Though the fall months don’t always provide warm, cozy sweater weather in Pensacola, some of Pensacola’s best chefs have set out to bring a taste of the autumn season to the city through their seasonal plates.
The chefs have worked to put their own twist on the flavors that, for them, define the harvest season.
Here are five Pensacola dinner spots with fun, fall specials that are sure to make you feel like autumn is in full swing. All plates are here to stay until the weather warms up again.
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Fall menu start date: Available now
Address: 555 Scenic Highway
Must-try special: Broiled elk tenderloin made with a savory spice rub, Dijon-cognac demi, pan-roasted sweet potato and brown beech mushrooms.
Honorable Mention: Harvest burger made with a sweet potato, quinoa and mushroom burger topped with garlic mayo, avocado and tomato chutney on a toasted bun.
Word from the chef: Gus Silivos
When writing up this year’s fall menu, Silivos said the turn of the season is an opportunity for the kitchen staff to lean into their creativity and bring something different to the table. Silivos said his team brainstormed what kinds of foods people expect to see during the colder months, and then worked to transform them into something new.
“That’s the beauty of what we do in a small place, we lean into each other’s talents,” Silivos said.
This year, the team likes the idea of serving a wild game meat, such as elk, and flavoring it with the warm fall flavors of allspice, cayenne and cilantro. Although many slander elk’s flavor for tasting too “gamey,” he wanted to prove it can come out juicy and full of flavor without being overpowered. To complement the meat, he added seasonal vegetables, such as the seared sweet potato and asparagus, that also enhance the rich earth tones on the plate.
He also wanted to develop a vegan option that could stand alone in flavor. He created a burger that leans into all of the flavors of a fall harvest, such as earthy sweet potatoes, mushrooms and ripe tomatoes.
“We don’t have the four seasons because we’re in Florida,” he said. “We incorporate some of the things that are in season, because that’s where the flavor is and is at its peak.”
There are plenty of other new favorites on the menu worth making a trip back for, like the Southern Chicken Saltimbocca and the baklava cheesecake.
Fall menu start date: Available now
Address: 101 E. Intendance St.
Must-try special: Butternut squash ravioli made with brown butter, sage and balsamic vinegar
Honorable Mention: Tuscan roast chicken made with local sweet potato, apple, polenta and Marsala jus
Word from the chef: James Briscione
To Briscione, building an autumn menu is all about leaning into what the local farms are producing in season, combined with the craving for comfort food when the weather cools down. Lucky for him, many people turn to pasta as the ultimate cozy meal.
“That’s what everyone gets in the mood for,” Briscione said.
The fresh, regional squash he orders serves as the star of his butternut squash ravioli dish and in the supporting role of other dishes on the fall menu, like in a puree for the seared scallops.
He said that Joe Fekete Family Farm in Amite, Louisiana, is his source for getting ripe squash in abundance, sometimes on offer 800 pounds of time.
Once he receives it, he prepares the gourd in the spirit of Italian simplicity: slow-roasting it in the oven before pureeing it with brown butter and pecorino cheese to create a rich and satisfying flavor without a lingering heaviness.
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The Tuscan roast chicken dish, a new addition for this season, feels like sitting down for a Thanksgiving meal. Briscione’s carefully cooked chicken is vacuum-sealed with olive oil and sage before being poached in sections, ensuring equal cooking for all parts of the bird to make the inside tender and outside crisp.
Local apples and sweet potatoes serve as the accompaniments soak up the flavors of the Tuscan herbs of the meat, such as garlic, rosemary and sage.
A seasonal pasta tasting is also in the works, so keep an eye out on social media for that seasonal menu drop as well.
Fall menu start date: Oct. 5
Address: 905 E. Gregory St.
Must-try special: South Market Stew made with fresh Gulf fish, jumbo shrimp, bay scallops, corn, tomatoes, potatoes and a half pound of snow crab in a white wine butter broth
Honorable Mention: Venison strip served with butternut puree, grilled seasonal vegetable, blueberry bourbon jam and smoked cabernet salt.
Word from the chef: Keith Pardue
For Pardue’s menu, he wanted to capture something that would warm you up while still leaning into all the local, coastal flavors. After experimenting with his grand seafood stew as a temporary special, he decided to bring it back as a fixture for the fall season.
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Another special close to his heart is the venison strip, inspired by hunting trips shared with his father, uncle and grandfather.
“We’re going into game season,” Pardue said.
Pardue said he also wanted to lean into the flavors of the season for the accompaniments, such as grilled broccolini, asparagus and of course, the classic butternut squash.
The plate will have rich, smoky flavors mixed in with traces of bourbon and cabernet wine that are sure to give you a cozy sensation when digging into the plate.
Fall menu start date: Available now
Address: 309 S. Reus St.
Must-try special: Tuna 2 Ways made with seared and confit tuna, fresh pasta, tapenade, house bacon, carbonara, broccoli rabe and sage
Honorable mention: Lemon Bavarian with lemon icebox cookies and anise spiced mandarin orange jam
Word from the chef: Taylor Stoll
Stoll found a way to tie in the comfort foods of fall while using a fresh catch as his leading protein. Settling on a “Tuna 2 Ways” special overtop a bed of pasta, he unlocked the best of both worlds.
“When I developed this dish I was thinking of cool, fall nights,” Stoll said.
Guests are able to enjoy the fish with a crisp sear on one half of the plate and with a slow-cooked flavor on the other. However, the pasta that the fish rests on warms you up with notes of savory bacon and a punchy tapenade.
“Our house pasta is nice and hearty with the peppery bacon and rich carbonara sauce,” Stoll continued. “The seared and confit tuna adds a nice clean and delicate flavor for balance and then the tapenade adds the perfect punch of acidity.”
The dessert, developed by pastry chef James Allen, relied on citrus to bring bright flavors and colors to the fall menu.
“Oranges and lemons coming into season let us know that summer is ending, the holidays are getting closer,” Allen said. “Lemon cookies take us back to our childhood with grandparents and family gatherings. And my chef’s wife loves lemon.”
Fall menu start date: Sep 20
Address: 6205 N. Ninth Ave.
Must-try special: Grilled lamb chops dusted with the chef’s spice blend, Mediterranean Gouda polenta cake, sautéed green beans with caramelized shallots, toasted almonds and an 18 year-aged balsamic reduction.
Honorable Mention: Seasonal vegetables made with sautéed kale with garlic, marcona almonds and dried cranberries, mushrooms, asparagus, crispy artichoke hearts, tricolor carrots, roasted butternut squash, 18-year balsamic and arbequina olive oil. This dish is prepared vegetarian and vegan and is satisfying on its own, but chicken, shrimp, or salmon can also be added.
Can’t forget the cocktails!
Here are the top three cocktails to fall in love with this season:
George Bistro + Bar: “Figgy-tini” made with 6 O’Clock Damson Plum Gin, fig syrup, lemon, walnut bitters and absinthe.
Agapi Garden + Bistro: “Apple of My Eye” made with apple and cinnamon infused crop vodka, lemon, apple cider, East Hill honey simple syrup, garnished with a dehydrated apple slice.
Union Public House: “A Hug from Poppy” made with red beets and allspice Dram, citrus and honey, Siete Misterios, Mezcal and El Tequileno Tequila.
More up-to-date information on menu availability and pricing can be found by contacting the restaurant.