Photography by Melissa de Valcourt Photography
A Fine Dining Experience with a Casual Atmosphere
by Melissa de Valcourt
Located in downtown Pensacola, facing Seville Square and occupying the historic Smith House at 300 South Alcaniz Street, sits a little gem of a restaurant that has been delighting the palate of Pensacola locals since 1996. Dharma Blue, one of the most popular restaurants in the restaurant-heavy downtown area, offers American coastal cuisine with a global flair. The restaurant itself is cozy and quaint, the walls are adorned with local artwork, and the high ceilings and original wood flooring is a reminder that you’re in a historic building. The mood is just right for eating, and after your first visit, it’ll become a restaurant that you love.
The name “Dharma Blue” is Hindu for service and essence to all under the sky and seems to embody what the restaurant is all about. The restaurant prides itself on the consistency of service and great food according to General Manager Diana Mills and is what keeps people coming back to Dharma Blue after 20 years, 2-3 days a week.
Sister restaurant to Charles Morgan’s restaurants Harbor Docks and Camille’s in Destin, Florida, Dharma Blue has a menu and eclectic atmosphere, all their own. There truly is something for everybody, not only menu-wise but the atmosphere and vibe of the restaurant itself. Come as you are to Dharma Blue, where you can wear flip-flops, yet rub elbows with somebody wearing a suit. “We have a base menu that’s simple enough for anybody, but it still employs high-quality, fresh ingredients and technique that customers have come to expect from dining at Dharma Blue,” says Chef Brian J. Culleton.
Along with their core menu of fresh fish, steak, and sushi, Dharma Blue offers unique and popular daily specials that span the international palate from Indian and Spanish to Mexican and Asian. Dharma Blue also provides an extensive collection of hand-picked seasonal wines, craft beers, and uniquely crafted cocktails.
You’ll find Sushi Chef Yoshi Eddings and Chef David Douglas providing customers with fresh sushi seven nights a week. Originally from Tokyo, Yoshi learned the art of sushi-making while working in her parents’ Japanese restaurant. Yoshi is responsible for opening, training and overseeing all sushi chefs for Charles Morgan’s restaurants in the Southeast. Needless to say, the sushi experience at Dharma Blue is five-star. You can see Yoshi behind the sushi bar at ladies’ night on Mondays for Dharma’s $2 off sushi rolls.
Downtown Pensacola has changed drastically over the last decade, especially the restaurant scene. When Coastal Lifestyle asked Diana and Brian if they felt the need to keep up with trends and their local competition, they both exclaimed: “We just do our own thing!” “You can always count on coming to Dharma Blue and having fresh fish every time,” says Diana. When explaining the culinary style, Chef Brian Culleton says, “We keep it simple. Our food has a lot of flavor, but it’s not complicated. It’s home-cooked food, but it still has that element of surprise. I don’t try to keep up with trends; I just want to put out a good plate of food. The objective is for people to know what they’re getting when they look at the menu and that they learn what to expect when they visit Dharma Blue, which is a delicious plate of food.”
Consistency seems to be a common theme for Dharma Blue, not only with the food but also with their staff. Brian says they don’t have a lot of turnover, in the front or back of the house. “We have a core crew. Both of my sous chefs, Joey Mitchell, and Ryan Furr, started off as dishwashers here. Joey was here before I was. They have a desire to succeed, they like working here, and they have a sense of pride in our restaurant,” says Brian about the cooking staff. If you’ve worked in a restaurant before, you know that’s not always the case. No matter who’s in the kitchen, your plate is still going to look and taste as good as it did the last time you came. The wait staff carries on that vision of a united front as well, as the underlying theme of consistency, with several servers being on staff for many years.
Without a doubt, the Dharma Blue team is rock-solid, and the food is no less than remarkable. Brian
says the reason they’ve been able to continue to thrive downtown, despite so many new restaurants popping up, is because Dharma Blue prides itself of straight-forward good food, consistency, and a dedicated team that considers themselves family.
Not only does Dharma Blue serve delicious food, but they are also part of the American Lunch Truck program, a non-profit 501 ©(3), providing hot meals to the community in need. Every Wednesday, you’ll find their food truck at Brownsville Community Center, and on Fridays at Warrington Methodist Church, providing FREE hot meals to those in need.
Dharma Blue is open for reservations and walk-ins seven nights a week for dinner and sushi, and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re looking to enjoy all Dharma Blue has to offer, make sure to stop by on Monday for $2 off sushi rolls and ladies’ night drink specials, or Tuesday and Thursday for $20 select bottles of wine. Dharma Blue also has a quaint banquet room that can accommodate up to 30 people perfectly for your next party or event.
Don’t miss out on the culinary experience at the little gem, Dharma Blue. Whether you are looking for fresh gulf seafood and timeless food, or seasonal drinks in an eclectic atmosphere, there is something for everyone at Dharma Blue.
Dharma Blue | 300 S Alcaniz St | Pensacola, FL 32502 | (850) 433-1275 | Dharma Blue
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This is how we eat!