Panama, One Plate at a Time

As always, we're keeping ourselves well-fed, this time at the most delicious places we can find in Panama


Break Time at Bull Beach

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on November 19, 2013

We had just walked from Pedasi out to the beach. Thankfully it wasn't too hot that day, but I wasn't feeling very well, so it was a long haul. Luckily, we saw a sign for this place and knew we'd have a place to rest.

It's a hotel and restaurant/bar, so we sat on the patio and could just see the ocean. It was empty except for us. The waitress was friendly and attended right to us.

The menu was small and written on a chalkboard -- typical bar fare. I wasn't hungry, but my boyfriend had the chicken fingers and french fries.

The chicken was decent, with a nice crispy breading. The fries weren't good, though. I don't eat fries often, but when I do I'm spoiled with the fresh-cut fries you can get at my favorite restaurant in Gorgona. So frozen fries are always disappointing -- but these, especially so, because the were a little limp.

We lingered a bit. My boyfriend had another beer. Then we went on our way.

It's a great spot for a bar, right there on the water, and I have a feeling it gets pretty packed on big beach days. Of course, we were there on a Saturday -- not sure how much bigger a beach day could be than noon on a Saturday, and there was no one there! I would go here again out of necessity, because it's the only one in that area, but if I had a choice I would pick elsewhere. It's a decent establishment, just not that special.
Pedasi Bull Beach Hotel
Playa del Toro
Pedasi, , 45

Afternoon Snack at Eco Venao

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on November 19, 2013

We were driving back to Playa Venao after spending a day in Pedasi. We had seen the signs for Eco Venao the last time we drove down the road, so we decided to check it out.

It's a hotel and restaurant, so we stopped at the check-in area to ask where the restaurant was. She said, "arriba" so we drove up the hill a bit. We saw a building a sign that said "guest kitchen" in Spanish, but we kept driving. The hill got really steep! We got up there and saw buildings that housed guests, so we came back down. Behind the guest kitchen is the real kitchen and seating for guests.

There was one couple there, but otherwise it was totally quiet. We stood in front of the menu written on the chalkboard -- your average Panama restaurant menu, except it included hummus and eggplant. I wasn't terribly hungry, so I ordered a smoothie: banana, with no sugar.

My boyfriend got the salad with tuna (just one day after the fantastic salad with tuna experience he had in Pedasi). Unfortunately, this salad came with canned tuna: not quite the same. Otherwise, it was just your average salad, with chickpeas and corn on it.

The smoothie was fine, just ice and milk and banana, so not too sweet -- exactly what I was looking for at the time.

There's a little library in a loft above the restaurant seating. My boyfriend went up, but he said there weren't a lot of books there.

The views are pure jungle, lovely and green. The waitress seemed really nice and attentive at first; when we were decided what to order, she stood on our side of the bar and waited, watching us. After that, we seemed like a bit of an inconvenience to her. She was nice enough, but it wasn't the best service I'd ever had.

I don't know that I'd go back here, actually. Between the mediocre food and the mediocre service, I just didn't get the best vibe, despite the fact that it has "eco" in its name, which I had hoped was a sign of good things to come. Not always! We'll see. But as long as we have other places to try in that area, and as long as we can get great creative food at nearby El Sitio, we probably won't go here again to eat.
Eco Venao
Playa Venao
Pedasi, Panama

Lunch at Smiley's

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on November 19, 2013

We were hungry as we drove into Pedasi on our way to Playa Venao, but we didn't know where to eat. We were still on the main street and had just seen a little hotel/restaurant place; we had just said we'd stop there when we saw Smiley's and changed our mind, with no real reason.

I was inside, starting at the menu, before I realized that this place had been recommended to me by a friend in Coronado -- that she, in fact, had painted a mural here! I looked over at the wall and saw it, and I asked the owner, "Did Karen paint that?" "She did!" he said. "You must be from Coronado."

There were another couple of people there while we were. The menu was nice, mostly typical of what we've come to expect from a restaurant in Panama. They had several burgers and sandwich options, including BBQ pork. They also had several types of fish. I was tempted by the blackened tuna, but my boyfriend and I talked and decided we'd do a light lunch and a big dinner that night -- so we both got the salad. He got his with tuna, which didn't sound like a great addition to a salad to me.

The salads arrived, and his tuna looked amazing. There were only five chunks of it, and he was reluctant to share, but I did manage to get a piece -- it was fantastic. Absolutely delicious, and it made me wish I had ordered the tuna after all.

The salad itself was good: lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, and garbanzo beans with steamed carrots and broccoli.

The server was so friendly and attentive, and the owner was a nice man who chatted a little bit with us. As we got up to leave, he apologized for not chatting longer, but he was having to attend to the latest small-town crisis. So it goes!

There were musical instruments set up, and we heard from a friend (who we saw randomly in the street as we were pulling up to the restaurant) that they were going to have a band that night. It was supposed to be quite a party, but we were in Playa Venao by then and didn't want to drive back in.

Definitely worth a stop in Pedasi.
Smiley's Restaurante
Main Street
Pedasi

Dinner at El Sitio

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on November 18, 2013

It was our first day in Playa Venao, and we'd only seen two menus elsewhere. They were your typical Panama-restaurant fare: corvina, burgers, salads. We stopped by El Sitio because it was right beside the place where we'd been having drinks (and were feeling less than inspired by their run-of-the-mill menu). We'll have a drink, we thought, and look at their menu.

A look turned into dinner, because this menu was exactly what we've been missing. It was creative! And even a bit unusual!

I could hardly get past the chicken chutney and the chicken curry, but we did end up asking about the special: mahi mahi with pesto on a bed of grilled veggies and mashed potatoes. Yes, please. My boyfriend and I decided we'd order two dishes and share them equally, so we also chose the Thai chicken crepe.

The mahi arrived first and we dug it. It. Was. Awesome. The pesto just made it -- what a simple addition, and yet you don't see that on very many menus! The vegetables were great, the presentation was great: A+.

The crepe arrived as we were finishing the mahi. To tell you the truth, I was almost full already, but we dug in, anyway. It was nice, but we liked the fish better. The flavor was great, but we both wished it had been a little stronger, a little more intense.

I had a pina colada that was okay -- it used fresh pineapple and coconut cream, but I've gotten spoiled off Vitamix-blended coladas, which means they're totally smooth. This was was a little chunky. How picky I've gotten! Still tasty, though.

The mahi was $18 and the crepe was $11, so not much more expensive than any other restaurant in the area. The mahi, as that night's special, was the most expensive option.

The bartenders were really nice, and spoke to us in English even though we started each exchange in Spanish. We saw one of them the next day at the gas station, and she waved and smiled as if she were greeting old friends! The view from the bar can't be beat, either -- get there while it's still light and watch the surfers finish their day on the waves. We would definitely go here again to try the miso salmon, or that chicken chutney I still can't stop thinking about.
El Sitio Hotel B&B, Pedasi
Playa Venao
Pedasi, , 999999

Lunarossa

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on November 9, 2013

We lived in Coronado for months before we finally got around to trying Lunarossa, despite the fact that all our friends raved about this place.

We went first for my boyfriend's birthday -- thank goodness we went early, because it was a Saturday night and the waiter carefully chose a table for us that was not already reserved. If you're going on the weekend, do make reservations; this place is beloved by locals and ex-pats alike.

I started with a passionfruit mojito, I choice I didn't regret in the least. It took a long time to receive it, but it was lovingly and artfully prepared by the bartender.

I debated a long time about what to order, as they have a fantastic pizza menu that features some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path toppings (like the artichoke and eggplant I finally decided on). My boyfriend and his dad both ordered steaks, which came with a choice of salad, potatoes, fries, or pasta. They both chose the pasta.

I was actually a bit disappointed in my pizza, I'm sorry to say. It was fairly large (plenty for two people) and I sent what I couldn't eat home with my father-in-law. The toppings were all delicious, but somehow altogether it tasted really bland.

The guys had great steaks. I tried my boyfriend's, which was in a mushroom chianti sauce. The pasta side dish was just a plate of spaghetti -- not that exciting, in my opinion.

We recently returned to have another go. On the second trip, I again ordered the passionfruit mojito, and my boyfriend had one, too. He went right back to his steak, which he enjoyed for a second time -- this time with a salad (mushrooms, lettuce, and tomato in balsamic vinaigrette). I had the pumpkin ravioli in white sauce, and the waitress added some fresh parmesan cheese to the top. I really enjoyed it, though next time I would probably have the red sauce instead.

Unless I order the cheese tortellini with pistachio pesto. That's next on my list. I'm not even a pasta person, but man, that sounds good.

They menu also features other pizzas and pastas, salads (including Greek salad, always a personal favorite) chicken, fish, and seafood. We've been too full to try the desserts, but I watched three of them go to other tables the night we were there, and I was definitely jealous. Some day we'll have to go just for dessert!

Lunarossa has a lovely atmosphere, a bit upscale but not at all pretentious. The prices are not even much higher than they are at other nearby restaurants. Our most recent total bill -- two entrees, two mojitos, and a beer -- was $42. My pasta was $9; the Greek salad, I noticed, was also about $9. Appetizers are about $6-8.

We'll definitely be going here again, and you should, too.
Lunarossa
Roberto Eisenmann
Coronado
240-1455

Cafe Viana: Coronado's Bakery

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on November 9, 2013

We rave about Sugar and Spice every time we go to Boquete -- we love the feeling of a bakery, and the food there is fantastic. Ever since our first trip, we've been wishing that Coronado would get a bakery.

And at last, it has.

Cafe Viana is located on the main road in Coronado, not far past the Rey supermarket on the left. It's a small blue building with a friendly white sign. They're open every day except for Wednesday -- which is a nice break in this town, where restaurants are typically closed on Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays. At least we can still get a muffin and some coffee on Monday!

We went on a holiday weekend, but it was quiet inside. I spoke to the owners first in Spanish, but quickly realized that they were also North American. They were so friendly and nice, and we had a nice chat after we ordered our goodies and my boyfriend ran across the street to the hardware store.

They had several flavors of muffins on display, along with large peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and brownies. They had other things on the menu, as well -- quiche, empananas, and the like. I remember that they will also take large orders for parties and gatherings (a few weeks ago, my friend ordered a bunch of cupcakes for one of our events).

My boyfriend, who before we left the house had said, "I don't need any bread items this morning" went straight for the banana muffin. I snuck a bite before he took it -- it was fantastic. Usually, my boyfriend is amazing at sharing, but I didn't get another shot at that muffin.

Oh, well -- because I got the cookie. Peanut butter chocolate chip is high on my list of favorites, and it didn't disappoint. Chewy and big -- awesome. Our total was $3.25 or something like that.

When my boyfriend left to run an errand, I ordered a Chai tea to go. They have a variety of coffee choices (cappuccino, espresso, etc), which is exciting to me because I do love a drinkable dessert more than just a regular cup of joe. I was disappointed in the Chai latte: it was just a tea bag in hot milk rather than their own Chai mix. I won't order that again, but I will try some of their other coffee creations.

I'm thrilled to have Cafe Viana in Coronado, so I fully intend to do my best to support their efforts. The cozy coffee shop/bakery is a great place to be, and with friendly owners like that, you can't go wrong.
Cafe Viana
Roberto Eisenmann
Coronado
345-3400

Dinner at Los Camisones

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on October 29, 2013

We made a special trip out to Los Camisones, a good 30 minutes down the highway from our home in Coronado. It was a Monday (which means very little else was open, as far as restaurants go) and we'd been wanting to try this place for a long time -- our friends all raved about it.

It was getting dark as we approached, so we had to keep a careful eye out for kilometer marker 104. You'll also see the Los Camisones sign there on the right of the highway. Don't miss it, because then you have to keep driving until you reach a turn-around, then drive back toward the city until you reach another turn around, so you can take another shot at the turnoff for the restaurant.

It's a large outdoor (covered) seating area lit with these charming lamps: gourds with holes cut in them, and marbles in all the holes! Just beautiful. The ceiling fan directly above our table kept me almost chilly, but I had just spent the entire afternoon in an overly air conditioned mall, so I think I was predisposed to goose bumps that night.

The waiters were attentive and very friendly; my boyfriend commented that they had been well-trained in the service industry -- not always something you'll find in Panama.

The first page of the menu is full of their specials -- things like alligator tempura! -- which were a little pricey and it made me nervous about what else I would find. The rest of the menu, however, is incredibly reasonable. My boyfriend's wine was $3 per glass, and I had a strawberry-pineapple-coconut milk smoothie (which was to die for! My boyfriend said my drink was better than his!) for $2.75.

The menu is long and meat-heavy. For this reason, it took me a long time to choose a dish. I'm to a point where I don't care to eat an entire steak or piece of chicken, no matter how good it is. With fish, I go back and forth, but corvina is on every menu in Panama. My boyfriend was straight for the grilled mahi mahi, which was very good. It came with his choice of rice, plantains, potatoes, or fries -- he chose rice. The presentation wasn't great -- the fish was alone on the plate, and the rice was on a second small plate. The taste made up for it, though.

I decided against an entree and went with two appetizers: French onion soup and breaded eggplant. The eggplant was a nice large portion; my boyfriend shared it with me. It was a little greasy, but still very good. I was just glad to have something that I wouldn't normally get at home or at another restaurant. The soup was nice -- I've had better French onion soup, but it was still good.

The waiter was quick to clear our plates as we finished, and we lingered to talk a moment longer before we asked for the bill. I would have loved to try dessert -- cheesecake or maybe their mango a la pimienta. No idea what that is, but I'd love to find out! Our bill was $35.

I'd definitely come here again, though I'd want to get a recommendation first so I don't sit and stare at the menu for ages! There was just so much to choose from. We had a lovely evening and I went home with a full and happy tummy.
Los Camisones
Km 104 on the Interamericana
Panama, central america
(507) 993 3622

Fine Dining at Terrazas del Mar

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on October 26, 2013

I'd heard great things about Terrazas del Mar, but I'd never been -- until I went twice in one day.

There are some good restaurants in the beach area, but there aren't many options in terms of fine dining. Terrazas del Mar is an exception. Located in the Vista Mar Golf and Beach Resort, the restaurant is large and from the deck you can see the ocean. Chef Pascal specializes in Mediterranean seafood dishes -- the guy knows his stuff.

My first visit of the day was for lunch with two of my girlfriends. They wanted to take me here and were all excited to hear that it would be my first time -- but then I told them I had plans to go back that night, and we almost didn't go for lunch! I'm glad we did, anyway.

They ordered the tuna three ways -- three tuna medallions in three different sauces. I tried it and it was indeed fantastic. We started with escargot -- another first for me. I was a little leery about the texture, but the flavor was good and I enjoyed it. I ordered a spinach salad -- a rarity around here, as it's rather hard to find good spinach! It came with pecans and strawberries. I'm not usually a fan of fruit on my veggie salad, but this was delicious.

After that, I was super-excited to go back that evening for dinner. It was a friend's birthday, so her husband had invited a large group of us to surprise her at her favorite restaurant.

That night, I went straight for the tuna three ways to have it all to myself! There was a ginger sauce, a pepper sauce, and a teriyaki-type sauce, all lovely. My boyfriend ordered a steak, which he also enjoyed. I stole quite a few of the potatoes off his plate. We saw a lot of delicious-looking dishes come out for everyone else, too.

It's not the cheapest place. A few glasses of wine and our two entrees came out to about $80, but it was a wonderful evening with fantastic food: worth it. We'll keep it in mind as a special occasion restaurant -- and look forward to those occasions.
Terrazas del Mar
Vista Mar Golf and Beach Resort
Panama, central america
(507) 345-4077

Eat Up: Your Guide to Tropical Fruit

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on October 4, 2013

The tropics are a fruit-lovers heaven, and Panama is no exception. Here are some of the fruits you can expect to find, where you can find them, and what to watch out for.

Grapefruit. There's nothing like having a giant bag of grapefruit right from the tree! The local grapefruit we have are white and are absolutely loaded with seeds -- so they take a little more work to eat, but they're totally worth it. Be careful in the grocery store -- they have imported red grapefruit that cost about $4/pound, but if you look around you'll find the national grapefruit for about 41 cents per pound, allowing you to buy local and save money at the same time.

Pineapple. Try to buy these from a local farmer, or ask the vendors on the street if you're not sure where they come from. Surprisingly, even though Panama grows a lot of pineapple, you'll still get imported (from Costa Rica) pineapple in the grocery store. Once, a man had a truckload of pineapple he was selling on the street. When I made mention that I wanted one, a Panamanian friend of mine wrinkled his nose and pointed out how unnaturally yellow they were on the inside....evidence of a little chemical assistance. If the local won't buy that fruit, neither will I!

Lemons and oranges. Citrus trees abound -- again, try to find a local farmer.

Avocados. The season for avocados is short, at least here in the beach area, so you'll likely have to buy imported avocados from the store if you want them year-round.

Mango. Mango season is an event in Panama. For those few months, the air is ripe with the smell of rotting fruit on the ground. That's how plentiful it is -- no one can pick it fast enough. A friend of ours has a tree in her yard, and she said that last season she picked about 50-60 mangoes every day! That's a lot of smoothies and mango salsa. Don't buy mangoes -- just go pick them. The trees are everywhere.

Soursop. Known in Spanish as the much-more-fun-to-say guanabana, this fruit is getting some press lately as containing anti-cancer properties. Whatever the cancer boards say (usually something like, "no scientific evidence to support..."), I'll eat it anyway. You'll recognize it by it's prickly green shell.

Papaya. There's a papaya tree that popped up in our yard -- the landlords say they didn't plant one! It hasn't started to produce yet, though. You can usually find local papaya in the grocery stores and from vendors on the street.

Nance. It looks almost like a tiny apple or a yellow cherry tomato. They're hard to the touch and are usually made into a dessert or juice. You don't usually find them in the store, but you'll see the trees around.

Coconuts. Plentiful and inexpensive in the stores or at the markets, if you're feeling brave you can also climb the tree and knock them down yourself. They're not as hard to open as I'd imagined: taking a meat tenderizer or a hammer, simply hit around the circumference until you hear a crack. Make sure you're holding the coconut over a bowl, because the next hit will break it open and spill the water inside. Then you can use a knife (very carefully) and wedge it between the fruit and the shell to dislodge the edible part.

Disappointing Lunch at El Meson Suizo

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on July 3, 2013

I had heard nothing but great things about El Meson Suizo, and we'd been meaning to try it for months. My aunt and sister were in town, so my boyfriend and I went with them and my boyfriend's dad to have lunch on a Sunday. I was really excited to finally try this place.

The setting is lovely -- a few tables on a covered patio. There was only one other person there when we arrived shortly after they opened.

The menu was more expensive than I was expecting, but I didn't mind -- it's worth it for a good meal! The descriptions were fantastic and I had a hard time deciding what I wanted. I thought about the pumpkin soup from the appetizer menu, but ended up going with the beef curry. There weren't a lot of non-meat options.

Each entree comes with a choice of side, and one of the words wasn't familiar to me. I asked the waitress what it was, and she said -- or I thought she said, as did everyone else at the table -- sweet potatoes. I figured that would be sweet potato fries, which are fantastic, so I made that my choice. Weird side dish for curry, but whatever.

We had the calamari and grilled avocado from the appetizer menu. The calamari was really good, and it came in a brown Thai sauce which was a nice touch, but it wasn't a very big portion to split between five people. The avocado was good, but it would have been very easy to make at home, and I probably will.

After a bit of a wait, the main dishes started to come out, one at a time. My boyfriend's dad's meal arrived first: chicken cordon bleu. I frowned a bit. It looked good, but the presentation was on par with the high school cafeteria. For a $17ish lunch, that's not really acceptable. Anyway, we told him to start eating, and he liked it.

Then my aunt's dish arrived. It was a traditional Swiss pasta with a name I can't remember, but basically it was $13 macaroni and cheese. I tried it -- it was tasty, but again, something you could whip up at home for a fraction of the cost.

Then my boyfriend's sausage arrived. There were two of them with a side of hash browns. I got really sad, because he and I had both ordered the same side dish, which we had believed to be sweet potatoes. Not so much. I don't even like hash browns for breakfast, and certainly not with my curry lunch.

My sister's meal arrived next -- she ordered the same thing I did. By the time mine arrived, I was devastated to have brought the whole family here to spend what ended up being nearly $80 on lunch. It was just beef in a sauce -- no vegetables, and it wasn't even especially curry-like. I would have described it as beef stroganoff.

Now, it was good beef stroganoff, for sure. But it wasn't good beef curry. That's the way we all felt about all the food -- it wasn't bad food, per se, it was just bad when you considered the price you were paying and compared it to the description and what you were expecting, not to mention the lousy presentation (hash browns never look nice).

So, now we know. We won't be going back.

El Meson Suizo
Pan American Highway, Just Past The El Valle Turnoff
Coronado
240-8657

Gourmet Pizza

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on July 3, 2013

My aunt, sister, and I stopped by Gourmet Pizza for lunch one afternoon. My only prior experience was this place was a Greek salad to go. I had heard people rave about their giant, delicious salads, but my to-go salad was small and sad and still nearly $9.

However, I'd still heard good things about the pizza, so I permitted us to stop by and give it a try. We ordered a 12-inch vegetarian pizza to share, and a salad for my boyfriend. He wasn't with us and I had every intention of getting it to go, but I had started to have a suspicion that "to-go" was the very reason my salad had been disappointing. So I ordered it for the table with plans to ask for it to go at the end of our meal. (It arrived looking gorgeous.)

Our pizza was great. They were very generous with the toppings: artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, black olives, peppers, mushrooms, and onions. It was in eight pieces which proved to be enough for us three girls, but I think we all would have had another piece or even two with no problem if we'd opted for the 16-inch version.

The menu is large and goes far beyond pizza (with white sauce and dessert pizza options). They serve pastas, gyros, grilled chicken, paninis, soup, and desserts. There's even a kid's menu.

We enjoyed our pizza experience so much that we ordered the same vegetarian pie to go on my aunt and sister's last night with us. We again ordered a salad to go for my boyfriend, but this time it was an official to-go order -- and it was disappointed. With the chicken we added to it, it cost nearly $12, but it was just lettuce and green onions! And a piece of pita bread. I was super-disappointed and I wasn't the one who had to eat it.

The pizza, however, was good once again. When I'm craving pizza, this is probably the first place I'd want to go in Coronado.
Gourmet Pizza
Roberto Eisenmann
Coronado
393-1000

Lunch at Don Chacho's

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on June 19, 2013

It was Wednesday, and the place we had intended to go for lunch with our visiting friend isn't open on Wednesdays. So, we opted for Don Chacho's. It was my first visit, but my boyfriend had been here before.

We were too early for the lunch menu (the special set menu starts at noon and costs about $9, which includes an appetizer and a natural juice), so we settled into a table by the door and studied the menu. We were the only people there when we arrived, but by the time we finished there were four other tables.

The decor is tasteful, neat and clean. There are lots of original paintings about, and there's an easel and palette in the corner, indicating that maybe an artist sets up studio right there in the restaurant.

The menu was a lot bigger than I expected, with several salad, steak, chicken, and fish options, including shrimp and lobster. The juice and "frosty" (fruit and ice slushie) menu was enormous, and I started there. There are several different fruits to choose from. I wanted a milkshake but knew I was going to a birthday party that night (complete with cake and ice cream) so I opted for the frosty instead, hoping it would mean less sugar. I'm not sure about that, but it was delicious. I asked for a blackberry/strawberry combo, but they didn't have any strawberries on hand, so I went for blackberry/pineapple -- delicious. And enormous! It came in a big glass as it was, and the frosty was piled high above the top of the glass. I had to work on it immediately, because it melted down the sides of my glass very quickly.

I also had a Greek salad, which is one of the best I've had here. The tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and lettuce were all arranged side-by-side on a rectangular plate, then covered in black olives, feta cheese, and oregano. So far in Coronado, it's the only one I've ever ordered that arrived with oregano, and that simple addition made a huge difference. I wished it were bigger.

My boyfriend and our friend both ordered steaks, which came with a small side salad. They both really enjoyed them, and my boyfriend even had trouble finishing his, it was so big.

The waitress was very friendly and patient, and fairly speedy even though she did disappear at a couple of inopportune times when the guys were looking for another beer.

I had kind of been putting off coming here -- my boyfriend had invited me before, and I always countered with another option -- but now I don't see why! I guess I figured that, as a grill, I would just be faced with a bunch of disappointed hunk-of-meat options, but there's more than that. True, meat is still the main part of the menu, but between the salads, fish, and juice options there were several things I was wanting to order. I'll definitely go back here.
Don Chacho Grill
Avenida Roberto Eisenmann
Coronado
240-1930

La Teca Happy Hour

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on June 19, 2013

La Teca opened a few months ago in Coronado to generally good reviews, although a common theme we'd been hearing is that it's too expensive. However, people raved about the food and the upscale atmosphere, which is otherwise missing in the beach area.

For the too-expensive reason, we've put off going for dinner (or even lunch), but they recently added a Tuesday night happy hour -- and with our friend in town this week, we decided to give it a shot.

The bartender was incredibly friendly and skilled at drink making (not necessarily skilled at making them quickly, but we liked him, anyway). I had a great sangria, a white sangria, and a margarita. He poured them strong, and they're two-for-one!

We ordered the appetizer platter, which seems to be a happy hour special. It says, "$15 x 5 options", so we assumed that meant we could choose five of the six items listed for our platter. Not so. We tried to do that (three calamari, please) and he told us that it was a set menu: $15 for all six. Which is fine, but that $15 x 5 thing still makes absolutely no sense.

So disregard that part and just place the order. It arrived a bit later, not quite as warm as we would have expected, but good. The calamari was my favorite -- the best I've had in Panama. The yucca was my second favorite, as it came with a sauce and a bit of spice, making it the best yucca I've had in Panama. The rest of it was so-so. There were two potato-meat things, and one "empanada" that was open on the sides and full of ground beef and veggies. The worst part was the clams, but that's just because I don't like clams. My boyfriend loves them, and ate them all.

Our friend was also having a birthday, so a cake was ordered in her honor. I'm not sure if it's a regular menu item or what, but it was like a jelly roll and the filling was this really bland bavarian cream. The best part was the strawberry garnish. I didn't finish my piece. I don't think that has ever happened before.

They were very proud to bring it out to her, though -- which they happened to do the first time while she was in the bathroom! Everyone started singing, then someone said, "Wait, wait!" The look on the waiter's face was priceless. Have you ever played Wii Sports? And when the little guy loses the game or misses a point? THAT face. Anyway, he tried again a few minutes later and it was spot on.

We looked at the menu to see what all the fuss over prices was about, and it turns out everyone was right. The skirt steak, for example -- which is a stew meat -- was $28. I can see how it would be an expensive night. It's a Spanish restaurant, so you can find paella and Spanish flair, as well as corvina, steak, duck, octopus and more.

Though I still doubt we'll make a effort to have dinner here, we'll definitely go back for another Happy Hour. We had a great time, and the people who help host the Happy Hour (a local expat online and print newspaper called Playa Community) drew names for prizes. We went home with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire -- my boyfriend noted that this is the first time he's ever left a bar with more alcohol than he came in with.
La Teca
The Village Shopping Center, Local 16 Planta Alta
Coronado
240-2101

Beach Lunch

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on June 15, 2013

On one of our Santa Clara beach days, my friend and I opted to eat at Las Veraneras, the larger of the two restaurants at the split in the road when you get to the beach (the one on the left, next to the bohios).

Their menu was full of the usual beach-restaurant fare: fried chicken, grilled chicken, hamburgers, french fries, etc. They had a breakfast menu, and I was ready to order pancakes, but unfortunately we had arrived too late for that at 11:30am. My friend ordered fried chicken, and when I was turned down for breakfast, I said, "okay, never mind" -- I wasn't that hungry and didn't plan to eat.

A few minutes later I decided to have a smoothie, instead. It's not on the menu, but any tropical eating establishment worth it's salt will offer fresh fruit in a blender in one form or another. They had strawberry or pineapple mixed with either milk or water. I did strawberry and milk.

It was so good -- so rich, it tasted almost like ice cream. I don't know if they used whole milk or if they added sugar or what, but I wished it were bigger. Yum.

After a few minutes, the waitress came out to the beach where we were sitting carrying a LOT of food. Turns out, it was TWO fried chicken meals -- we had ordered one, but apparently when I turned down breakfast she thought I was accepting the chicken idea. We told her we didn't want two; she shrugged and half-smiled an "oops" smile. And we paid for both chickens. My friend took the second one home.

Which she didn't mind, as it turned out -- she really liked the chicken and said it was much better than the chicken we'd had at the next door restaurant a couple of months ago.

(On a side note, we thought that the bohios were somewhat related to the restaurant, and that by eating at the restaurant we would not be charged for bohio use. Not so. It was $10 to sit in the hammock in the shade, just like last time. I think you could probably offer him $5 and that would be fine, but I'm not always very good at doing that.)

The service was friendly and efficient, and we'll probably eat here again next time we go to Santa Clara.
Las Veraneras
Playa Santa Clara
Santa Clara, Panama
+507 993-3313

Dinner at Diablicos

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on May 31, 2013

We were headed to Cirque du Soleil at the Figali Convention Center after having driven around, rather lost, for the past two hours. I had to go to the bathroom, and we were looking for a specific restaurant that we couldn't find. We drove up and down the street several times before finally turning in here at Diablicos.

It said "Traditional Panamanian Food", which didn't excite me a lot because I figured I can make rice and beans or sancocho (a chicken soup) at home, but I got to go to the bathroom while my boyfriend parked the car.

It was 6:00pm on a Tuesday, but there was nobody there. The waitstaff was incredibly friendly and helpful, eagerly answering our questions about the menu, which was full of sancocho, seafood, and caesar salad.

My boyfriend had the corvina with a garlic sauce, and I had the "ropa vieja", which was a shredded beef cooked with a few strips of bell pepper and onion. Both dishes came with rice and three fried plantain slices. They were not huge portions, especially considering that they each cost about $15, but they were lovingly prepared and delivered -- and it was very good. I would have preferred a different restaurant, I guess, because even though it was good, it felt like something I could have prepared at home. When I eat in a restaurant, I want to be wowed, and to feel as though the chef was the only person who could have made it just like that.

We asked for hot sauce, and the waiter brought it out in a little dish with a warning. Indeed, that sauce was all heat. We used it sparingly and enjoyed.

My boyfriend had a few beers and I drank tap water, and our bill came to $46 -- a little high, I felt.

Overall, I can't say it was a bad dining experience in the least, but it's not a place we'll return to.
Diablicos
Avenida Amador
Panama City
314-0226

Eating at the Supermarket

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on May 7, 2013

The Machetazo is a major supermarket chain in these parts, offering groceries as well as tools, household goods and appliances, school supplies, and much more. You can really find just about anything you're looking for -- if not this week, then maybe next week.

They also have an on-site restaurant called Cafe Caney, where we have eaten a few times.

It's a cafeteria, so you line up and point to the items you want, school-lunch style. They usually have several meat options, beans, rice, and a variety of salads. When I was there for lunch, I had red beans and rice with a cucumber/tomato/avocado salad -- it was all fantastic. It was filling and it felt pretty healthy at the same time.

The best part? It's cheap. It's simple but delicious food for cheap. It's the cheapest dine-out meal you can find in the area, except maybe at a fonda (roadside stand). My boyfriend and I ate big full plates -- me with my rice, beans, and salad, and him with a piece of meat, rice, and salad -- for about $7. We just had water from the cooler nearby, but they have a variety of juices, coffee, slushies, and other drinks. They also have a bunch of individual desserts.

My boyfriend has since been back for breakfast, where he enjoyed scrambled eggs and mixed sausages. He said they had French toast, so I am planning to head back for that some day.

It's a cafeteria -- so it's not super-romantic or charming or anything like that, and if you were only in the area for a short time, I would say you can and should find a better atmosphere and better food -- but if you're on a tight budget, or if you live here and just need some quick lunch, Cafe Caney in the Machetazo is a great place to make that happen.
Cafe Caney
El Machetazo, Avenida Central
Coronado

Easter Brunch at La Joya de Chica

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on April 1, 2013

La Joya de Chica is so much more than just a place for Sunday brunch, but I'll start with that. We met the owners, Phil and Tiffany, over a month ago and we've been wanting to get up the mountain to their Sunday brunch ever since. It finally worked out on Easter Sunday when, despite the traffic, we carpooled with a group of friends.

Overall, I really enjoyed the breakfast, and I definitely left the table with a full tummy. The food itself was your standard material -- scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, made-to-order omelettes, pancakes, mini muffins, cookies, fruit, and potatoes. The pancakes and muffins were a little dry and I would have liked more cheese and veggies in my omelette, but they were all still good. The potatoes were fantastic, and I'm not really a potatoes-for-breakfast kind of girl. I don't know what they were seasoned with, but I loved them. The fruit was super fresh and grown right there on their land. The all-you-can-eat buffet included coffee for $15.

What made this day so special was the atmosphere, the location, and our wonderful hosts.

La Joya de Chica is actually a bed and breakfast. It's located in Chica, up the mountain near Campana, and sits on about six hectares of land. The view -- from just about anywhere on the property -- is absolutely gorgeous. Phil and Tiffany grow much of their own food, and after breakfast we took a hike through their little forest and farm: habanero peppers (homemade habanero salsa is for sale), pineapples, four types of mangos, sweet lemons, sour lemons (that look like oranges on the tree!), grapefruit, bananas, soursop, papaya, and more! Phil showed us the spot, near the habaneros, where they will also be growing other produce, like tomatoes.

He pointed out the volcanic rocks -- but there is no volcano there. They were blasted over from El Valle during the last eruption -- which Wikipedia says was maybe about 200,000 years ago!

After the hike, we lounged by the pool, enjoying the cool breeze and a brief spritz of rain.

Phil and Tiffany are constantly working to improve the property and serve their guests. We look forward to heading back up for another day of food, friends, and a peaceful outdoor Panama afternoon.
La Joya de Chica
60 kilometres south-west of Panama City in the District of Chame
Chica

Chinese Food in Gorgona

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on April 1, 2013

Restaurante Nueva Gorgona is located on the right side of the road right after you turn off the Pan American Highway into Gorgona. By the looks of it -- a plain white store front with "Restaurante Nueva Gorgona" painted near the top in a similar fashion as the local "mini supers" (small supermarkets that contain a lot of shelf-stable food and not a lot of nutritious food) -- you might not stop in, but you should.

Despite it's neat but generally unimpressive exterior, the inside is very clean, simply but tastefully decorated, and staffed by some of the nicest people you'll meet in Panama. The Chinese food menu is extensive, as you would expect from a Chinese restaurant, and low-priced. I ordered four veggie egg rolls for $3.75 -- and they were huge! They were each cut in half for a total of eight pieces, and I could only eat about five pieces, though I wanted to eat more.

My boyfriend ordered a small mixed (with veggie, chicken, beef, and shrimp) fried rice, and it was big. The picture attached here is what he spooned onto his own plate -- the serving dish still held that much, too! It was a little dry, but the flavor was good. We were both completely full and it only cost us about $7.00.

A few days later, we ordered chow mein to go. It was big enough for two meals.

Since many of the restaurants in Gorgona, like Loco's Backyard Grill, are only open a few days a week, Restaurante Nueva Gorgona gives us a delicious option on the other days. This is also a place where you're more likely to run into hungry locals than fellow ex-pats.

Loco's

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on March 6, 2013

We had heard about this place in Gorgona and set out one day to go have lunch. We drove up and down the little streets of Gorgona and never found it.

Come to find out, Loco's is only open on the weekends -- Friday and Saturday from 5:00-11:00pm and Sundays noon-5:00pm. (When they're not open, the sign is not up! That's how we managed to pass it three or four times during our search.) We went on a Friday evening.

We were greeted by the owners, David and Stephanie, and we exchanged stories with them while we waited for our food. Wonderful people!

The menu is blissfully short -- decision-making made easier! -- but full of variety. I settled on a quesadilla (instead of a burrito) that was on special that night. There is a quesadilla on the menu, but it's an appetizer and just has cheese and, if you want, chicken or beef. This special quesadilla was full of vegetables and, if I had wanted, meat.

Loco's makes their own salsa, and it's delicious. It arrived with my quesadilla in a baby food jar, and I scraped it clean.

My boyfriend ordered the Cuban sandwich, which was so enormous that he had to take a full half of it home. It came with fresh cut French fries -- some of the best fries I've ever had.

The highlight was the margarita -- at last, a perfectly prepared margarita! It was awesome. I had two. It was sweet and came with salt on the rim. I usually don't care for salt on the rim, but it was in perfect proportion to the flavor of the drink, and I really enjoyed it for the first time.

The menu rounds out with grilled chicken and pork chops, a few other sandwiches, tortilla soup and a variety of salads (including taco salad).

Side note: the bathroom is awesome. The wall is covered in pictures that you would normally see while wasting time on the internet: cute puppies, people getting hurt, etc.

Loco's hosts a variety of special events -- like a guitar contest, a Gringos Go Green happy hour where you can bring in recyclables for discounts, and more. We're looking forward to becoming regulars at Loco's.
Locos Backyard Grill
Corner of Avenida Nueva Gorgona & Bethancourt
Gorgona, Panama, 00000
6482-1037

Lunch at Pantay

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on March 6, 2013

We stopped at this place by accident, having intended to go into the restaurant next door. Pantay and Todo al Carbon share a building, and we just kind of went to the wrong side, thinking it was all one place. No matter -- we hadn't been to either one of them yet, we sat down on the patio.

The waitress was very nice, and spoke to us in English although we kept asking the questions in Spanish. She is also the artist behind the hand-painted trucker hats on display by the desk. (If you don't see one that you like, she told us that she could paint whatever you wanted on a hat.)

The menu was full of the normal stuff you see in restaurants down here: salads, fish, steak, chicken. Having had my fill of salad for the moment (we're living in a place with no stove for the time being, so I'd been having salads almost every day), I ordered the vegetarian pasta. It came with choice of sauce, and I elected the curry sauce. The waitress then recommended the garlic sauce, but I stuck to my original selection.

The sauce was fantastic. There were quite a few vegetables, though not as many as I would have liked, covering a giant bowl of spaghetti. Curry spaghetti. I'm just not that big of a fan of pasta, and come to think of it I'm not sure why I ordered it. I guess I focused in on "curry" and "vegetables," and I was very hungry and a little grumpy after several days of oatmeal and salads in our stove-less casita, and I'm making a conscious effort not to eat much meat, so I was sort of out of options.

My boyfriend enjoyed his fish and side salad.

It's not that the food wasn't good, but I doubt we'll go back here. Prices are about the same as they are everywhere around here, and the selection didn't give a grumpy salad-stuffed girl enough options. You can get the same food at several other places which, at the same time, provide other more creative dishes to suit people who are tired of just a piece of chicken and a side salad. That said, if what you're looking for is a good piece of chicken or fish and a side salad or some French fries, this place is as good as any, and the waitress was so nice and good at her job that I almost feel bad not raving about the restaurant as a whole.
Pantay Restaurante
Punta Prieta Blvd., Playa Coronado
Coronado, Panama
345-4166

Lunch at Carlito's

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on March 6, 2013

My boyfriend and I stopped off at Carlito's for a late lunch. We had been there once before, sipping sangria while we waited for some friends to meet us, and we decided then we wanted to come back and try the food.

There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Usually in Panama, you opt for the outdoor table, but it was so windy that day that we wanted to be inside. Our waiter was really friendly and promptly attended to us.

The pizza menu is enormous. They offer pizzas both with and without cheese, and then list every possible ingredient combination you can think of. Prices range from about $6-10, depending on which ingredients you choose. I finally decided on the vegetarian pizza, and it arrived covered in chopped onions, peppers, black olives, and mushrooms. It was a personal-sized pizza, but big enough that I took 1/4 of it home (and probably would have taken 1/2 of it home, except that my boyfriend took a longer time eating and just staring at the delicious pizza drove me crazy enough that I slowly ate the third piece).

This is really some of the best pizza I've had in Panama. Often, when you order a pizza, there are only a few pieces of the toppings you ordered. This was absolutely covered; the emphasis was definitely on the veggies. The crust was thin and flavorful, and it wasn't too greasy.

My boyfriend eyed the various meat and fish options before deciding on the ribs. It came with choice of salad, fries, or plantains -- he had the salad. He requested hot sauce (which I also used on my meal), and it was absolutely delicious. It came in a tiny little bowl and appeared to be homemade. It was so spicy; I think it is probably the hottest hot sauce we've come across so far in Panama. The flavor was fantastic, as well -- it wasn't just a bowl of heat. This made using it very difficult: the taste encouraged you to add more and more, the heat factor reminded you to use far less.

They also serve empanadas, but after Argentina (see the journal Eating Buenos Aires), we are kind of burned out on empanadas at the moment. Besides, I heard from a friend who has tried them that they are a bit on the bready side, and could use a little more filling.

There are some awesome paintings on the wall inside -- the woman we took to be the owner (or at least manager) of the place said that her daughter painted them.

Carlito's is right off the Pan-American Highway in San Carlos and is a decent place to break up your drive.
Carlito's Pizza & Empanadas
At the entrance to Playa Palmar
San Carlos, Panama
240-8526

Picasso

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

Picasso is THE gathering place in Coronado for nightlife, happy hour, and good food. Wednesday offers Happy Hour (Merry Miercoles) from 5-7, and it fills with ex-pats. It doesn't take long to make some new friends and get the low-down on what's happening around town or a recommendation for any service you might need. On Saturdays throughout the high season they have live music. The seating is all outdoors, which is perfect in Panama -- you wouldn't want to be inside. The nights are so delightfully warm and breezy! The little outdoor bar can make up lots of good stuff -- wine and beer as well as sangria, pina coladas, margaritas and more.

Note on the margarita: it seemed really salty to me. Yes, there was salt on the rim, but I was drinking through a straw, and the liquid itself was way too salty for me. I couldn't finish it. The sangria, on the other hand, was good enough to have six. But, I only had one, since we had to be getting home.

They have a big menu, and pride themselves on using fresh, local food. The choices range from wood-fired pizza to homemade pumpkin cream soup, Thai curry to salads, pastas to desserts. They also do brunch, which I'm itching to try.

I had a couple slices of a meatlovers pizza, and another couple of slices of Hawaiian pizza with onions and black olives. I really enjoyed both -- the crust is thin and crispy. I have also had the Picasso Zen salad -- good, but a the bowl wasn't as deep as it looked and I was hungry for more -- and I've tried the Thai curry, which is really good.

Beer is cheap, and cocktails range from about $3-6. You can find food a little cheaper elsewhere, but not by enough to make it worth the loss of the atmosphere and the quality of the food you'll find at Picasso.

There is a large interior space, even though there is no seating in there. Instead, you'll find a huge library, a pool table, and a little gift shop where you can buy jewelry and picture frames, t-shirts, various nut butters, and organic skin care products.

If you're not here, especially on a Wednesday night -- what are you doing, exactly? Turn your car around and come see us.
Picasso Bar & Restaurante
Corner Of Avenidas Eisenmann & Punta Prieta
Coronado, Panama

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at Paraiso

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

We had breakfast here several mornings and were delighted. $6 buys breakfast, whatever you order. That means it's $6 for fruit and coffee, or $6 for two eggs, two pancakes, toast, coffee, bacon, and fruit. Mix and match. My boyfriend ordered sausage three times, and each day it came out differently -- once it was a large link sausage, once it was a patty, and once it looked more like a squat hot dog. The pancake and eggs are both great, like you might make in your own kitchen.

There are three main seating areas -- small round, covered tables in the courtyard, enclosed seating near the bar, and a huge covered outdoor patio with larger tables for larger groups. It very common to see people sitting around talking, having drinks, or playing cards throughout the day.

Beer is the cheapest here that we've seen yet -- just $0.75 for certain brands, and $1-2 for others! I was sitting at one of the round tables one afternoon, and I ordered a pina colada. It came out in what you would could call a pina colada glass, and it was very good. So I ordered a second one after I had finished. Not only was did it come in a different glass the second time (more of a champagne glass), it tasted different! It was still good -- but nothing like what I'd ordered the first time. Another time, I had a great glass of sangria.

The menu has a lot of lunch and dinner items, as well -- nachos, soup, lasagna and other pasta, salad, chicken, pork chops, and fish. All the meat dishes come with salad and French fries, plantains, or yucca. For dinner one time I ordered the small order of breaded shrimp, and I asked for the Greek salad to accompany it. It was so good, and fairly large considering it was a side salad. However, the small order of shrimp is only five shrimp, so maybe they were just filling the plate. So glad they did! My boyfriend had the corvina (sea bass) -- and there were no bones in there, which meant I could taste it. Delicious.

Rose, the owner, also schedules lots of special events -- game nights, salsa lessons, Spanish classes, and more. It's a great social scene outside of Coronado, with great food to match.
Paraiso Restaurante & Bar Campground, El Valle de Anton

El Valle de Anton,

Cholo's

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

As always, we scouted out a great Mexican restaurant! The second time we were there, they had expanded the menus, so we had even more to choose from. I was excited about the addition of the vegetable fajitas (one of my favorite things anywhere!), and I had previously tried the vegetable quesadilla. It was almost as good as my favorite veggie quesadilla from Jose O'Shea's in Lakewood, CO!

They have an entire page devoted to vegetarian options.

My boyfriend had a chimichanga on our first visit, and I had the pleasure of trying it. The last chimi I had (in Denver) was soggy, having been drenched in chili. Of the two others I had tasted before that, one was too doughy (another Denver) and the other not even fried (Buenos Aires)! This was one perfect -- light and not very greasy, and stuffed full of goodness.

The menu is really big, with all the usual Mexican dishes.

I had both a daquiri and a margarita that I absolutely loved -- nice and sweet!

The staff is so friendly -- and bilingual, so feel free to practice your Spanish. There is a big surfing vibe there, complete with pictures and surf videos on the television screens. They even have a surf shop beside the restaurant.

They also have their very own food challenge. If you order the giant nachos ($20) and eat them all by yourself, you get a t-shirt!

I already know we're going to be going here again and again. You should, too.
Cholo's Comida Mexicana
Exit The Panamerican Highway To Las Lajas
Coronado, Panama
(507) 6419-4064

Birthday Dinner at Mar del Sur

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

This Peruvian restaurant turned out to be quite a distance from home, but we set out in honor of my boyfriend's father's birthday, and we were determined to make it there! We weren't really sure of where it was, so we just kept looking for a huge billboard that indicated it was time to turn left. We headed toward Penonome and kept looking. It had gotten dark so we were worried that we had missed it. Fortunately, we saw that sign in Penonome about 45 minutes (and lots of tummy rumbling) after we had left home.

We turned left and still had a bit of a drive, but when we got there, there was no mistaking it. Gastronomia Mar del Sur is this enormous old ranch house with lots of parking space, lots of Christmas lights, and lots of concrete horse heads and other horse statues.

It was around 8:00pm on a Friday night, but there were plenty of empty tables. The chairs are all gorgeously hand-carved wood, and the waiter pulled mine out for me.

The menu was huge -- really, too huge. By the time I got to the end, I had more or less forgotten what had looked good on the previous pages. The waiter was lingering, expecting us to be ready to order at any minute, but we kept flipping back to page one to try again.

At last, I ended up with jumbo shrimp, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms in a cream sauce with a side of French fries (because I never heard "vegetables" in the waiter's list of possible sides, but apparently he said it because both my boyfriend and his dad ordered veggies with their meals). It was good, but really rich, and I couldn't eat the last shrimp. My boyfriend had a similar dish but in a red sauce, and his dad ordered a steak stuff with shrimp and other things.

All the meals with rich and delicious, and by the end we were all full -- and all had left a little on our plates. Dessert was tempting, but we had a birthday cake waiting at home, so we got the check and left.

The splendor and the richness of the food make it feel like a special-occasion restaurant, and although the prices are a little higher than what we've found in Coronado and other areas, they weren't outrageous. If you don't mind difficult decisions, make your way to Penonome and try this delightful dining experience.
Gastronomia Mar del Sur

Penonome, Panama
997-9952

Sushi Night at Rancho Los Toros

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

We went to this restaurant/resort with two of our friends for its special Friday night sushi! The place is relatively new (about eight months old, as of February 2013) and it's a little bit out of the way, but with the way this area is growing it probably won't be considered "out of the way" for long! For now, they have a beautiful large bit of land with a creek and a fantastic view with a pool and a few cabins along with their restaurant.

It was sushi night, so that was the menu -- I didn't even get to see a regular menu. We had the shrimp and fish tempura to start, and both were excellent. They came with three dipping sauces, one of which was brown and we were taking bets as to what it was. It was so good! Something with olives was our best guess, but when we asked they said it was made with apples and pears! Really delightful.

There were four rolls, each of which came in about seven pieces, and we ordered one of each: eel, salmon, shrimp, and crab. I was partial to the crab and the shrimp, but all were good. We were only given a tiny glob of wasabi, and there were two soy sauces -- one was sort of syrupy. If we're being picky, there was too much rice and not enough fish, but overall they were great -- especially considering we don't have a lot of sushi options in the area.

My friends had beer, I ordered sangria which came as just wine and soda with no fruit -- but the waitress accidentally used a fantastic bottle of wine to make it, and it was awesome! The owner came over to talk to us on several occasions, and he's a great nice guy. The guys each bought a Rancho Los Toros t-shirt.

I'm looking forward to going back for Thai night (Thursday), breakfast, and an evening with the regular menu.
Rancho Los Toros

San Carlos, Panama
(507) 6619-1693

Breakfast at Coronado Cafe

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

Another newer restaurant, this place is, from what I understand, the original answer to "Where can I get a good breakfast?" They open for breakfast and lunch, and let other restaurants handle the dinner crowd.

There was only one other table of people when we got there. I ordered the French toast, which was good but the presentation wasn't that impressive -- just six half-slices lined up on the plate. No garnish. No powder sugar dusting. Just the toast, along with a little bottle of syrup, which I proceeded to enjoy.

My boyfriend had two fried eggs and the assorted sausage platter, which didn't look very assorted but you could indeed taste three different sausages in there. It looked like a pile of hot dog chunks, but it was good.

His dad had a couple of eggs with potatoes. We all had coffee, and my boyfriend had fresh orange juice. The waiter was prompt and friendly.

I would like to give this another try for breakfast or lunch. It was a good dining experience, good food -- but I've eaten a lot of breakfasts in my life, so you've got to go big if you want to impress me. I can certainly give it a nod as a good place to get some of your favorite breakfasts from home. If you're looking for fancy, for something that you wouldn't think to make in your own kitchen for breakfast -- I'm still looking for that.
Cafe Coronado
Plaza Pergolas
Coronado, Panama

Lunch at Punta Chame Villas

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

My boyfriend's father had a couple of friends traveling through Panama, so we met up with them at Punta Chame Villas. Again, it was a longer drive than we had imagined, and we were a few minutes late.

The restaurant has covered outdoor seating, and I think some indoor seating as well but I couldn't see for sure, and I didn't look very hard. The tables are around the resort's lovely pool, and it's just a short walk behind the property to the beach.

The menu is a lot smaller than I had gotten used to with restaurants like Cholo's and Mar del Sur, but it was full of good stuff. They also had an additional menu on the table with the lunch specials -- the fish and chips caught my eye for a moment. My boyfriend, his dad, and I all ended up ordering the fajitas. I wanted just the chorizo, but the waitress insisted that it was made with all three meats (chicken, steak, and chorizo) because it was better that way. I finally agreed, and ended up giving most of my chicken and steak to my boyfriend. (It was good, I'm just not as interested in steak and chicken these days.) I was wishing there had been more peppers and onions, but overall they were good.

One of our friends had a shrimp quesadilla (after taking some ribbing from her boyfriend that she was not a very adventurous eater), and that tortilla was stuffed so full that I was a little jealous I hadn't ordered the quesadilla myself.

Her boyfriend, the most adventurous of us all, ordered the octopus, which came in a cream sauce. He really loved it. Even though I'm a fair fan of calamari and shrimp, I'm not sure I could eat a whole pile of creamy octopus. But maybe you can.

Our waitress was so friendly and nice, even though she didn't speak any Spanish. We were visited by two people at one point -- I believe they might have been managers or maybe owners -- who greeted us and made sure our meal was okay.

It was good, and they have a beautiful location, but I probably wouldn't go out here again just because it's so far from where we live and the food isn't so overwhelmingly good that it was worth the drive. For good fajitas I'll just go down the road to Cholo's. For octopus, this might be the best bet I've come across so far.
Hotel Punta Chame Villas Restaurant
Calle R, Lote 16-17
Punta Chame, Panama
507-240-5590

Burgers at California Burger

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 11, 2013

We went here to watch the Super Bowl (there was not a big crowd, but that's beside the point). I'm usually not a huge fan of hamburgers, so I went along expecting to find something else on the menu -- but there really isn't. Sure, you can get some fried chicken, but that's not really on my list of favorites, either. The menu is hamburgers. But here's where it gets fun.

The waiter (or the owner, in our case), hands you a sheet of paper. You choose your burger "starter". I went with the veggie burger, because I realized I'd never actually even had one! I chose the 1/4 lb, but you could also chose 1/2 lb.

Other burger options included the Carribean burger and the California burger. If I remember right, the Carribean burger comes with pineapple -- which the owner told us is ground up to be more like a marmalade so it's easier to eat -- and it's best with jalapenos. My boyfriend ordered this and loved it.

After that, you circle which of the four ingredients you want that are included in the basic hamburger's price: raw onions, grilled onions, lettuce, and tomato. I circled all four.

Then you move on to options that cost a little extra -- cheese, guacamole, bacon, salami, jalapenos, and more. You can also order sides like French fries, fried yucca, or fried plantains. I went with pepper jack cheese and guac. I also requested no bun, and we got some yucca to share.

(If you've never had yucca -- it smells kind of sweet, but tastes more or less like a French fry. I dipped mine in ketchup.)

I loved this meal (my breadless burger came out on a lettuce leaf), and it was incredibly filling. My boyfriend's dad ordered the jalapeno poppers, as well, and I enjoyed a couple of those.

I also had a chocolate milkshake, the first I'd had in a very long time. It was really good. Other milkshake flavors included strawberry, vanilla, papaya, pineapple, and more. They also serve chocolate cake -- I'm told it's delicious, both from the man who made and delivered it while we were dining, and by my boyfriend's dad who has tried it once or twice.

It's a small little restaurant, and I find it charming. They keep it simple and they're doing a great job with it. If you want a burger, I'm told this is THE place in the area to get one.
California Burger
Panamerican hwy on the right side coming from the city, across from the Coronado mall
Coronado, Panama
345-9985

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j77821-Panama-Panama_One_Plate_at_a_Time.html

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