Fish House Pensacola
By Shelly of BeachnRiver
Do Yourself A Favor: Go to Website Then Choose "The Fish House" in Pensacola, FL For Drinks, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert!
I try not to be influenced by reviews, celebrity chefs or paid advertisements when I choose to eat at a restaurant. I choose based on the location, the menu and a pure and simple curiosity. In the case of my latest eating "adventure" however, I wish I'd gone against my "rules," perused the reviews, acquainted myself with the bio of owner Chef Shirley and reflected on sample menus prior to randomly turning into the drive leading to this non-descript two story "camp style-looking" building on Pensacola Bay. I would have ordered more, spent more and I'm sure --- enjoyed more.
I'm talking about my latest "discovery" --- The Fish House Pensacola located in downtown historic Pensacola, Florida.
Let's begin with the website: Fish House Good Grits. The name alone would have sealed the deal --- especially reading of Grits a Ya-Ya (presented in the shape of a crab). This "World Famous" dish boasts of sauteed shrimp, Portobello mushrooms, cream and smoked Gouda. A rotating array of fancy looking salads, various gourmet fish dishes, a lovely view of Pensacola Bay and music photo gallery posted on the site would entice me enough to travel the 45 min from Gulf Shores, AL to sample --- and prepare me to have greater expectations than I had.
Consequently I have no pre-conceived ideas of where best to sit, house specialties or what to order.
I arrive in time for lunch so I chose grilled fish of the day salad. I ask about dressing selections and learn all are made in-house. I settle on miso, sesame and ginger dressing for my "experiment". (Can I say here what a simple pleasure that is? Just to get an original made from scratch not-from-a-bottle dressing is a rarity in itself these days) The fish? Tillapia. I'm skeptical but am assured by my server no mass-produced made-in-China imports are served here. The fish arrives perfectly tender with real (not painted) grill marks. I am pleased.The fish sets atop a plateful of chopped Romaine dotted with Parmesan. It is a fish salad after all --- nothing to get excited about. But the dressing is another experience. The dressing is like a nectar from the Gods. I could have made a fool of myself asking for more but refrained.
I am just on salad course after all.
My husband orders the Tillapia fish of the day "blackened" for us to share. Here is where I cringe. " Blackened" anything is a lazy cook's excuse to douse with Zatarains, over season, over blacken --- over DRY. I expect the worse. But what arrives (presented on a square white plate) is a nicely seasoned, flavorful piece of fish, with sides of collards, grits and hush puppies --- or so I think. My taste buds are shocked to discover hush puppies are a slightly sweetened "fritter" containing corn and grits are dense, (not gritty) with a wonderfully smoked cheese flavor.
What surprises me most are the greens.
In my whole life of living I don't believe I've had better tasting collards. They are coarsely chopped, cooked "al dente" and have a sweet, slightly tangy flavor. If I had done my homework and read the menu I would have known they are called "Ma's Fresh Collards" but I never would have expected the delightful flavor or texture of these greens.
With two happy surprises under my belt (and in my expanding waistline) I announce I want dessert. "What are the options?" and "are they made in-house?" I ask. "Of course" replies the server. He rattles off the selections then tells of a temptation not listed on the menu --- a Caribbean sounding Creme Brulee made with real vanilla bean infused coconut milk blended with an assortment of exotic fruits. All I can say is dessert was to be shared but I'll be doggone if I "forgot." It was that good, all that and most likely the best Creme Brulee I've ever had.
Surprise,.. surprise ... surprise.
If you are visiting the Gulf Shores, AL area I highly recommend a trip to Fish House Pensacola, Fl. If you reside within an hour's drive and you haven't been --- you should go. If you've already been --- you should go again. The food is so good it will live up to any expectations you may have. But if you consider Andrew Zimmern's approval, the Best of the Coast; Best of Florida Travel and Wine Spectator's Best recommendations as authority you will want to take a few minutes to acquaint yourself with website and menu. You won't want to miss a thing.
In fact, you may want to sample everything and put this on your list of favorite Pensacola restaurants.
THE FISH HOUSE PENSACOLA
600 South Barracks Street
Pensacola, Florida 32502