and that everyone comes to see us during this economy," says Shelley Yates, marketing director.

Yates says she believes the secret for being so successful is providing quality food that is brought in from local suppliers, which allows the restaurant to have the freshest ingredients possible.

"We've got a lot of great seafood suppliers-and Tomato Joe, Renfroe Pecans, etc.," she says. "We're fortunate to live in a place with great resources."

Yates says these Best of the Coast wins can likely be attributed to its laid-back atmosphere.

"It's always been a great place to have some oysters and a beer," she says.

Winner: Best Restaurant-West Pensacola/Perdido Key, Best Mexican Restaurant, Best Burrito
Top 3 Finish: Best Original Menu

You won't find the traditional Mexican restaurant menu at Cactus Flower.

The California-style eatery has created a large following due to its homemade, original dishes offered at reasonable prices and has captured the hearts amd stomachs of IN readers, especially its burritos.

Their newest location won Best Restaurant-West Pensacola/Perdido Key area.

"It's flattering," says owner Lee Kafeety. "You always want to hear the community votes for you, of course. We have an amazing community base."

Winner: Best Italian Restaurant

Rarely do chain restaurants do well in Best of the Coast, but Carrabba's amazing cuisine won on the Best Italian Restaurant category this year.

"Honestly, I think it starts with our home-scratch kitchen," says local proprietor John Piraino. "It is all homemade recipes and made from scratch."

The fresh mussels are rope-grown off the coast of Prince Edward Island. The Borges extra virgin olive oils  imported from Catelonia, Spain, and the Garafolo pasta is imported from a small town outside Pompeii.

The meals are prepared made to order in Carrabba's open display kitchen.

Founded by Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola, the Houston-based restaurant was first opened in Houston in 1986 and now has more than 200 locations nationwide.

Piraino says he would pit Carrabba's food against anyone else's-particularly its signature dishes. IN readers agree.

Winner: Best Original Menu, Best Restaurant-Downtown Pensacola, Best Chef-Frank Taylor
Top 3 FinishES: Best Desserts, Best Looking Wait Staff, Best Martini, Best Place For a First Date, Best Place to Splurge, Best Restaurant Overall, Best Romantic Dining, Best Selection of Wine by the Glass, Best Steak, Best Wait Staff with Personality, Best Bartender-Matt Winkles

It doesn't take long to fall in love with The Global Grill. With its eclectic feel-highlighted with local art pieces, gentle background music and low lighting-the world-class food menu could be viewed as a bonus.

This year the restaurant won three BOC awards: Best Original Menu; Best Restaurant-Downtown Pensacola; and Best Chef: Frank Taylor.

"We were really happy about Frank winning best chef for the third year," says co-owner Jane Taylor. "The best original menu I also think is great. He puts a lot of effort into the dishes."

Taylor says the key to Global's success has been hard work from the entire staff in addition to the chef's menu items.

"It's a lot of hard work," she says. "Frank and everyone here really do deserve a lot of kudos."

Winner: Best Japanese Restaurant
Top 3 Finish: Best Sushi

Horizen has firmly placed itself, for the second year, as the top Japanese restaurant with its innovative Asian cuisine and superior sushi.  

Winner: Best Chinese Restaurant
Top 3 Finish: Best All You Can Eat Deal

When you think of good Chinese food in Pensacola, it doesn't take long before Hunan's comes to mind. The buffet has consistently been recognized as the best over the years, with 2009 being no exception.

"I'm happy," says marketing director Joanie Lin. "I appreciate all the loyal customers for voting for us."

Lin says this BOC win reflects the quality of Hunan's food and service.

"Treat your customers as your family and as your friends and business will be good."

Winner: Best Place to Splurge, Best Steak
Top 3 Finishes: Best Martini, Best Original Menu, Best Restaurant-Downtown Pensacola, Best Restaurant Overall, Best Romantic Dining, Best Place to Eavesdrop, Best Selection of Wine by the Glass, Best Chef-Irv Miller

What does Jackson's have that others don't? The best steak in town, of course.

The upscale downtown restaurant has a reputation for fancy dining and is the premier Pensacola spot to impress a date.

 "It is our goal to provide a wonderful experience for our guests each and every time they dine at Jackson's," says Maria Goldberg, Jackson's marketing director. "We truly appreciate our guests. Establishing relationships is very important to us.  

"It is our philosophy that our guests want the same thing we want-great service and great food. We do our best to give them exactly that every time! Thanks again to Pensacola for recognizing Jackson's Steakhouse as one of the Best of the Coast."

Winner: Best Restaurant-Pensacola Beach, Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Top 3 Finishes: Best Daiquiri, Best Outdoor Dining, Best Po-Boy, Best Seafood Restaurant, Best Fish Sandwich

This relaxed family restaurant has been a BOC winner since 2000. Peg Leg Pete's is a Pensacola Beach institution. Find out why the locals named it their favorite beach restaurant.