Tag Archives: Pensacola FL

Quantity over Quality at Pensacola’s Barnhill’s

31 Jul

A business day trip to the FL Panhandle gave me a rare opportunity to dine in new territory during the work week. This “fly-by-night” banner (above) can easily be viewed from I-110 in Pensacola. I have actually passed this eatery before, but it really didn’t make much of an impact on me. Then last week I saw an “info-mercial” for Barnhill’s Southern Fresh Buffet on MediaCom Cable (our provider here in Baldwin County, AL). And it actually looked pretty promising.

Loyal regular customers raved about the made from scratch, homestyle food. Employees were lauded for their pursuit of both perfection and cleanliness. One employee was even interviewed to fully explain her commitment to be the best dishwasher in the food business. OK, now I had to give this place a go. Frankly, it all sounded a bit too good to be true.  

I guess this sign is appropriate.  A “trainload” of grub is served here each day.

All You Can Eat for $5??? Sure seems like the bargain of the century.

Others obviously agree … the line stretched outside the door on this early Tuesday afternoon. It was a rather motley looking crew — the clientele and the staff. That may have been my first warning sign. The line did move along at a brisk pace and I was certainly happy for that. Yes, I was one hungry beast!

My platter (pictured above) — well, at least the first go-around. BBQ chicken, green beans, stewed squash, and carrot raisin salad. I usually love them all — so I was anticipating a solid mid-day feed. The BBQ sauce slathered on the chicken breast was indeed very good. Both sweet and peppery. But the white meat inside was woefully overcooked … almost to the point of dry petrification. The green beans were just fine – no complaints here. However, I must add that the squash was extremely bland and the carrot raisin salad just a touch warm and watery.

Undeterred, I shoved off for my second run at the steam table. Sadly, similar results were acheived. This bowl of cabbage (above) pretty much summed up the day. Looked good, tasted flat. C’mon, folks — how about a little salt? Maybe some fatback? A sprinkle of black pepper? A splash of hot sauce? Little touches mean a lot and they were consistently missing. My table was dirty. The server seemed bothered. It took a while just to get a few napkins delivered to my table. The sweet potatoes were overly candied into a gloppy, gooey mess. Just gross. The rutabagas (yes, they actually had rutabagas!) were a welcome sight, but not the best I’ve ever had. A little dry … perhaps canned and re-heated???  

Well, I thought, at least there will be some decent dessert choices. Always seem to be a good dessert bars at places like this. But nope, foiled again. The pies were obviously mass produced, Sysco-style productions. As I walked down the line I was greeted by dry, pre-baked cookies, a couple brightly colored Jellos, a chafing dish swimming with canned peaches in heavy syrup. Hardly Southern fresh, Mr. Barnhill. Shame on you!

You may have fooled me once, Mr. B.

But never again, sir. Never again.

www.barnhillsbuffet.com

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Exploring Old Pensacola

15 Jun

I had several work stops in the Pensacola area on Monday and I had some time in between to semi-explore the city’s downtown. I spent most of that time in Pensacola’s Historic District. Old Town Pensacola is loaded with charm and is peppered with many quaint Creole-style cottages like the one shown above. It reminds me just a little bit of New Orleans’ French Quarter – minus the bars and crazy nightlife.

Jimmy Buffett’s new Margaritaville Beach Hotel on Pensacola Beach will open later this month. Their target date is June 28th and the construction, from what I could see, is coming right along. I learned today that Jimmy’s sister Lucy (aka “Lulu”) is going to be opening a second eatery inside the hotel property. Her first venture in nearby Gulf Shores, AL has been a smashing success. The food is decent and the cheerful island vibe is always uplifting.  

I took a break at lunchtime at The Pensacola Fish House (above). This waterfront compound was recommended to me by a friend and it turned out to be a pretty sound tip. My mid-day meal consisted of a blackened Red Snapper filet paired with smoked corn tartar sauce, Gouda grits, collard greens, and two hush puppies chased by a Tazo citrus-infused iced tea. The fresh fish was excellent and the accompanying dipping sauce was an ideal match. The chopped collards were good, but the hush puppies were mealy and, to be honest, nothing special. The Fish House is known for their cheese grits (their web address is www.goodgrits.com ) and I must admit they were quite tasty, if just a tad dry. The tea was very refreshing and missing the spoonfuls of sugar that are frequently dumped into most Southern brews.    

The atmosphere at the Pensacola Fish House was surely pleasant enough. Folksy coastal art could be seen on the restuarant’s rear deck. My spacious views of the waterfront were only partially ruined by the presence of oil retention booms just a stones throw from the docks.  

TV crews (local and national) were all over the beachfront the day I visited. The media-types are obviously out in full force, bracing for the worst. I couldn’t help but notice that protective booms were pretty much everywhere I could see water. Very sad. We can only hope and pray that BP’s mess doesn’t soil the beautiful white sand beaches of Pensacola and Destin.

As you can see from the booms visible above, the local authorities and area volunteer groups are doing what they can to prepare for the oil’s likely arrival. BP has established an outpost in Pensacola’s Historic District and the building surprisingly lacked the mega-security presence that exists at similar office fronts in Mobile, AL. That may change once the greasy stuff makes its way onshore.  

I spied a BP sign post in Pensacola’s Old Town —- pretty ominous, huh? I ask that you say a little prayer tonight for the people of the Gulf Coast and the beautiful wildlife that inhabits the region. This is a gorgeous part of our country and it sickens me to see this eco-tragedy continue to spread along our coastline.

We will continue to monitor the situation on the Panhandle — specifically from the foodie’s point of view. I hope my dining on local seafood in plain view of all the satellite trucks and retention booms will send a message to the entire Dixie Dining community. Don’t turn your back on the Gulf and its many delights – edible or otherwise. We need you more than ever right now.