Pensacola may have already earned its reputation as a foodie town with locals, but now it has caught the eye of a national freelance food and travel writer. Matt Kirouac.
Kirouac’s work has appeared in well-known publications such as Travel + Leisure; Thrillist; Eat this, not that!; Zagat; Cultural trip; TripSavvy and Plate loader. One of his most current projects will focus on the exploration and discovery of Pensacola.
For each city visited by Kirouac, he devotes several days to researching the history and culinary experiences that make up the city. He then compiles the information from the documents to create authentic and playful tour guides filled with must-see places and must-visit restaurants.
“For me, that’s probably the main thing,” Kirouac said of sampling new restaurants on his travels. “I’m ready to invest more (in restaurants) than in other things.”
This week, Kirouac will compile a comprehensive travel guide to Pensacola for Thrillist, capturing some of the best restaurants, bars, parks and theaters based on his experiences in the city. The article should be published in the next month.
Kirouac said he was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the restaurants he visited for a city the size of Pensacola, in addition to their affordability.
“The restaurants were fantastic and of a very high caliber for a city of this size. Having restaurants and food that you would expect in Chicago or New York or something…but just in a more accessible setting for more affordable prices,” Kirouac said. “Pensacola felt so warm and inviting and accessible and to have such high-quality food in such abundance too. … I was really impressed with what I went through.”
Here are some of the best Pensacola dives:What makes a dive bar a dive bar? These 5 Westside bars are emblematic examples.
9 grocery stores that serve as restaurants:Don’t Miss These 9 Pensacola Food Places Tucked Into Grocery Stores
While in Pensacola, Kirouac bonded with Lindsey Steck of Visit Pensacola to show him around. Steck suggested the two take a walking tour of downtown Pensacola’s food scene through Pensacola’s walking food tour service, Flavors of Seville Food Tour.
Steck said that from a visitor’s perspective, the tour is a great way to get a taste of the city’s culture.
“Pensacola is a destination with a diverse history and a wealth of culinary options,” Steck said. “When hosting media from outside the region, a food tour allows us to share a comprehensive view of the region’s flavors, history, and downtown scene.”
The “Seville Stroll” dinner tour, led by Pensacola foodie and historian Duel Christian, took Kirouac to five different restaurants in Old Seville.
When traveling to a new city, Kirouac said he was always looking for an experience different from anything he could find back home, which he says ended up being a hit in Pensacola.
At the tour’s first stop, 86 Forks Bar + Table, Kirouac enjoyed an egg roll made with wine braise, as an ode to the corporate roots of the former Pot Roast and Pinot restaurant. In addition to the flavors of the food itself, Kirouac took a liking to the restaurant’s vibrant atmosphere and contemporary design.
“Everything looks so unique and fun and playful,” Kirouac said of 86 Forks. “It’s so natural to write about this when I’m so excited about it.”
The setting for the tour’s second leg, The District: Seville Steak and Seafood, helped give Kirouac a greater appreciation for Pensacola’s past.
Kirouac described how history lined the walls through old photographs, noting how the upscale steakhouse felt “preserved” as it told Pensacola’s story.
Munching on a skewer of steak, Kirouac noted how tender and “tasty” the meat was, in addition to restaurants’ ability to use a good sauce and marinade.
As Christian guided Kirouac through historic Pensacola, stopping to point out local landmarks dating back centuries, he made his way to South Market.
“I feel like I’m in Salem, Massachusetts,” Kirouac said, reveling in the high ceilings and cabin-like interior. “The unique architecture – it feels very New England…it’s very interesting to spend more time here.”
After enjoying a meal built from a family recipe of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, Kirouac headed to Calavera Tacos, an overhead vendor inside The Garden food court.
Not only did Kirouac get to sample a top notch taco with fries and salsa, but he also took advantage of the outdoor food court built in downtown Pensacola.
“I love the diversity. Every place has been super different,” Kirouac said.
The final stop at Bubba’s Sweet Spot’s new location was the icing on the cake of the evening, with Kirouac enjoying a bag of homemade chocolates and fudge.
Christian said the tour is a way to help cover ground in an area densely populated with restaurants — with 45 restaurants all within the one-mile stretch between Polanza Bistro and Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille.
“Look at all the food you’ve eaten within a six-block radius,” Christian said.
For those who want to explore some of Pensacola’s most unique restaurants in a new way, food tours can be scheduled on the Flavors of Seville food tour website. Tours are offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays and cost $65. To see Kirouac’s latest articles, you can visit his Instagram page.