Panama’s Restaurant Scene: Growing as fast as the country itself




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Panama truly is a country with international flavor and culture, and the restaurant and nightlife scene is no different. For many years, Panama City was well known for having culinary influences from all over Latin America, Asia, and southern Europe. But today, the local restaurant scene is taking this to a whole new level. With an influx of tourism, and locals with an appetite for something new and creative, Panama really offers something for everyone, and at any budget. Here’s a quick guide to some of the city’s favorite eateries, broken down by neighborhood and price.

Casco Viejo

Casco is pretty much the epicenter of new Panama restaurants. With so many to choose from, it’s hard to make a bad choice. But in the interest of brevity, here are two that we think are top notch.

Manolo Caracol
Panama restaurants

Named after its head chef, Spanish native Manolo Madueño, this restaurant is far from typical. Its décor has more of an art gallery feeling than a restaurant, and is meant to be a sensory experience all around. The menu is a 10-course prix fix meal, selected by the chef each night. You may also pair your meal with a wine tasting. The theme of Manolo Caracol is local ingredients, used in a non-traditional way. Dishes are generously portioned, and often feature fresh local fish and tropical fruits. For more info, check out their website.

Average Price (per person):$40

Tantalo Kitchen 

Tantalo has been on the foodie radar for a while, and for good reason. It’s a boutique hotel with a restaurant, and roof deck bar that has one of the best views in the city. The restaurant décor is modern, and spacious, with high ceilings, and long rustic wooden tables. The food is also modern, with a good variety of tapa style dishes, salads, meats and seafood. Tantalo doesn’t necessarily push the envelope like Manolo, but their take on traditional North American, European, and Caribbean dishes is both creative, and delicious. They are also very well known for their cocktail list, and host many different art/music/cultural events throughout the year. For more info, check out their website.

Average Price (per person):$25

 

Bella Vista/Calle Uruguay

Calle Uruguay is one of the principal nightlife streets in the city, and as so has attracted some great restaurants and bars over the years. Though the street itself is crowded and a bit noisy, there are a few gems just a stone’s throw away.

Market

Market has been around for some time now, and is hugely popular with expats. They have a very North American inspired menu, and reasonable prices. Market is known for its comfort food, such as burgers, steaks, mac and cheese, and local fish. It’s a great place if you’re looking for “down home” cooking in a nicer setting, with attention to detail and service. They also have an extensive wine list, and are steps away from many bars and nightclubs, so you can really make a full night out of it, if you’re entertaining guests. For more info, check out their website.

Average Price (per person):$25

Gaucho’s

Gaucho’s is a traditional Argentine steak house, and is right in the middle of the action on busy Calle Uruguay. As expected, the order of the day here is meat, and lots of it. Gaucho’s serves huge portions of imported Argentine beef, prepared traditionally, and made to order to your specifications. They also have a fantastic selection of Argentine, Spanish, and Chilean wines. The décor is simple, as one would expect from a steak house, and prices are reasonable for what they’re serving. They also have many typical Argentine BBQ dishes that you don’t see often in Panamanian restaurants, such as grilled Provoleta cheese and blood sausages. Read more about Gaucho’s from their Tripadvisor page.

 Average Price (per person):$30+

San Francisco

This busy Panamanian residential/commercial neighborhood has grown up a lot over the past few years, and as a result, is attracting some of the city’s best restaurants. San Francisco is also the location of Panama’s largest convention center (ATLAPA), and many hotels.

Segundo Muelle

If you love fresh fish, then Segundo Muelle is your place. With a Peruvian-inspired menu, this restaurant really captures the freshness and diversity of coastal South American cuisine. Prices are moderate, and the menu is deep with diversity. Ceviches, causas, and tapas style small plates are some of their most popular dishes. For more information, check out their website.

Average Price (per person):$30

Humo

Humo is a culinary treat, and a wonderful place if you like fine dining BBQ. From brisket to baby back ribs, Humo covers all of the classics. The meats are mostly imported, including dry-aged steak, and all of the sauces are made in house. Humo also has a great selection of wines and imported beers to pair with your meal, as well as sandwiches and excellent octopus, for those who aren’t that big on BBQ. For more info, check out their website.

Average Price (per person):$30 

 

Obarrio

While Obarrio is better known as a banking and hotel district, there are many up and coming restaurants, as well as a few neighborhood classics. Obarrio is very centrally located, and considered to be the “downtown” of Panama City.

Rausch

Rausch is unique in the fact that it blends traditional French cooking with a modern Latin flair. Dishes are delicately prepared with an emphasis on flavor over size. French delicacies such as truffles, truffle oil, foie gras, and steak tartare are popular menu items. And each one has a unique twist that sets it apart from more traditional French restaurants. Rausch is a bit on the pricey side, but the value for what you’re getting is right on point. For more information, check out their website.

Average Price (per person):$40

About Manoj Chatlani


Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, Panama Offshore Legal Services offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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