Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Agapi Bistro + Garden offers five-course meals.
While 2021 was the year of comeback for many local restaurant owners who survived the challenges of 2020, for others it was the year to start something new.
Below are many of the restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops and breweries that brought their visions to life this year in enhancing the culinary scene in the Pensacola area.
Agapi Bistro + Garden
Address: 555 Scenic Highway in Pensacola
Info: Revered Pensacola chef Gus Silivos closed Skopelos at the end of 2020, due mostly to complications brought on by Hurricane Sally, but took on a new endeavor in Agapi Bistro. Agapi serves Silivos' trademark Mediterranean-based fare with a versatile menu. The menu offers light and fun appetizers and café-style sandwiches, as well as shareable plates and entrees that highlight the best of local seafoods, meats and plant-based creations from the kitchen.
BigOtes Mexican Restaurant
Address: 2101 W. Nine Mile Road in Pensacola
Info: Rooted in Alabama, the owners of BigOtes treaded east with their Tex-Mex concept last winter. Located inside the Pine Forest Commons plaza, BigOtes is all about its mega burritos, and fajita nachos, as well as more authentic offerings, like carne asada, chorizo, pollo or carnitas street tacos, shrimp cocktails and their signature molcajete.
Address: 2050 N. 12th Ave.
Info: Though the restaurant opened in 2011, 2021 was the year the local spot reopened in the spot of the former Dolce & Gelato. The Magnolia has carved out a reputation as a cozy, quaint little restaurant and bar known for its burgers, sandwiches, cocktails and dimly lit atmosphere.
The Fishing Hole Milton
Address: 3974 Avalon Blvd. in Milton
Info: The original location of The Fishing Hole at 15 Brent Lane was tiny at first, seating just 10 people. The demand was based largely on the food and what was a modest menu of mullet, catfish and tilapia, leading to the opening of the second location.
AJ's Seafood Chicken and Grill
Address: 1049 N. Navy Blvd.
Info: The menu at the budding new fast-food restaurant is anything but short on options. There are 12 combination plate options to choose from centered on shrimp, fish, cheeseburgers, chicken wings, gyros, Philly cheesesteaks, fried gizzards and more. The local spot also sets itself apart from the rest by serving quality food late at night, currently serving until 2 a.m.
Blue Bayou Coffee Co. & Grille
Address: 8701 Gulf Beach Highway
Info: Blue Bayou officially opened in August as a family-owned, breakfast and lunch takeout restaurant that doubles as a coffee shop. Blue Bayou's breakfast menu is sure to pique the interest of any breakfast food lover in the area, as it is chockful of breakfast taco, burrito and sandwich varieties.
The Juicy Crab
Address: 4968 Bayou Blvd.
Facebook page Info: This Georgia-based seafood chain restaurant secured one of the city's most prime pieces of vacant commercial real estate when obtaining the spot across from Cordova Mall this year. The restaurant prides itself on its "uniquely seasoned seafood." The menu revolves around its "juicy combos" and "seafood combos," which are Southern seafood-boil style combination plates.
Address: 1670 E. Nine Mile Road
Info: The open-kitchen concept of the Utah-based chain allows customers to see employees mixing dough, dressing cookies and just generally triggering your cravings as you get in line. The location has 140 different cookies in its weekly rotation. There are two staples that never leave the menu though — the chocolate chip cookie and the pink-frosted sugar cookie.
Pearl & Horn
Address: 3 W. Main St., located in The Garden at Palafox + Main
Info: Owners of George Bistro + Bar launched a new restaurant concept this year focused on elevated carry-out foods. The menu is built around the best of the land and sea, featuring items like freshly shucked oysters that will be served baked, broiled or raw, lobster rolls, the signature steak sandwiches, smash burgers and lobster bisque.
Address: 12700 Gulf Beach Highway
Info: While the name and majority of the menu at Jaco's Perdido has stayed the same as the picturesque Jaco's Bayfront location in Pensacola, there are some new additions. Some of the most eye-catching menu additions include the Perdido Po'Boy, Big Lagoon Sandwich or a plate of Gulf oysters, all sold at market price.
Address: 5070 U.S. 90 in Pace
Info: This newly opened Cajun-style seafood restaurant was designed to be the spot to share a seafood boil around the table, with the bibs and paper table coverings to prove it. The signature sauces are worth mentioning, along with the lighter fare for a quick lunch break.
JAKS Bar and Grill
Address: 6014 N. Ninth Ave.
Info: The JAKS crew redesigned the space formerly known as Italy's Finest Pizzeria for people to come in and catch a sports game while enjoying some elevated bar food. The menu is appetizer-heavy to appeal toward the late-night crowd, where signature items such as their smoked jalapeno poppers for $9 or seasoned JAK'D fries for $8 are highlighted.
Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar - Pensacola Beach
Address: 400 Quietwater Beach Road, Suite 16
Info: This beachfront location made a name for itself through its New Orleans-style flair and expansive oyster menu. The restaurant offers one or two unique oyster varieties each month to keep the experience interesting for customers, with about 30 types of oysters in total to draw from. There also are plenty of other entrees to choose from, such as shrimp scampi, blackened redfish, or Waygu steak.
Address: 707 W. Nine Mile Road in Pensacola
Info: This Arkansas-based fast-food chain has plenty of poultry, like its name suggests. The restaurant is known for its fresh-never-frozen chicken wings, chicken tenders, chicken and waffle combinations and its array of chicken-based salads.
Lupita's Mexican Kitchen
Address: 6890 Pensacola Blvd. in Pensacola
Info: When 3-D Eats left its Pensacola Boulevard location ahead of the Cordova Mall move, Lupita's Mexican Kitchen, a longtime popular food truck on North Davis Highway, capitalized on an opportunity to open its first brick-and-mortar. Street tacos, birria tacos, dipping tacos and menudo highlight the authentic Mexican menu offered up at Lupita's since April.
Sea Breeze Vietnamese Coastal Cuisine
Address: 440 E. Chase St. in downtown Pensacola
Info: Sea Breeze replaced the former Steak Burger and Five Guys location in the downtown plaza that looks out onto Chase Street and brought with it a fusion-style Vietnamese and seafood concept. The menu's cornerstone items include pho rolls, fried shrimp egg rolls and baby clams with sesame crackers, as well as grilled oysters, grilled mussels and grilled fish.
Address: 573 Watkins St. in Pace
Info: A blossoming Pace food scene now includes a New York-style sandwich shop. The robust menu at owner Christopher Bass' NY Delicatessen includes classics like the Italian, ham and cheese, prosciutto and cheese, pastrami, and roast beef sandwiches. It also does specialties, like the Reuben, and even sells meat and cheese by the pound.
Almost Vegan Soul Cafe
Address: 532 W. Garden St. in Pensacola
Info: Almost Vegan Soul Café on the margins of downtown Pensacola serves as a bridge for meat eaters looking to transition into the vegan lifestyle. On the cafe's newly created Facebook menu it states that it will serve a 60% plant-based and 40% meat-based menu.
Jitterbug Beverage Co.
Address: 2050 N. 12th Ave.
Info: This husband-and-wife duo started selling coffee on a pop-up basis out of an old Model T, but now has a storefront of its own, through a partnership with The Magnolia. Jitterbug is known for its handcrafted cold brew, a recipe that took more than a month of daily testing to perfect.
Buzzed Brew Coffee
Address: 501 S. Palafox St.
Info: Just this summer Buzzed Brew locked down a kiosk at the new downtown outdoor dining hall that is The Garden at Palafox + Main. Her rise from a small, lemonade-style stand in January 2021 to a kiosk in one of downtown's hottest hubs for food and drink was only elevated by the introduction of the caffeine flights. The options are the "Top Sellers" for $10 and a "Build Your Own" for $12.
Le Petit Pecan coffee
Address: 794 W. Main St., outside of J.W. Renfroe Pecan Co.
Info: SaraJane "SJ" Renfroe, great-granddaughter to company namesake and pecan farmer John William "J.W." Renfroe, launched a coffee pop-up shop late this year that will serve as a sister company to the family business. The new shop specializes in fair and direct trade coffees and teas, while also offering customized flavor combinations, such as a lavender rose or butter pecan latte.
Address: 8508 Navarre Parkway
Info: Since opening in mid-July, this burger and sandwich-heavy concept powered by a mother-and-son ownership duo has generated buzz by making a vegan alternative of every meat-based item on its menu. Best-sellers include "The Rose," which is a burger made with grilled Gouda cheese, bacon, strawberry jam and arugula, and "The Vegan Rose," a meatless mirror of that top seller, and is made with a beyond burger with vegan cheese, vegan bacon bites and a vegan potato bun.
Address: 2435 N.12th Ave., behind Alga Brewing Co.
Info: Ballyhoo owner Bill Manning said he whips up "Little League ballpark-style food with a twist here and there." And to pique the interest of Pensacola's growing vegan community once again, Ballyhoo does meat- and dairy-free versions of a lot of its items.
El Toro Gordo
Address: 2581 Ryale Road in Cantonment
Phone number: 850-429-3868
Info: The focal point for this truck was "birria," a traditional Mexican stew. The chefs behind this culinary endeavor became known for its birria tacos, quesadillas and a three for $8 birria meal deal. They even came up with a birria ramen, which consists of ramen noodles marinated in birria consome with birria beef on top and served with cilantro, onion and lime.
Address: 6423 Highway 90 in Milton
Info: The father-and-son team at Cruz's Crepes was inspired to grace Santa Rosa County with their sweet and savory treats based on the crepe's popularity in their hometown of Tabasco, Mexico. Twelve different Cruz's Crepes variations line the menu at this truck, which opened in mid-July. Cruz's Crepe's best seller is the "Honeymoon," a sweet crepe made with bananas, honey, peanut butter, whipped cream and pecans.
What The Cluck Chicken Truck
Address: 3808 N. 12th Ave. (Wisteria Tavern) on Sundays and Mondays
Phone number: 850-490-6447
Info: The business that opened in early September is hoping Pensacolians soon will associate What The Cluck's orange-colored vehicle with traditional Southern fried chicken, if they haven't already. What The Cluck fries up chicken wings, white and dark meat combination meals, a chicken club and even a fusion banh mi sandwich. Wing sauces include buffalo, garlic Parmesan, lemon pepper (wet or dry), honey Sriracha and "Thai Chic."
Jaime's Local Seafood Shack
Address: 13506 Perdido Key Drive
Info: Owner Jaime Gilbert has been whipping up everything from grouper and shrimp tacos and hot and cold subs for lunch, as well as biscuits and gravy, grits and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
Address: Corner of Blue Angel Parkway and Dog Track Road
Info: Breakfast lovers will want to seek out Wedas' authentic Texas-inspired cuisine if they have not already. Since the truck opened in July, some of the menu headliners have been the huevos rancheros tacos and the carne guisada taco, which is a taco containing a stewed beef in a chili gravy.
Banana Bar Pensacola
Address: Rotating schedule of locations posted weekly on its Facebook page.
Info: A longtime Palafox Market favorite is venturing out into a neighborhood near you with a product that serves as a healthy alternative to ice cream. Banana whip, a frozen, whipped banana, is the base of most products. All treats served from the truck are made dairy-free. The banana bowls can be dressed up with a variety of sundae toppings, in addition to a menu of real fruit smoothies and acai bowls on the menu.
Smoke Shak On Wheelz
Address: 5606 Woodbine Road in Pace
Info: This traditional Texas-style barbecue truck brings the heat while also flirting with fusion. Smoke Shak has experimented with fun sides and an ever-evolving menu out of the gate, such as barbecue fried rice and cowboy caviar and brisket ramen. The truck moves around per request, but considers the Pace spot its home base.
Taqueria El Asador
Address: 406 Brent Lane outside the RaceWay gas station
Info: Owners Rivelino Garcia and wife, Blanca, decided to lean into the idea of a second location outside of the RaceWay gas station this year, pleasing many of the faithful followers who have supported the first location over the years. Still cooking off the signature grill that gave the business its namesake, customers can order a burrito for $8, quesadilla for $6 or the popular tacos starting at $2.50 each.
Address: Home base is 3975 U.S. 90 in Pace, but the truck travels
Info: Pensacola sushi and hibachi chef Sutthinan Suphanniam made his return to the area this year, bringing his signature Japanese creations with him. His most popular menu items being his hibachi dinner, a templated SUT-SHI Rito (sushi burrito) or a create-your-own option. All items start out about $11 and become customizable from there.
Beer, Wine, Spirits
Alga Beer Company
Address: 2435 N. 12th Ave.
Info: This homebrewing hobby became a business with all the makings of an East Hill hangout fixture for years to come. In addition to a variety of brews, Alga's owners regularly host live music, with an eye on spotlighting Panhandle artists who don't currently have a lot of visibility in Pensacola. Some of Alga's beer offerings include "Palahops" India Pale Ale: 6% alcohol by volume, "East Hillsner" pilsner: 5.4% ABV and "Neighborhood Beer" (made with East Hill Honey): 5.9% ABV.
The Well Floridian Lounge
Address: 42 E. Garden St.
Info: This Florida-themed hangout, boasting a national-caliber cocktail and funky beer program, joined the list of downtown hangouts this year with its prime real estate on Garden Street. Owned by the same owners of Perfect Plain Brewing Co., Garden & Grain cocktail bar and also Perennial Patio Bar, the lounge introduced a new concept to the mix. The Well also offers a small-plate-style cold food menu designed to accompany its signature drinks.
East Hill Bottle Shop
Address: 2704 N. 12th Ave.
Info: The second location to the downtown bottle shop hosts more than 1,000 wine selections and 50 craft beer varieties. The new Bottle Shop will carry over some of the events started at the first location, such as wine tastings each Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. for $10, including a $5 rebate to purchase any wine.
The Wine Bar & Market
Address: 4970 Bayou Blvd.
Info: This year yet another popular bottle shop and eatery by the name of "Wine Bar" joined the Pensacola food scene. This Destin-based business planted on Bayou Boulevard sets itself apart by offering an open kitchen, a bakery, hot and cold food deli and pizza oven. The kitchen faces no limitation when it comes to serving up soups, salads, small plates and main entrees.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: New Pensacola and Pace restaurants, coffee shops that opened in 2021