Lost and Fonda: The search for the best Fonda in Coronado

Fondas are small roadside restaurants offering Panamanian cuisine at affordable prices. Whether traveling through or living permanently in Panama, it’s a good idea to get to know the local fondas. This month Playacommunity set out to find the best Fondas in the pacific beach area. The Fonda facts: These small open air food stops called fondas are usually open for breakfast and lunch; few stay open for the dinner crowd. The always changing menu is small, offering a few Panamanian dishes everyday for under $4.00. The day starts early for a fonda worker, usually around 5:00 am. All the food for the day is prepared early, and when it’s gone, the day is over.

Most Fondas are open daily from 6:00am until 3:00pm. It is important to know that Fondas do not operate on set menus. Most fondas offer a chalkboard menu of 3 or 4 items that changes daily.  For breakfast Fondas offer typical Panamanian desyuno (breakfast), including hojaldres (Panamanian fried dough), tortillas, empanadas, huevos (eggs), frijoles (beans) as well as fried chicken and meat. Breakfast will generally cost between $2.25 and $3.00.

Lunch begins early, around 10:00 am. There is almost always a soup option, sopa de pollo (chicken soup) or sancocho, a tradition Panamanian soup containing chicken and yucca (a popular root vegetable). Sancocho is served with rice.  Sopa de mariscos (seafood soup) is another popular soup option. Other lunch items include pollo (chicken) and carne (meat) served asado (smoked) or frito (fried). Other fonda dishes include stews, pollo or carne guisado (stewed chicken or meat) and Mondongo (tripe stew). Dishes are typically served with rice, beans and sometimes lentils or slaw. The lunch menu changes daily. It’s a good idea to have an early lunch, as the day goes on, the menu options will become more limited. Lunch will cost under $4.00, tipping is not customary.

 Fondas offer their customer’s free water with their meal, the water they serve is unfiltered. Most fonda do not serve beer or alcoholic beverages. Not all fondas have washrooms, and those that do may charge for the use of them. A typical washroom charge is twenty-five cents.

Fonda Coquetin
Ennie is the owner and cook and Coquetin, she opens her fonda every morning at 6:30 am for the breakfast crowd and closes everyday at 3:00 pm after lunch. Her menu changes daily and is not written. Breakfast varies between, hojaldres, empanadas, tortillas and eggs, costing only $2.25 or $2.50 for take-out. This price does not include coffee or tea. Lunch is offered for $3.25 or $3.50 for take-out. Ennie’s lunch items include fried chicken or beef, stews and soups all served with rice.

Fonda Coquetin is located inside the Coronado gates, on Roberto Esienman ave. just past the La Cosita supermarket, on the left hand-side. The fonda does not have a sign, making it appear like a small open air house.

Rincon Cubano 2

Rincon Cubano draws a largely male crowed, perhaps because the serve cold beer for only eighty-five cents. Open daily from 6:00 am until 8:00 pm, Rincon Cubano is always busy. A typical lunch/dinner menu offers Sancocho for $3.00, a whole fried fish served with rice and beans for $4.00 or chicken stew for $3.75.

Rincon Cubano 2 is located in Coronado just after the El Rey shopping center on the left hand side of the road.

Fonda Casona  - open daily from 6:00 am – 7:00 pm, serving creole style food. Across from the Coronado Mall, on the Panamerican hwy.

Hnas Mary – open daily from 6:00 am – 3:00 pm. Hnas Mary has a large chalkboard menu with prices, however only a few items from it will be available each day. Located beside Fonda Casona.