A Foodie’s Guide: The Best Restaurants in Panama

A Foodie’s Guide: The Best Restaurants in Panama

Top Restaurants to Explore in Panama: Unveiling the Culinary Gems

WRITTEN BYLorraine Giron
PUBLISHED ONApril 3, 2024

Nestled between two continents, Panama is a melting pot of flavors. Although Panamanian cuisine shares similarities with other Latin American cuisines, it stands out due to its unique blend of spices, ingredients, and multicultural influences.

Are you looking for fresh seafood along the Caribbean coast or traditional Panamanian fare? From street food markets to upscale dining, the best restaurants to visit in Panama invite you on a culinary adventure.

Join us as we guide you to where exquisite flavors meet ambiance in this Central American paradise.

Exploring Panama’s Culinary Scene

Dining Diversity

Panama’s culinary scene offers a variety of international cuisines alongside local fusion dishes. Here, you can embark on a culinary journey that spans the globe without leaving the city.

For those craving international flavors, Panama does not disappoint. From Asian delights to Italian feasts, there are plenty of options for international cuisine. One notable area, Calle Uruguay, is famous for its eclectic mix of restaurants catering to all tastes and preferences.

Local Flavors

Panamanian cuisine is rich in tradition and flavor. A must-try dish is the traditional Panamanian ceviche, known for its fresh taste and citrusy punch. Panama’s national dish, Sancocho, is another beloved favorite. It comforts the dish with its hearty blend of meats and vegetables.

Coastal areas offer culinary delights, like coconut rice paired perfectly with fresh seafood—a true taste of Panama’s shores.

Upscale Experiences

For those seeking luxury dining, Panama boasts several upscale restaurants that could rival Michelin-star establishments. These places often feature panoramic views of the city or ocean, providing a more memorable experience. In these luxsurious settings, guests can enjoy exclusive wine pairings, tasting menus, and personalized service.

Local Cuisine Highlights

Seafood Specialties

The islands and coastlines are among the best places to visit in Panama and offer exquisite seafood. The country’s beaches provide a haven for surfers, beach enthusiasts, and foodies.

Seafood is a staple in Panamanian cuisine, thanks to the abundant offerings from the country’s coastlines. Restaurants take pride in serving fresh lobster, shrimp, and ceviche. They often highlight their commitment to sustainable fishing practices.

In these eateries, diners can expect menus that change with daily fresh catches. This dining experience directly connects you with Panama’s rich marine life.

Diablicos

Located in Casco Viejo, Diablicos serves traditional Panamanian cuisine in a vibrant, folkloric setting. The seafood dishes at Diablicos are a highlight, showcasing the richness of Panama’s coastal offerings.

Segundo Muelle

Segundo Muelle is a Peruvian restaurant in Panama City known for its exceptional seafood dishes. Although it’s a Peruvian restaurant, the fresh Panamanian seafood and fusion of flavors make Segundo Muelle a must-visit.

Restaurante El Caribe

Restaurante El Caribe specializes in the Caribbean and Panamanian cuisine. This restaurant offers delicious seafood options with a unique blend of spices and flavors indicative of Panama’s Caribbean coast.

Traditional Dishes

If you’re seeking authentic Panamanian flavors, several restaurants specialize in traditional dishes. Ropa Vieja and Arroz con Pollo are favorites among locals and tourists. These spots also serve hearty breakfasts featuring Hojaldas and Chicheme – perfect starts to any day.

During holidays, these eateries become hubs of celebration. Some of them even offer special festive foods like Tamales. Experiencing culinary traditions firsthand is one of the best things to do in Panama.

Street food gems

Panama’s street food scene is vibrant and diverse. Many street food stalls offer staples like Carimañolas and Patacones, providing quick yet delicious bites. Night markets come alive with skewered meats and sweets, offering something for everyone.

Food trucks have also made their mark by specializing in fusion street eats. These food trucks blend traditional Panamanian flavors with international twists.

Upscale Dining in Panama

Fine Dining Spots

Panama is home to upscale dining experiences for those eager to treat themselves. Many upscale restaurants in Panama boast chef’s tables, inviting guests to savor multi-course gourmet feasts.

For wine lovers, the dining experience is further enriched by the extensive wine collections available at these establishments. These carefully curated cellars provide the ideal accompaniment to every meal.

Many of these restaurants also implement a dress code to complement their sophisticated decor.

Maito

Maito is a top contender in Panama City for its innovative approach to Panamanian cuisine. Maito specializes in dishes that reflect Panama’s cultural diversity. Chef Mario Castrellón is renowned for using local ingredients to create unique flavors.

Donde José

Donde José offers an intimate dining experience with a set tasting menu. It is a place where traditional Panamanian dishes are reimagined with modern techniques. Reservations are essential to enjoy this culinary journey.

La Posta

La Posta is a staple in Panama City for fine dining. The restaurant offers a menu that combines Italian cuisine with fresh, local ingredients. The diner is set in a beautifully restored colonial house.

Exclusive Menus

The best restaurants in Panama take pride in their exclusive menus. These restaurants frequently update their offerings to include seasonal ingredients, ensuring every visit is unique. Limited-time dishes add an element of exclusivity and intrigue.

Casual Dining Options

Family-Friendly

Panama’s restaurant scene offers many family-friendly options. These places make dining out with children convenient and fun.

Locations known for accommodating large family gatherings are plentiful, too. This makes celebrating special occasions hassle-free.

Mercado de Mariscos

The Mercado de Mariscos in Panama City features a variety of stalls and casual eateries. You can enjoy fresh ceviche, fried fish, and other seafood delights at reasonable prices here.

El Trapiche

El Trapiche is an excellent choice for families seeking traditional Panamanian cuisine in a casual setting. The menu features classic dishes such as ropa vieja, sancocho, and arroz con pollo.

Super Gourmet

Located in Casco Viejo, this deli and café offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, and prepared foods that are perfect for a quick and satisfying meal. They focus on using high-quality, fresh ingredients.

Quick Eats

For those on the go, Panama offers excellent spots for quick eats without sacrificing quality or taste. Best spots include cafes and eateries serving grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.

Fast service is a priority at these locations. Yet, they ensure every bite is delicious. Additionally, popular bakeries and coffee shops are ideal for breakfast or snacks. They offer fresh pastries and energizing coffee that kick-start your day right.

Practical Information for Visitors

Location Details

Finding the top restaurants in Panama is easy, as many offer convenient parking for those traveling by car. These dining spots are positioned near key attractions and picturesque locales. This makes it ideal to integrate dining experiences into your sightseeing itinerary.

It is safe to stroll through neighborhoods rich in restaurants. This also provides an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the local ambiance after dining.

Price Range

Panama’s culinary landscape caters to budget-conscious diners and those looking to indulge in a lavish meal. Meal prices vary widely, ranging from an affordable $10 to a more extravagant $50 per person. This varies significantly based on the dining establishment.

To stretch your dollar further, seeking out happy hours or set menu deals can offer great value. This allows you to enjoy Panama’s diverse culinary offerings without breaking the bank.

Reservation Tips

Booking a table can be done online or by contacting restaurants directly. It’s wise to book ahead for popular places, especially during peak times like weekends and holidays.

If you’re aiming for a hard-to-get reservation, try these tips:

  • Call right when they open.
  • Check regularly for cancellations.
  • Be flexible with your dates and times.

Enhancing Your Dining Experience

Best Times to Visit

Visiting Panama during favorable weather conditions can enhance your dining experience. The best months for outdoor dining in Panama are from December to April. These months offer pleasant weather, perfect for enjoying meals outside. Consider dining during weekdays or late afternoons when restaurants are less busy to avoid crowds.

Panama hosts various festivals and events throughout the year. Planning your visit to coincide with these festivals and events can add a unique flavor to your experience. For instance, visiting during the Panama Jazz Festival could provide an excellent backdrop of live music while you dine.

Cultural Etiquette

Tipping practices vary, but a 10% gratuity is generally appreciated for excellent service.

In Panama, locals often share their meals, which is a big part of their eating together.

When visiting upscale establishments, it’s important to adhere to dress codes. Polite greetings upon entry enhance mutual respect and often lead to better service.

Language Tips

A few Spanish phrases can go a long way in making your restaurant visits smoother:

  • “Una mesa para dos, por favor” (A table for two, please)
  • “La cuenta, por favor” (The bill/check please)

Driving in Panama

For foodies, driving in Panama offers the perfect opportunity to indulge in the country’s top dining options. Renting a car provides the freedom to discover Panama’s best restaurants and eateries.

Driving allows travelers to sample various cuisines and flavors, from bustling food markets to seaside seafood shacks in coastal towns.

Remember that car renting might require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Panama. Acquiring an IDP ahead of your journey guarantees compliance with local regulations. It also provides the necessary credentials for legally renting and driving a car in Panama.

Enjoy Panama’s Flavorful Cuisine

Considering a trip to Panama to immerse yourself in its diverse food culture? Use this guide as your gateway to the country’s top dining experiences.

We invite you to venture deeper into Panama’s gastronomic landscape. You might even discover hidden culinary treasures and cherished local spots.

As Panama’s food scene flourishes, foodies are invited to join in its flavorful voyage—one dish at a time.

Dive into the culinary wonders of Panama and let your palate guide you to memorable moments. And remember, securing an International Driving Permit is necessary for your culinary road trip!

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