Panama City Stories and Tips

Panama City Eats-The Short List

Amador Photo, Panama City, Panama

ALBERTO'S

Located on the Amador Causeway in the Flamenco section, this Italian restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating. I highly suggest the outdoor seating as it includes a refreshing breeze and interesting views of people readying their yachts. They have an ample variety of Italian dishes, but as it was lunch time, we settled on a pizza. The crust was thin and the sauce was a chunky pomodoro. The four cheese pizza yielded six slices, which was more than enough to tide us over until dinner. Two iced teas and one pizza cost $11.50 and with good food and enjoyable scenery, Alberto’s makes nice diversion from all of your sight- seeing.

EL BARKO

With its casual open atmosphere and exceptionally friendly wait staff, El Barko is a great laid back dinner destination. Located on the Amador Causeway in the Flamenco section El Barko boasts a huge menu which is thankfully offered in both English and Spanish. I ordered the two fish two ways deal and was treated to a huge piece of Mahi Mahi in tropical sauce and an equally ample portion of Sea Bass finished teriyaki style. Coconut beans and rice accompanied the dish. The food was really yummy and we only spent thirty dollars for two drinks and two seafood entrees. If you go to El Barko, try to go on the weekends when the party Diablo Rojos are out and about. From the outdoor balcony of the restaurant you can watch as these buses complete with disco balls, party lights and a DJ sitting in the back, drop off revelers prepared to get their dance on at the nearby clubs. It’s some of the best people watching the city has to offer.

THE WINE BAR

Small plates and an abundant wine list make this restaurant a superb place to while away an evening. Initially we had intended to partake of some wine and one or two small dishes, but after consuming our olive tapenade and melon wrapped in prosciutto, we just had to sample more. Our waitress was very attentive and assisted us in narrowing down the large plates. In a fun and playful manner, she would not write down our choices until we said them out loud with proper Spanish accents. In the South American fashion, we took our time, slowly savoring the mushroom risotto and corvina in curry sauce. The restaurant had no intentions of trying to hustle us out of the door, for their desire was that all of their diners have a relaxed and enjoyable meal. A band played smooth jazz as we leisurely drained a bottle of white wine and watched the hustle and bustle of the causeway from our outdoor table.
At $70.27, The Wine Bar was one of the more expensive dining experiences we had while in Panama, yet it still seemed reasonable as we indulged in two small plates, two large plates and a bottle of wine. The food was so scrumptious, we vowed to return before departing for home, but alas, we simply ran out of time.

BUFFALOS'

Located on the Amador Causeway in the same center as El Barko, this low key restaurant offers a nice break if you want food that isn’t too challenging. It is the same fare you will find in most chain/bar type restaurants. The menu is in both English and Spanish and the wait staff is friendly and laid back.
I had beef skewers that were good, not fantastic, but good. Two entrees and drinks were under thirty dollars. This is a good place for pickier eaters who may not want to brave more local establishments and it’s also a nice break if you need to go somewhere and order something where you know exactly what you are getting. There are no surprises.

TGI FRIDAYS

Yes, yes I know we broke the cardinal rule of cool travelers by eating at a restaurant that we could easily eat at while at home, but we had a long day of driving, we were tired, hungry and it was so conveniently located inside of our hotel. There were some things worth mentioning that will hopefully keep me from being completely dishonored.

1) The waiters and waitresses at this particular TGI Fridays still wear the pieces of flair that our local chains have long since abandoned. If you’re a fan of Office Space this is good for a few line recitations and some snickering (not while the waiter or waitress is present of course).

2) Our local TGI Fridays took the Oreo Madness dessert off of the menu a long time ago, which is pretty much the only thing I ever liked. To my absolute elation, the dessert is alive, well and thriving in Panama. After we finished sharing an appetizer I was happy to see my old friend appear on my table and I dug into its chocolate cookie ice creamy goodness with reckless abandonment.

3) There was a live band that played 80’s songs as though it were the coolest most popular music reaching your ears today.

4) Finally, this particular TGI Fridays was located at the Country Inns and Suites on the Amador Causeway. The tables were outside allowing diners to enjoy a cool night breeze while illuminated ships lumbered to and from the canal.

TGI Friday’s is worth it if you are tired, hungry or you just have a longing for the familiar. Just be careful who you tell or you’ll get an earful about eating at "American" chains while visiting another country.

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