The Oar House checks all the right boxes when it comes to a casual waterfront eatery with a fun atmosphere in Pensacola. Set adjacent to the Bahia Mar Marina on Bayou Chico, just above where that waterway opens into Pensacola Bay, the restaurant does right by its bayou digs with a few welcome Louisiana inflections to its seafood-heavy menu.
Those include everything from hushpuppies and seafood gumbo to fish, shrimp, and oyster Po Boys. But the kitchen turns out a broad spectrum of Gulf Coast cuisine, with plenty of fried offerings, a slew of non-Po Boy sandwiches, burgers, tacos, steak, and a Key West Paella. It’s not all about red meat and seafood, meanwhile: Among the roughage options is the Jezebel Salad, enlivened by a Caribbean Mango Vinaigrette (and, truth be told, also incorporating some shrimp), and some of the popular sides as garlic green beans, black-eyed peas, and sautéed veggies.
This is a good place for the younger crowd, given the grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken and fish fingers, and other kid’s menu winners. In the dessert department, there’s an Oar House take on Key Lime pie, a homemade chocolate-and-fudge brownie, and a daily special.
There’s a full bar menu with beer, wine, and cocktails, so you won’t be hurting for the perfect refreshment for a hot Emerald Coast day (or steamy Emerald Coast evening). And heads up: There’s a daily happy hour here between 4 and 6 PM.
Some of the prime seating options are the tables on the deck—great for watching the boats mosey along Bayou Chico, and maybe catching a glimpse of some of the Pensacola Bay system’s dolphins—and those under the tiki roof. Live music is a regular feature at the Oar House, and anytime you swing by you can crank up the good vibes with some cornhole, ping-pong, or beach volleyball.
Meanwhile, you’ll find some good photo ops alongside the carved pirate and the “fish-lady” Jezebel, the Oar House’s muse.
Explore some specific recommendations from the Oar House menu here:
It’s really hard to argue with the Oar House hushpuppies, which come with a luxurious creamy jalapeño cream sauce.
Flash Fried Gator Bites
As emblematic of the Florida Panhandle itself as Louisiana cookery, the Oar House’s gator-meat appetizers are worth a try; they come served with the house “Oar Sauce.”
Fish & Chips
Among the Oar House’s lineup of “Jezebel’s Fried Baskets” is a pretty darn solid fish-and-chips, which features the above-mentioned hushpuppies as a side along with coleslaw and either French fries or cheese grits.
Shrimp & Grits
Did somebody say grits? The Oar House Shrimp & Grits are a worthy stab at that Southern classic, with sautéed shrimp and vegetables slathered in Cajun sauce and laid in a big bed of the restaurant’s cheese grits.
Another of the Oar House’s Louisiana-style delicacies, the Crawfish Etouffée features a rich broth of crawfish, onions, green peppers, celery, and spices crowned with rice.
Dinner at the Oar House, maybe with some live tunes and a blazing sunset over the bayou to boot, is a pretty good way to spend an evening on the Pensacola waterfront.
A few things to keep in mind: The Oar House doesn’t take reservations, and when it’s crowded—as it often is—service can be a bit slow and things are pretty noisy.