As a capital city, Panama City truly does present top-dining choices for cut prices. More restaurants keep sprouting up all over the city as a result of being Latin America’s fastest growing economy. A common topic of conversation among local expats (including our staff) is what restaurants are new.
This turnover keeps standards high, with higher and higher expectations from customers. Dining out in Panama City is exciting: prices are relatively affordable for a capital city (think U.S. prices) with fresh food (especially seafood and produce). Most of the capital’s best restaurants are family-owned and tend to have their owners on-site, sometimes even in the kitchen as the chef.
Just as much as prices and cuisine can vary, so can service. Below are our staff recommendations, made exclusively for those traveling through Panama. We base our recommendation based on a restaurant’s service, great quality food and to give you a happy travel experience in Panama’s capital.
Top Staff Recommendations:
After much debate, our PLV team has compiled a list of our Top 5 Recommendations (in no particular order) that promise not to disappoint:
- Donde José: The single tasting menu will lead you through Panama’s traditions and culture with an explanation and a story from the founding chef Jose O. Carles to accompany each course. Discover Panama’s culinary identity through the endemic ingredients, cooked with varied techniques and presented with style and innovation. Throughout the dinner, watch the chefs carefully make final preparations on each course thanks to a carefully placed ceiling mirror. Dinner is served simultaneously to all guests in the restaurant which adds to the cozy, familiar feeling. This makes it especially important to arrive on time for your reservation so you don’t miss a single course.
- Maito: Tucked away in the neighborhood of Coco del Mar, this is one of Panama City’s hidden gems. A fusion of Mediterranean and International cuisine with using local ingredients, and with a tropical environment and great prices, this is one of the better values you will find in the city. Staff Favorites: Crab Cakes for appetizer. For main courses, we recommend the Grouper, Baby Back Ribs with Passion Fruit Glaze and Calamari Risotto in Black Ink sauce (we know it sounds exotic, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds, the dish is amazing!). The best way to arrive is by taxi as they will know exactly where it is located. Phone: 391-4657 www.maitopanama.com
- Tantalo: Also located in Casco Viejo, the communal tables (eco-harvested from the Panama Canal) provide a welcoming and upbeat feel. Dive into the tapas-style dishes to enjoy a sampling of international flavors that are both inventive and inexpensive. Take in the custom artwork, then head to the rooftop bar for incredible city views and tasty drinks. Staff Favorites: we´ve enjoyed sharing the Golden Sea Bass Cakes, Sweet Corn with Cayenne-Spiced Ceviche, and Imported Hanger Steak with Chimichurri (but it doesn’t seem like you can ever go wrong with the menu) Phone: 262-4030 www.tantalohotel.com
- Humo Restaurant: Opened in January 2013, our latest staff dinner at Maito’s sister restaurant gave this place a unanimous recommendation around the table. The BBQ Smoke-House is great for local cuisine with a fun edge and just-right ambiance. Extremely attentive staff and be sure to ask for the house recommendations: everything on the menu will seem tasty. Staff Favorites: We enjoyed the Smoked Cheese and Sausage and Apples for starters; any meat option for the main course as well as the Robalo (Amberjack) was absolutely delicious. Phone: 203-7313 www.humopanama.com
- La Trona: Located in Bella Vista, La Trona occupies the building where the once famous ‘Eurasia’ restaurant was located. The building itself is magnificent and a seat on the outdoor patio located in the back is a must. With consistently attentive service, intimate setting and well-presented selections, La Trona is excellent to enjoy an upscale night of casual elegance. Staff Favorites: Crab Cakes or Beef Carpaccio for appetizers; Lamb, Short Ribs or Tuna for main course. The easiest way to arrive is by taxi as La Trona can be a bit difficult with its discreet advertising despite its central location. Phone: 396-9230
Other Top Staff Picks:
- Sukhi: Quality and authentic Thai cuisine with laid back decor- simply excellent for Thai foodies. Chicken satay, green curry, mango with sticky rice and ginger ice cream. Reasonable prices. Phone: 395-6081 www.sukhionline.com
- Sal Si Puedes: Excellent restaurant located within The Bristol Hotel. Superbly prepared local cuisine that will satisfy all taste buds. Hands-down recommended. Phone: 264-0000 www.salsipuedespanama.com
- Angel: Delicious Spanish cuisine including traditional dishes like paella, garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas and sausage), Galician-style octopus and of course, great wine and sangria. Established feel with superb music and service. Located in El Cangrejo. Phone: 263-6868