By Sparrow Butler
There is an alternative to binge-watching Netflix and ordering Chinese takeout for students who will be in town over spring break. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite local spots that I go to when I need to feel like I’m not in Pensacola, even though I am.
Mimi’s Crepes entices Pensacola locals into the true flavors of France. From the classic Nutella and banana crepe served warm and topped with whipped cream to more exotic recipes like turkey, spinach, goat cheese and tomato topped with homemade pesto, Mimi’s truly captures the essence of French cuisine. The owner and operator, Milan Burnet-Sabastia, is from Paris, France which only adds to the authenticity of his growing business.
While in Paris, Burnet-Sabastia was very passionate about learning how to make the perfect crepe to bring to Pensacola. “I went around Paris looking for a place that would help me,” said Burnet-Sabastia, and help is exactly what he found.
Burnet-Sabastia was trained by a professional French creperie in Paris, and now you can find him serving up delicious French crepes every Saturday from 8am2pm at the Palafox Market downtown.
Burnet-Sabastia said, “We’ve won Best of the Bay (five years in a row), Best of the Coast and Best Farmers Market Vendor in 2017, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we have accomplished.”
He also credits much of Mimi’s success to his wife, Christina, for pushing him to be his best. Family is the backbone of their flourishing business, and that love shows up in their crepes.
Speaking as someone who has eaten her fair share of crepes in France, Burnet-Sabastia’s crepe recipe takes me back to nights under the Eiffel Tower with every bite.
To find the most authentic Mexican Tacos in Pensacola, check out Taqueria El Asador, located behind the Shell gas station on Davis Highway. Their meat is grilled with care, and their simple topping of onions and cilantro enhance the flavor of the meat. For an extra punch, they offer a variety of sauces ranging from cheesy to fire hot.
When you pull into the gas station, it’s like you’ve driven off the bumpy roads of Mexico and straight into the heart of flavor; when you walk up, you’ll hear Spanish music coming from a radio and feel a calm breeze coming from fans located around the stand. The environment, surrounded by the smell of diesel and freshly grilled meat transports me back to my time spent in North and Central America.
Rive Garcia, owner of Taqueria El Asador, originally lived in Monterrey, Mexico, where grilling is an activity that brings people together. While visiting family in Pensacola, Garcia decided that he would like to bring the joy of Mexican cuisine to our city, but he never expected such support from the community.
“Our customers are very diverse, and it really makes me happy to see that our food can unite people in such a wonderful way,” said Garcia.
Pensacola is also full of international markets. Whether you’re looking for delicious food made in-house or ingredients to take home and try your hand at making cultural cuisine, stores like Four Winds Fine Foods and Bogo Oriental Market are the perfect places to go.
Four Winds is located on the corner of 9th and Creighton and run by Nancy and James Taraby. They sell food from a variety of countries, but my favorite area of their shop is the sandwich and salad bar. Their tabbouleh, which is a vegetarian salad made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley and green onions topped with olive oil and lemon juice is my favorite passage to the Mediterranean.
Mr. Taraby is a kind man, but he also knows just how delicious his food is, so beware of possible upselling, as he will try to make your simple lunch into a feast. When ordering from the deli, tell the workers,“I would like $(insert amount) of the (insert item)” rather than asking for it in pounds. This will help you only spend what you’ve planned to.
Bogo Oriental Market on Pace Boulevard is run by a sweet Korean couple, Peter and Jennifer Choe, who cook made to order, authentic Korean dishes like kim bop, pork bulgogi, and spicy beef stew.
Their son, Kevin Choe said, “A lot of the food we make is traditional Korean dishes with our own unique spin.”
On top of delicious, affordable, takeout, you can also shop their market for a variety of Japanese, Chinese and Korean ingredients perfect for preparing Asian dishes at home.
The top of the airport parking garage is a fantastic place to spend some quiet time with your special person. For years, my mom and I have gone to the airport to watch the planes land and take off. Often, we grab a dessert from Fresh Market, some lawn chairs from home and sit watching the sunset as planes disappear into the distance.
On my 21st birthday, my mom grabbed us some to-go pancakes from Denny’s and we sat at a table located by the elevators while dreaming about traveling to another country before I went to class that morning.
For students with children, you know that kids need to get outside during their spring break, and parks are the perfect place to do that. Whatever country you long to visit, you can always find a park located in the heart of the city; Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, Central Park in New York and even Hyde Park in London.
DeLuna Café by the Palafox Pier serves cheap carry away food like French fries, burgers and a variety of ice creams, including “Superman Ice Cream,” which is my nephew’s personal favorite.
The park is the perfect spot to grab a quick snack before chasing birds around the center square or playing in the splash pad on warmer days. This park, surrounded by a beautiful view of Pensacola Bay, is our own little “Central Park.”
If you can put your imagination to use, Pensacola can transform from the mundane into a perfect escape this spring break.
Walk into any of these spots I’ve mentioned above with a wandering heart, and you just might feel like you’ve entered a different country.