Drive along the commercial stretch of beach front real estate the next time you’re hungry in Pensacola, and there are few surprises. Eateries are casual and family friendly, with the emphasis on down-home cuisine and good value. While downtown Pensacola is undergoing a veritable renaissance, driven largely by the opening of sophisticated restaurants and retro entertainment venues, the beach is the place to kick off your shoes and keep it simple.
Of course there’s an exception to every rule.
Welcome to the Grand Marlin, a gorgeous waterfront restaurant boasting pristine seafood so fresh that the menu is printed twice daily. Sleek in design, without a kitschy maritime theme in sight, the Marlin is a collaboration between operating partner Bryan Housley, last of Atlanta’s well regarded Ray’s on the River and executive chef Gregg McCarthy, a CIA grad passionate about Gulf seafood. Chef Gregg sources out the freshest local seafood possible, as well as the best from other regions, in dishes like New Orleans style barbecue Gulf shrimp and a Maryland style lump crabcake made from blue crab that was swimming just a few days before landing on your plate.
The oysters harvested from Apalachicola to the southwest are sweet and slightly briny, served with a housemade cocktail sauce and a red wine mignonette. Tasty medallions of yellow edge grouper from nearby Destin arrive picatta style, crusted with parmesan with accents of crispy capers and brown butter. Try the crispy lobster fingers drizzled with a vanilla infused honey mustard sauce, and the delish salad of slow roasted beets and Alabama goat cheese, topped with a round of pumpkin seed brittle.
A daily menu of fresh fish, all sustainably harvested and wild caught, can be had simply grilled with rice and seasonal veg or served on with a green salad dressed with a tomato basil vinaigrette. Portions are large, with appetizers in the $9.95-$16.50 range, entrees from $18.50 to $25.95 for seafood, $31.95 for a 16-ounce bone-in cow girl rib eye with all the trimmings. The snappy wine list boast fish-friendly whites like Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($35) and a wonderful Willamette Valley Pinto Gris from Lange ($39), along with a tasty array of California-centric reds and a menu of hand crafted cocktails.