Pensacola Beach’s Annual Foodie Festival Moves to October

By Katie King

If your ideal vacation is flip-flops and a fork, we’ll see you on the sugar-white sands of Pensacola Beach this fall for the 12th annual Taste of the Beach! Presented by the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce, it’s Florida’s best seafood meets Florida’s best beach.

This annual foodie festival showcases taste-tempting coastal delights made by Pensacola Beach’s favorite restaurants. Previously held in September, the annual beach event is moving to October this year to take advantage of the cooler weather.

Taste of the Beach brings the restaurants right down to the sandy shoreline for a daylong celebration of all things Southern, seafood, savory and sweet. We’re talking feet in the sand, crashing waves, sunshine and shrimp.

Presented by the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce, the festival is a chance to highlight the dozens of restaurants where locals eat on a daily basis, forming the base of our culinary scene. So if you’re a Gulf Coast seafood junkie, you’re not going to want to miss it.

The 12th Annual Taste of the Beach kicks off Friday night, October 18, 2019, with a special progressive VIP Dinner that will transport diners to four of the island’s best restaurants via trolley.

The 2019 VIP Dinner will showcase the following restaurants:
1. Appetizer – Frank & Lola Love Pensacola Café at Margaritaville Beach Hotel – Chef Eric Troup
2. Soup/Salad – Flounder’s Chowder House – Chef Dennis Moore
3. Entrée – Hemingway’s Island Grill – Chef John Smith
4. Dessert – Crabs We Got ‘Em – Chef Jere Doyle

For more information about the VIP Dinner menu, trolley times and ticket purchasing, please visit the Chamber’s website here: Tickets are $75 per person and seating is limited, so purchase tickets in advance.

Saturday’s daylong outdoor festival opens at 10 a.m. at Casino Beach, when about two dozen of the beach’s favorite casual and fine dining restaurants, stationed in booths overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, begin serving sample-size portions of their signature dishes for $5 each throughout the day.

The menu changes every year, but you’ll always find plenty of seafood options as well as landlubber fair such as sliders, sandwiches and sweets. And yes, beer, wine and frozen alcoholic concoctions will also be available for purchase.

Kicking off the day-long festivities at 11 a.m. is the Chef’s Challenge competition. Although every cook is accustomed to intensity in the kitchen, add to that the pressure of a live audience who’s judging your abilities, and it’s enough to make even a seasoned pro sweat.

Six island restaurant chefs will be pitted against one another to see who can create the best seafood dish in less than an hour using a secret ingredient. In year’s past, the secret ingredient has included Cracker Jacks, candy corn, and Goldfish. The winning chef will walk away with a trophy and bragging rights for the year.

At noon the Amateur Team Cook Off challenge begins, where several teams of three compete to create a seafood dish using a secret ingredient in a timed cooking competition.

Following that, the Pensacola Beach Specialty Chefs headline this year’s Taste of the Beach, taking the Gulfside Pavilion stage at 1 p.m. to spice up the food and crowds with simultaneous live cooking demonstrations. Stay tuned for an announcement on who this year’s Specialty Chefs will be!

The specialty chefs will have an hour to show off their dish to thousands of hungry, mouth-watering attendees. Heads up though! Only festival goers with pre-purchased wristbands get to taste the dishes! So, hint hint: if you’re wanting an opportunity to actually sample each specialty chef’s dish — attendees have the option of pre-purchasing wristbands for $25 here. Don’t miss out!

From 3 to 5 p.m., festival-goers can sample nearly two dozen beers from six different breweries. Wristbands can be purchased here for $15.

Guests are encouraged to view the live cooking demos, competitions and entertainment acts while strolling around the grounds, enjoying the signature dishes, beer, wine and frozen drinks for sale.

Platinum Premiere, a local favorite, takes the Gulfside Pavilion stage at 4 p.m. to play classic tunes you know and love to wrap up the day-long festival. The festival closes at 6 p.m.

Taste of the Beach—it’s a foodie paradise wrapped in a beach paradise and garnished with live entertainment. Don’t miss out this October.