One of the things I was most looking forward to about our return home to Panama City, Panama was indulging in some delicious food. Specifically, I was looking forward to eating my weight in one of my favorite childhood snacks – ceviche. I failed miserably.
I feel like we only scratched the surface of the city’s burgeoning food scene; there are just so many options to choose from. Plus, time wasn’t in our favor. I mean, how many Panama City restaurants could we actually eat at over the course of three full days?!
Nevertheless, we still managed to get in some good eats during our short visit. Here’s where we ate and where I’m recommending you to eat if you ever find yourself in Panama City…
Located on trendy Calle Uruguay in the city’s El Cangrejo neighborhood, La Posta is a restaurant that exudes casual elegance with its airy, Caribbean dining room and its eclectic Latin-European menu. It’s the perfect restaurant to celebrate a special occasion which is why I chose it to celebrate our first night back home in Panama City.
The food didn’t disappoint. Knowing that I’d be eating my fair share of seafood throughout our Panama & South America trip, I opted for the penne with the most succulent shrimp, smoky bacon, and just the right amount of spice to keep things interesting, while just about everyone else at the table ordered sea bass and my dad chose a shrimp salad. We were all extremely happy with our choices.
Calle República de Uruguay
Mercado de Mariscos
Follow your nose to Mercado de Mariscos, a seafood market that was donated to Panama by Japan which is why you’ll see a Japanese flag on the market’s sign. Upon entering, don’t be deterred by the smell. We visited the market just before they started closing up shop, so as you can imagine, the fishy aromas had an entire day to cumulate and fester in the humid air.
Still, we perused the market in search of some seafood in hopes that we could have one of the adjacent restaurants prepare it for us since the market’s restaurant was already closed for the day. After making our selections and randomly choosing one of the many restaurants next door, we were disappointed to discover (after a tedious conversation in survival Spanish with our waitress) that the restaurant would place our seafood in the refrigerator while we ate since they weren’t able to cook the seafood we bought at the market.
So there we were with just-purchased bags full of seafood – everything from fish and shrimp to lobster – that we couldn’t even eat. Nevertheless, we ended up ordering from the restaurant’s menu. I think we all ordered fried fish and French fries and we devoured our fish from the roota to the toota in no time.
Once we returned to our B&B that night, after offering our host all of our seafood for his own enjoyment since we had nowhere to cook it, we were thrilled when he offered to prepare us a big seafood feast the next night for dinner. Win – win!
Location: Calle 15 Este
Tantalo Hotel & Roofbar
You may recall that I previously recommended Tantalo as one of the best places to take in views of Panama City’s skyline. But perhaps I failed to mention that the food at Tantalo is ridiculously good.
The night after buying a bunch of seafood at Mercado de Mariscos, we decided to go to Tantalo for some watermelon mojitos and appetizers. Best decision ever.
We kind of went crazy and ordered calamari stuffed with chorizo, garlic, and feta; sea bass and corn ceviche sprinkled with parmesan cheese (yes, God!); giant mussels steamed in green curry cream sauce; eggplant carpaccio with cashew nut and basil pesto; roasted pulled pork on Panamanian corn tortillas; and garlic and tomato roasted scallops. Of course we all dipped and dabbed in each other’s dishes, and we resisted the urge to order more knowing that our B&B host was preparing a seafood feast for us back at home.
Calle 8 Este con Avenida B (Casco Viejo)
Since the Albrook Mall was only about a 5-minute Uber ride from our B&B, we found ourselves eating there a few times. When traveling, I almost always forego eating at fast food restaurants because I prefer to try the local cuisine (plus, I’m not really into fast food), but knowing that we had three weeks of travel ahead of us, we took advantage of the chance to eat on the cheap at the mall’s food court for lunch one day and for snacks on another day.
The mall, which claims to be the largest in Latin America, has a food court that offers typical mall food court options like Popeye’s, Subway, McDonald’s and the like. But there are other dining options at or near the mall including T.G.I. Friday’s, El Trapiche (see below), and I believe there are few upscale dining options at the mall as well.
Avenida Marginal | Corregimiento de Ancón
El Trapiche has been serving typical Panamanian fare since 1983, and it’s popular for its deliciously cheap eats. It took us forever to navigate through and around the massive Albrook Mall to find the restaurant, but once we did, we all agreed that it was well worth the effort.
With a name that translates to “the sugar mill” which the Spanish used to juice sugar cane, El Trapiche has a very relaxed Panamanian-Caribbean ambience and a menu to match.
Jave and I split a bowl of sancocho, Panama’s national dish, that’s full of chicken, yucca, corn, a variety of seasonings, and rice. I also ordered a chicken and rice dish that came with plantains and a side of slaw in true Caribbean fashion. To wash it all down, I ordered a blended mango juice.
Our food was excellent and very affordable with Jave and I paying no more than $20 for both of our meals and drinks.
Via Argentina (next to the Albrook Mall)