Dining Delights in Panama City

QUOTE:  “Pull up a chair, take a taste.  Come join us [in the city].  Life is endlessly delicious.”  --Ruth Reichl Traveling to "the city" is an adventure including the drive itself.  Once you arrive in Panama City, the dining options are incredible, so we polled many of our readers to see what their favorites are, and are thankful to all whom contributed in very creative detail.  This is what they said:  Let’s begin in Casco Viejo.  

 MANOLO CARACOL – 228-4640
An awesome locale that offers an eight-course meal for $31!  “The Spanish feel is cozy, yet up-scale.” The dishes are unique and offer something creative but uniquely Panamanian.

TANTALO - 262-4030
Hip and cool, with an elevator in back that takes you to a fabulous outdoor rooftop bar with great views and cocktails.  Inside and downstairs: an advertised "chic menu,” fun party place and flirty atmosphere peaks the interest.  Each Spanish tapa is a creation that combines the traditional with local ingredients.  One friend wrote that you could drink, dine and dream here, since Tantalo offers 12 personalized rooms designed by artists with a boho-chic style.  One night in this eco-friendly facility will be remembered as incredible.

EGO y NARCISO – 262-2045
The square near Plaza Bolivar and Museum Bolivar reminds one reader of dining in Europe.  Ego y Narciso features outdoor seating on the square, good service, elegant, tasty and interesting food whether for dinner or a snack.  This is a restaurant for romantics and families alike. The menu bares many international influences and takes advantage of Panama's access to high quality seafood.

Also noteworthy in the old city are CASA BLANCA (214-0040) and LAS CLEMENTINAS.  (228-7617).  

Shopping in Multi Plaza?  Our poll results recommend these.

PALADAR – 302-4141
Many readers commented on this restaurant.  Some favor the Ravioli Alberto with Bolognese sauce, served lasagna style, or the seafood and beef skewers.  There are several salads, and wraps, along with hot and cold appetizers.  Our clam specialist said the clams are the “best in Panama.”  Other readers cited the service and atmosphere as welcoming with a fun backdrop of hungry and busy professional customers.  “It’s nice to have the assurance a quality lunch is available after shopping.”

P. F. CHANG – 302-5380
This famous chain from the U.S. recently opened, bringing gourmet Chinese food to Multi Plaza.  Just about everything on the menu is a hit.  Lettuce wraps are very popular, as is Chang’s Spicy Chicken.  Hot sauce is made tableside to your customized heat preference.  Get there early, because it’s popular, good, and it fills up fast.

SAKE – 301-7250
Across the Via Israel from Multi Plaza, Sake’s menu offers sushi rolls, cones, sashimi, nigiri, maki, tempura, traditional Japanese soups and many hot dishes, including teriyaki.

Elsewhere in the city:

THE GARDEN 2112 – 209-2155 or 209-2156
This recently opened Thai restaurant is between Frederico Boyd and Uruguay on Calle 5A Sur.  The food is fabulous, the setting sophisticated, and the service is excellent.  The staff, mainly Thai, are in traditional dress.  The mixed appetizer (Surtido the Gardens) is a great way to try several culinary delights, or try the fixed menu ($37/person).  Our friend said, “You get a taste of everything, and it saves making those difficult decisions.”  The Tom Yam Kung Soup with langastino is outstanding.  To quiet your taste buds after your meal, try the Mousse Thai, chocolate mousse with coconut that melts in your mouth.

SABOR de INDIA – 391-9151
Great prices. “Not much atmosphere, except the restaurant smells like delish Indian food and you can order some of everything because the dishes are so cheap!” This is a good place to share meals. If you like Indian cuisine, check it out!

Moving on to Bella Vista, a few recommended spots are:

 LA POSTA – 269-1076
Located on Calle 49, La Posta is in one of the oldest houses of Bella Vista and has been the gathering place of the prominent Panamanian business scene for years.  “Stepping into La Posta is like walking into a fine restaurant in old Havana.”  Service is professional, and the menu is deliciously decadent, especially the short ribs.  Another treat is the corvina in papillote.  The martinis are the coldest in town!

GUSTOS – 209-4840
Gustos never disappoints with their homemade Italian cuisine.  The selection of pastas is endless, seafood is excellent, and chicken and beef dishes are outstanding.  Ordering wine?  You get to make your selection from their iPad.

MARKET – 264-9401
This North American-style bistro is owned by the Henesy-Rodriguez Group (owners of La Posta) and is great for lunch or dinner.  The burgers are hard to pass up, but their other sandwiches are good as well (Angus beef sliders, French dip, Patty Melt).  Their steaks and ribs are out of this world, alternatively, you can have a comfort food fix with their daily specials (could be chicken fried steak or meatloaf) or from the regular selection (fish and chips, fried chicken et al).  If you’re having lunch here, don’t worry about dinner!

MAITO – 391-4657
Located in an old Panamanian house, one block beyond Avenida Cincuentenario and Calle 50, this establishment is quietly elegant.  The veranda is surrounded by herb and vegetable gardens, thus one of the reasons for the fresh food.  The salmon, ribs and steaks are fantastic, they also offer several pastas, risotto, and, fish and seafood selections.  Be prepared for a fabulous meal.  Reservations are highly recommended.

For those who prefer there are brunches: Sunday brunch at the Riu HotelSheraton ATLAPA and Las Clementinas.

What a great way to spend a couple of hours lingering over a meal while watching the activity on the AMADOR CAUSEWAY.  The nearby favorite spots of our readers are BeirutAlberto’s, and Barko.

TIP:  If you are coming back from the city, and you were too early for lunch or too late for dinner, Paladar will be opening another site in Costa Verde (new shopping center with Rey and Do-It, 6K west of Westland Mall).  Also, on the south side of Capira is Quesos Chela, where you can stop in for some empanadas, a slice of pizza or perhaps some delicious bread and cheese.