In 1821, with Andrew Jackson as provisional governor, Pensacola became part of the United States. The Creek continued to interact with European Americans and African Americans, but the dominant whites increasingly imposed their binary racial classifications: white and black ("colored", within which were included free people of color, including Indians). However, American Indians and mestizos were identified separately in court and Catholic church records, and as Indians in censuses up until 1840, attesting to their presence in the society. After that, the Creek were not separately identified as Indian, but the people did not disappear. Even after removal of many Seminole to Indian Territory, Indians, often of mixed-race but culturally identifying as Muskogean, lived throughout Florida.
Seafood restaurants crowd the waterfront, but the bustling Joe Patti’s Seafood market stands apart, under a towering neon shrimp sign. Enter by the beignet wagon, and you’ll find an enormous fish market, which is worth a visit just to gape at the sea-dwelling varieties and their sizes. The humble restaurant next door is 8Captain Joey Patti’s Seafood Restaurant. 8Captain Joey Patti's Seafood Restaurant Google Map: 610 S. C St. Website: http://captainjoeysdeli.com/ 850-434-3193 odd hours/days This low-ceilinged blue bunker has no view of the water. It has no atmosphere. Ceiling fans whirl overhead. You eat over paper place mats with plastic utensils. Start with the thick, fiery seafood gumbo but leave room for heaping platters of fried fish. Mullet — you might know it elsewhere as a bait fish — is a rich-flavored specialty. “Did y’all get coleslaw?” our server asks, sliding crisp, sweet bowls of it across the table. Everything here is fresh. Stick a fork in the fried oysters, and juice jumps out; the oysters melt in your mouth. Did the cheese grits descend from heaven? Maybe so; they are that luscious. My physiological limits vexingly got in the way of what I wanted to do here: eat it all and then some.
Pensacola loves its Blue Angels; you’ll find pictures of the blue-and-gold aircraft painted on local bridges. Head west of the city to visit their home base, Naval Air Station Pensacola, where practices start up again in March. The base also hosts the 4National Naval Aviation Museum, 4National Naval Aviation Museum Google Map: 1750 Radford Blvd., Naval Air Station Pensacola Website: http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/ 850-452-3604 or 850-452-3606 open year-round. It’s the world’s largest, and you can easily spend half a day or more among its minutely detailed aircraft carrier models and restored aircraft, including the World War II Corsair, nicknamed “Whistling Death,” with its unique inverted gull wing, and the Que Sera Sera, the first aircraft to land at the South Pole. “Home Front U.S.A.,” an exhibit of small-town life in 1943, re-creates a street lined with wartime grocery and barber shops, full of vintage treasures. At the museum’s heart is a 10,000-square-foot atrium, where four historic Blue Angels aircraft hang overhead in perfect formation. Admission is free.
Pensacola Beach for many years remained largely undeveloped. The Casino Resort was the first tourist destination constructed on the island (at the present day location of Casino Beach) where a variety of special events including beauty pageants, fishing tournaments and boxing matches were held from the 30s through 50s. With a bar, tennis courts, bath houses, and a restaurant, it was a popular resort until it eventually closed in the 1960s.
British military resources were limited and Pensacola ranked fairly low on their list of priorities. For this reason only small token amounts of British military forces were ever sent to defend Pensacola. This was in contrast to colonies such as South Carolina, where large numbers of British soldiers were sent. After Spain joined the American Revolution in 1779 on the side of the rebels, Spanish forces captured the city in the 1781 Battle of Pensacola, gaining control of West Florida. After the war, the British officially ceded both West Florida and East Florida to Spain as part of the post-war peace settlement.
Larry Cowan likes to quote an old Southern saying, used to calm people down: “Don’t worry, it’s going to come together like goat lips.” He says it so often that when he opened his deli turned beer garden, friends dared him to call it Goat Lips. He did. He regretted it at first: “It’s just not appetizing. But it’s turned out to be an asset. It’s memorable.” Thus was 5Goat Lips Chew & Brewhouse 5Goat Lips Chew and Brewhouse Google Map: 2811 Copter Rd. Website: http://www.goatlips.com/ 850-474-1919 born. It houses a small “nanobrewery,” which turns out a half-dozen or so beers on tap. The most unusual — and my favorite — is the jalapeño cream ale. Most breweries don’t offer food, but Goat Lips has a full menu, featuring giant muffuletta sandwiches — a half fills a plate and rises, oh, four to six inches on a base of Gambino’s bread delivered from New Orleans, with layers of mortadella, salami, provolone cheese and olive relish. Then it’s baked, so the edges of the meat get crispy. The shrimp Creole is peppery and rich; the menu also features comfort-food staples, meatloaf, pot roast. Goat Lips has a mellow, casual vibe. Cowan likes bonfires and makes them big enough to withstand even a light rain. The covered back deck is a popular spot for live bands and a weekly Trivia Night — which my husband and I stumbled upon and were immediately swept up in. Out back there’s a statue of a goat carved out of cypress wood, elevated on a little platform. Says Cowan with a laugh, “I’m afraid it’s going to be my tombstone one day.”
The area was originally inhabited by Muskogean language peoples. The Pensacola people lived there at the time of European contact, and Creek people frequently visited and traded from present-day southern Alabama. Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna founded a short-lived settlement in 1559. In 1698 the Spanish established a presidio in the area, from which the modern city gradually developed. The area changed hands several times as European powers competed in North America. During Florida's British rule (1763–1781), fortifications were strengthened.