Panama Cooking Classes

Bored of cooking for the family? Worried about feeding visitors for the next week? Too busy with work to make healthy, home-cooked meals?

MiniJaja Gourmet can help with all of the above, and more. Offering a range of services including cooking classes, special events catering, and weekly meal preparation, MiniJaja Gourmet can make your life a little bit more delicious.

Catriona White Private Chef (507) 6117-7450

How To Explore Panama’s Restaurants

Exploring new restaurants in PTY is a challenge. Only with a STRONG recommendation from a foodie friend or an OfertaSimple coupon will I venture out. Let me tell you why….

Panama City constantly has new restaurants popping up. Some are good. Most are not. The majority are overpriced for the dining experience you receive. I’m not very critical. On the contrary, I’m pretty easy to please. Heck, I didn’t learn how to cook scrambled eggs until I was 20 years old.

In Panama, it’s hard to find professional waiters. Someone who acts as a representative on behalf of the restaurant. Their job is to guide you through the evening by offering suggestions and even upselling when it’s appropriate. Their service helps ensure that you’ll properly experience their restaurant and that you’ll be returning soon.

Even Panama’s best restaurants rarely staff professional waiters. In Panama, waiting table is not a profession. Unlike other Western countries, tipping is not customary in Latin America. A waiter in Panama asks himself, “Why should I bust my ass when nobody tips?”.

*** A slight digression: As a college bartender, an unassuming man once tipped me $100 on a bill of $50, a 200% tip! From that day forward, I had to assume that everyone could potentially leave me my next whooping tip. As a result, I gave my personal best to everyone, even perceived cheap asses. This story would be rare in Panama.
Secondly, the restaurant owners don’t typically feed their wait staff from the restaurant menu. Waiters bring their own food. What better way to educate your team than by having them personally try every dish on the menu? A more educated and confident wait staff leads to a more satisfied customer. How can your server recommend an entree or desert if they have never tasted it?

Instead, it is customary for restaurants here to employee “order takers”. A person designated to simply take your order, bring you your food and then hand you a bill. You would expect this from the Costa Azul’s types in Panama (A late night Denny’s style restaurant). But, not from anyone who offers entrees for $10 or more.

Can you see why I’m so nervous about trying random new restaurants? My dining budget is limited. Without guidance, I fear that I’ll have a mediocre meal for 2 people totaling upwards of $80.  Yikes! As a result, I stick to my Go-To restaurants (and, no, this does NOT include Beruit!).

Wait. There is good news for PTY restaurant goers. First, more restaurants in PTY translates to more competition. In business, more competition forces companies to become more creative and offer better service as a way of distinguishing themselves from others. Lets hope the same holds true here.

Second (and ready today) is my culinary savor, Their coupons allow me to explore new restaurants with confidence. They save me anywhere from 50% to 70%. Because of their coupons, my restaurant exploration regime has been revitalized.

I’ve been to 10 new restaurants in the last 5 months. Some have been excellent. Some have been mas-o-menos. Yet, the coupons saved me money. So, even if it was the worst place ever (has not been the case thus far) then I would have said to myself, “Bummer… Well, it was worth a shot to try something new.”.

Most importantly, it is the act of exploring new restaurants with friends that’s the best part. It is an excuse to get out of the house. Explore your city. Be social. Using the coupon is the adventure itself. I’m not embarrassed to say using coupons is cool.

P.D. (P.S.) Here are some of the restaurants that currently excite me:

Sabor de India: As my friend said, “I dare you to spent $40 there.”.

Manolo Caracol: Expensive, but not really because it is a fixed menu of $30. No surprises. Anyways, Manolo mismo (himself) is the reason you go. He is either the most loved or the most hated man in Casco Viejo, depending on who you talk to.

Las Clementinas: It’s like a small Panamanian history museum and restaurant rolled into one. Attention to detail and solid service.

Brochettas in El Valle: The service stinks. Yet, it is affordable. It features freshly picked vegetables and the portions are giant. Good value.

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PTY’s Ceviche Guide

Looking for authentic Panamanian food?  Try ceviche.  The traditional Latin American dish consists of fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juice, usually lemon or lime, and spiced with chili peppers. Other seasonings include onion, salt, and pepper. Ceviche may be accompanied by sweet potato, lettuce, corn, or avocado and is served chilled.  Ceviche is delicious, nutritious, and most importantly, one of Panama’s most authentic dishes.

Ceviche in Panama is usually presented in two different forms — Panamanian and Peruvian.  In Peru, ceviche is served with corn on the cob or cold sweet potatoes. It’s made with chunks of raw fish marinated in lemon juice, lime juice or bitter orange juice. Chili, sliced onion, salt and pepper are often added and maybe some garlic, chili rocoto or olive oil.

In Panama, ceviche is typically prepared with white sea bass (corvina) and is served in small pastry shells.  The sea bass is combined with onion, celery, salt, habanero pepper, and lime juice to create a local delicacy.   Other Panama ceviches recipes feature shrimp (camarones), octopus (pulpo) or a combination of the sea bass, shrimp, and octopus.

The difference between Panamanian and Peruvian ceviches are the cuts: Peruvian is more strips whereas Panamanian is cubes.  The cooking process: Peruvian is almost always prepared and then served immediately whereas Panamanian is let to pickle for hours or days. Finally, the accouterment: Peruvian is served with camote (sweet potato), onion, and corn whereas Panamanian is almost  always just onion and herbs.

Peruvian Style Ceviche

Panamanian Style Ceviche


Here is a foodie guide to Panama’s ceviche scene:

Cheapest Ceviche — Fish Market — El Mercado de Mariscos (San Felipe, Panama).   The Fish Market brings you straight to the source.  There is a restaurant located on the second floor.   Wait times are a bit long.  However, the prices are reasonable and it has the freshest ceviche in town.

But, if you are looking for the cheapest (but still delicious) ceviche, head to the main entrance on the first floor.  A couple local ladies scoop you dixie-cup sized fresh ceviche for $1-$3.

Best Value – La Jarana (San Francisco, Panama).  An undiscovered traditional Peruvian restaurant that few know about.  The ceviche portions are overly generous and prices are a bargain.  La Jaran is one of the best value restaurants in all of Panama and their presentation would impress the most purist of ceviche lovers.

Most Innovative – Ciao Pescao (Plaza Bolivar, Casco Viejo).   Ciao Pescao offers an extensive list of creative ceviche presentations.  Their innovative ceviche combinations transform the sometimes uneventful fish dish into something glamorous.  The different styles include Oriental, Mexcian, Spanish, just to name a few.

Personally, I like to order one Panamanian and one Peruvian style ceviche.  It’s like a head-to-head face off to taste which one of the founding ceviche countries es lo mejor (better).  On most days, Peru’s ceviche is victorious (sorry Panama), but you can decide for yourself.

Funkiest – Ego. Try the fried ceviche.  (Plaza Bolivar, Casco Viejo)  Sounds funky, but the taste will be surprising.  The fish pieces are lightly floured, deep fried, then tossed in a lime and chili potion. The crust picks up the texture of buffalo wings, crunchy but soggy.   Sounds funky?  Remember funky is good.

Inspired to cook ceviche en tu casa (at your home)?  Here’s how.

PTY’ers:  Is there any ceviche haunts or dishes that I missed?  If so, comment below.

5 Funky Eats in Panama

5 Funky Eats in Panama.

If you eat like me, you like to explore.  You want to try something different.  You are giddy when you are able to tell friends about a new funky place you recently discovered.  When traveling, you want a find a place that offers you a unique experience.  A place that only locals know about.

eop-evan-headshot1Panama City(PTY) is filled with restaurants that are overpriced and under deliver.  My friends and I have frequented all of these places and we left each one bored.  Yet, in PTY exist a handful of funky/quirky/unique and just down right strange places to eat.  Few know of them, and even fewer truly appreciate them.   But, here is where you need to go and what to look for:

Seoul.  Recently, I asked my good friend why do we love this obscure Korean restaurant in Bella Vista.  Here are his answers:

- All ethnic food in Panama is overpriced and overly formal. This is neither. (In reality, it’s only around $15/head for a shitload of food).
-  It’s one of only 2 Korean places in town.
-  It’s the anti-restaurant: Service stinks, decor is drab, no liquor, no smiles. But somehow, that’s what makes it charming!

-  Not many people know about it.

-  Culinary arts in Panama are extremely predictable. Food at Seoul is the opposite.

-  Panama’s only (and small) Korean population fills it every time.

Most people will find this place strange.  But if you are open-minded you will love Seoul”s quirkiness.

2. The Jolly Arepa Man.  Head to the Banking District and look for the collapsible street side food cart.  The jolly Colombian man cooks every night but Sunday.  He is located in an alley between Beriut restaurant and a 3 story grungy apartment building.  He and female helper prepare a traditional Colombian corn tortilla fired arrapas with your choice of chicken, pork, or beef for $2.00-$3.00.

The arrapas are not the main draw (there are several street vendors selling delicious arrapas).  The main draw is the Colombian cook.  He has a bit of an Emeril Lagasse-type energy.  Every time I’ve been to his stand, he is chatting up clients as he simultaneously prepares the food.  Be sure to ask him to tell his story while you are munching on a deep fried arrapa.

3. La Jarana. The Panama Report turned me onto this Peruvian restaurant.  At first glance, it appears to be another generic, mediocre dining option in San Francisco.  However, the ceviche is among the best in the city and the prices are a bargain.

4. Fish Market.  If the first place Anthony Bourdain goes in Panama is the fish market, then enough said.  You will discover the incredible variety of Panama’s Caribbean and Pacific fish.    If you would like a more typical dining option, climb to the second floor restaurant for lunch.  Otherwise, dine amongst the people by heading to the outdoor corner stalls and snagging a $1-$2 cecviche cocktail.

5. Mama Chefa.  Do you wanna have a authentic Panamanian experience?  Screw buying a Panama hat.  Eat lunch at Mama Chefa’s place in Casco.  You sit in her personal dining room and watch blaring Panamanian news ( which seems to be constantly reporting murders and tipped over Diablo Rojos). The whole time you’re rubbing elbows with local Panamanian government officials while eating typical Panamanian food.  All for less than $3.

****  If you go to Mama Chefa’s house remember these things.  1.  Only call her “Mama Chefa”.  2.  Hug her.  3. DO NOT shake her hand. 4. DO NOT give her a customary cheek to cheek kiss.  Hug her, and she will take care of you like one of her own.

If you know of other funky places to eat in PTY, do share by leaving a comment.

What’s Cooking In Casco? Hear From The Foodies

Casco Viejo has become Panama’s place to eat. There are a bevy of food options for every budget. Yet, where should you go and what should order? In addition, as Casco Viejo continues to be restored, what dining option is missing from eop-evan-headshot1the neighborhood? To assist reader get the insiders perspective, I enlisted help from several foodie-type living and/or working in Casco Viejo. I posed them this question:

1. What is your favorite dish served in Casco, where is it served, and what makes it so special?

2. Describe the food/dining options that are missing in Casco?

Read what they had to say.

Dan – Owner of

Dan’s Food Philosophy: Good question… I don’t have one.”

What is your favorite dish served in Casco, where is it served, and what makes it so special?

Aroma Cafe’s wings are that good because you can tell that they use the right kind of sauce.  Frank’s Hot Sauce mixed with butter.  And they are always so fresh.  But you got to make sure they put enough of the sauce on the wings.  They aren’t cheap, but they are delicious.

The chicken soup from Casablanca is just good, hearty, chicken soup.  American Style with a Panamanian touch.  It is especially good if you sit inside in the AC.

Describe the food/dining options that are missing in Casco?

A quality coffee shop.  It would be AMAZING if New York Bagel Cafe came into the Casco.  I would go every day.  We need a super comfortable place, with good food, good music, wireless internet, etc.

Drew — Founder of

Drew’s Food Philosophy: “If it smells like a fish…eat it.”

What is your favorite dish served in Casco, where is it served, and what makes it so special?

My favorite dishes served in Casco are the empanadas freshly made by my Colombian friend who I’ve nicknamed “Empanada Fabio”.  You’ll recognize Fabio as a short Colombian guy in his mid to late 50’s walking around every day with his hand truck and Tupperware full of freshly made empanadas.

These are not just your average empanadas.  These are Colombian style, made with corn meal or corn flour, filled to the brim with mashed up vegetables and potatoes.  But what really makes them special is the home made sauce they he sparingly pours into your empanada after you’ve taken your first bite.  I generally buy 5 – 10 at a time and even freeze them for late night snacks.

Fabio also on occasion makes Breakfast empanadas with eggs and onions and peppers that you wouldn’t believe.  These are $2.00, but his normal price is $1.50.

Can you try to describe the food/dining options that are missing in Casco?

That is easy.  Casco is missing two things:   Sushi  & Thai Food.   Unfortunately, I have yet too find good Thai food anywhere in Panama City and the Sushi is not much to speak of either.  Whoever brought Cream Cheese filled Sushi to Panama should be strung up in a public plaza and stoned  (yes, you can publish that).

As for extraneous comments:   I steered away from mentioning the fish market because I figure others will write about this as well.   But if not mentioned, than this should be the top of the list.  Both for the fresh Ceviche and for the restaurant upstairs which serves up the best fish soup I’ve had.

Keenan – Owner of Los Cuatro Tulipanes Casco Viejo Apartment Rentals

Keenan’s Food Philosophy: “Your utensils are shovels so shovel that food in as fast as possible!”

What is your favorite dish served in Casco, where is it served, and what makes it so special?

Ego’s Portobelo Bruschetta and Chicharrones. My pallet is most readily compared to a trash can, but I find these two dishes to be the best dishes in all Casco Viejo.  The balance between sour and sweet with the Portobelo Bruschettta and the crunchy and spicy of the Chicharrones is heavenly (that was my Anthony Bourdain analysis).  A more appropriate Keenan Analysis is that “I will order this plate every time I go there”

Caffe Per Due’s Manuela Pizza: Best thin crust pizza in town served up by my favorite Italians in the area and the nicest wait staff in Casco.

Describe the food/dining options that are missing in Casco?

MALAYSIAN. I say Malaysian because I want more ethnic food in the area.  Obviously, this might not work in such an area already over-saturated with restaurants.  But a little wishful thinking never hurt anyone.

Mary Roush – Retiree living in Casco.

Mary’s Food Philosophy: “Fresh, fresh food, lovingly prepared, exquisitely presented, with a bit of spice or complexity of flavor.”

What is your favorite dish served in Casco, where is it served, and what makes it so special?

Spicy tacos at the Tequila Bar–one of the only truly spicy foods you can get in Panama IF you request the “spice”.

Burgers at Mojitos (sin mojitos) and at the new sports bar Cedros.  Eric’s (Owner of Mojitos) burgers off the grill are THE best as they are cooked to order, hot, juicy, and fresh at a great price.  The sports’ bar burgers are huge and an honorable “runner up.” LOVE the historic photos in that place; nice restoration.

Osso Buco at Mostaza — Cooked until it falls off the bone (and the pooches LOVE the bones) and served in a bowl so you can sop up the gravy with the delicious hot bread that they serve. Have never had the budget to order lobster here, but I think it’s the best place in Casco to get it. I see the Deli Fish truck deliver them live daily…and some of them are HUGE. (Makes my mouth totally water!!  If you give me a stipend, I’ll gladly write a review for you of my lobster dinner. OH, I LUST to have a lobster. Miss them so.)

Can you try to describe the food/dining options that are missing in Casco?

1. A wine and cheese STORE. One that holds tastings, and has other “nibbles” to go/eat in such as great breads, toasts, pate. I would LOVE it if Luc at Cheese! Cheese! would open an outlet here…maybe in partnership with Petit Paris, so we had a place to get fruit tarts, pastries, etc.

2. A Chinese Takeout restaurant. I SO miss the “20″ Chinese restaurants in our old neighborhood. I swear all the menus were printed by the same printer; they all looked alike, only the quality of ingredients, cleanliness and preparation differentiated them. I miss ordering a bunch of food (leftovers are great) and being told “10 minutes”…then coming home with a bunch of cartons and waxed paper wrappers with hot spring rolls and egg rolls.

Patrizia – Arco Properties.

Patiriza’s Food Philosophy: Has to be good, can’t kill you

What is your favorite dish served in Casco, where is it served, and what makes it so special?

I have a lot of favorites. This is hard. Ceviche mixto at Ego with the citrus picante chaser shot is at the top of the list but it is only appetizer. The Spanakopitas at Indigo is my other favorite appetizer. For an entre there is a Gnocci with Gogonzola sauce and nuts that I can’t resist (I’m half Italian and 100 percent cheese addict). For dessert anything Manuela does at Caffe Per Due is great.

Describe the food/dining options that are missing in Casco?

What we are missing most is just well done Panamanian inspired food like what Cuquita does at the Bristol. I also hate the fact that I have to leave the Casco for authentic Indian food and sushi.

Finally me. Evan from

My Food Philosophy “An empty belly is the best cook. ~Estonian Proverb”

What is your favorite dish served in Casco, where is it served, and what makes it so special?

First, Mama Chefa’s $2.50 ropa vieja. LLLLLLooove it! Ropa vieja is a traditional Panamanian dish consisting of seasoned shredded beef spread over white rice and beans. At Mama Chefa’s house, you actually eat inside her living room while you watch tele-novelas side-by-side with Panamanian government officials on their lunch breaks. Hands down, it’s most authentic Panamanian dining experience in Panama City. Mama Chefa knows I am obsessed and personally calls me on ropa vieja days.

Secondly, Callejon del Gato’s Hongos Portobello. Normally, I can barely tolerate mushrooms in salads, pizzas, etc.  But, there is something about Callejon’s sauce makes this dish one of favorites.

Describe the food/dining options that are missing in Casco?

A mid-night munches joint. There is no place to go in Casco to satisfy your late night munchies.  A taco/burrito stand on wheels would be clutch (Currently, I am actively recruiting the best food stands on Calle Uruguay).

Fruit smoothies. Cartagena, Colombia is what Casco Viejo one day strives to be.  Its historic district has a vendor on practically every street corner serving up fresh fruit smoothies.  Yet, Casco Viejo has nobody.  Panama has an abundance of cheap tropical fruit.  In addition, Casco has packs of parched pedestrians rooming its cobbled stoned street.  A smoothie stand seems like a sensible idea.

Authentic Panamanian upscale dinning.  Imagine Mama Chefa meets Manolo Caracol.  Take the authenticity and intimacy of Mama Chefa and merge with Manolo Caracol’s set menu and elegance.  The outcome: a quaint 8-12 seat restaurant located inside the chef’s home.  The chef welcomes you inside and personally explains to the small group what he/she is cooking for dinner.  I went to a restaurant like this in Greece.  It was so good that is was booked out weeks in advance.

The Casco Viejo foodie scene is still under development.  Today, it’s no match for the foodie Meccas like New York, Barcelona, Lima, Singapore, etc.  However, Casco Viejo is already the center of Panama’s foodie culture.  It has the essential foodie ingredients of cultural diversity and word-of-mouth marketability to potentially become one of the main foodie centers in Latin America.


Mama Chefa

First, Mama Chefa’s $2.50 ropa vieja. LLLLLLooove it! Ropa vieja is a traditional Panamanian dish consisting of seasoned shredded beef spread over white rice and beans. At Mama Chefa’s house, you actually eat inside her living room while you watch tele-novelas side-by-side with Panamanian government officials on their lunch breaks. Hands down, it’s most authentic Panamanian dining experience in Panama City. Mama Chefa knows I am obsessed and personally calls me on ropa vieja days.

$2.50 lunch specials.  Limited amount served Monday-Friday.

Also, Mama Chefa books private dinners for $8 a person. It is the most authentic dinning experience in Panama. If you want to experience Panama, this is the place.

To contact Mama Chefa email  If you’re worthy, you’ll be given her contact information.

Super G — The Spot To Be

Super G, also known as Super Gourmet, has been a landmark in Casco Viejo for several years now, originating in Bocas Del Toro, where its sister store, which has been around for the better part of a decade, still remains. With its chill vibe, abundant air-conditioning, free wi-fi, and a deli that serves up some of Casco’s best sandwiches and salads, it is one of our favorite places to stop for a quick bite while exploring the old city. And we are not alone. In fact, Super G attracts its customers from all over Panama City, from Howard to Tocumen.

While Super G’s delicious deli treats and fresh cookies and pastries are reason enough to make the trip, we must not forget that Super G is also a well-stocked grocery, carrying a wide selection of meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, wines and liquors, cooking supplies, snacks, and much, much more. In fact, one of the reasons Super G has such a loyal customer base is that it carries products that you cannot find anywhere else in Panama.  They have recently added gourmet espresso coffee, frappes, fresh fruit juices and batidos, as well as hand-made cigars to their product selection.

Owner Blayne Ladner is often hanging out in his store, chatting with friends and bringing his sense of Southern hospitality to Panama.

Unknown to most, Super G also does catering for events, big and small. Having a working lunch at your office and need to feed your staff? Let Super G take care of all of the preparations and deliver to you a delicious, nutritious medley of gourmet dishes and drinks. Going on a picnic? Super G can set you up with a basket of goodies that will make your day at the beach even more perfect.

7am -7pm Monday – Saturday
10am -3pm Sundays



Phone Number: 212-3487

Language:  English and Espanol.

Super G referenced articles:
Orient Yourself To Casco Viejo
Walking Tour Of Casco Viejo

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The Search for the Perfect Burger in Panama

Recently, during my daily perusal of the NY Times I saw a lengthy article on the makings of a perfect burger. While I usually spend my free time thinking about meatier things (such as the G-8 summit currently taking place), I figured if burgers were a good enough subject for the Times I could spend some time on them as well.

Until a couple of years ago burger-philes such as me, were shit out of luck here in Panama City. The offerings were rather poor and my burger escapades were populated with overcooked franchise fare. Meanwhile high end meat restaurants seemed to look down on the lowly burger preferring to focus their efforts on the USD40 cut of prime beef.

While I love a good burger I am loathe to actually make one myself. So I was over the moon when a few restaurants opened in the city that actually took their Burgers seriously.

Market, with its simple elegant interiors and bustling atmosphere, is not the typical burger joint. In fact it specializes in all types of beef dishes, but in my humble opinion the pinnacle of their menu is their burger. The focus here is the beef.

I often crassly tell my friends at dinner (especially the vegans) that when I eat a Market burger I feel the cow should be proud of itself; it died for a good cause. The chef at this place has mastered the perfect lean/fat ground beef ratio (70/30?) required for that melt in your mouth, small orgasm burger experience. No densely packed frozen meat, this stuff crumbles just right. I would love to actually ask them what their secret is (are they searing the meat and then baking it?!?).

What I love most about Market (even more than the burger itself) is the consistency. I eat there a lot (enough that the waiters are either smiling or smirking when they see me as in…”you again?”) and I have NEVER had a bad burger there. Even when travelling in large groups as young singles are wont to do the burgers have been satisfying for all the foodies at the table.

While the beef is excellent, the variety of toppings is limited. There are four different burgers at Market with the blue cheese and bacon laden Executive being the most gourmet of the lot. For burger purists, such as myself, this is actually a blessing; but given that burgers HAVE gone gourmet and variety is the spice of life you might be left wanting more condiments. If that’s the case you can now head over to Panamas first Burger lounge…

Burgues, is located on the same street as Market which is an odd choice, but hey if you ever plan to burger hop it will be a short walk. The decoration here is noteworthy as it mixes the now ubiquitous modern minimalism with some quirky details such as the slightly over the top chandeliers and gilded frames surrounding the many flat screens (which display an impressive collection of silent era porn. Kudos on that!). But back to the beef. Burgues does offer a lot of choices with regards to toppings you can toss on your patty. Starting with the basics you move from the common varieties (Mexican version) to the slightly rarer (stuffed) to the flat out over the top (Babaghanoush?) the options are very enticing. So much so, that this purist went for a stuffed burger, while my two fellow foodies went basic.

My cheese and bacon stuffed burger was delicious, the cheddar just oozed out of it with promise of flavor. Unfortunately as tasty as it was the beef got somewhat lost in the mix and the patty itself was a little dry when you factored in for the dripping cheese. Even though one of my friends still put Market firmly on top we found that overall however the burgers were satisfying and with the top notch quality of ingredients (the cheese, bless em!) this place is on its way to becoming the go to for burger joint, they might just have to toy with their ratio (60/40?). J

A word on Franchise burgers!

Before this article went to press (or net) a very good friend of mine whose opinion I respect made a sort of apologia in favor of the local franchise burgers. Namely she mentioned the Friday’s burger which is supposed to be made with prime Angus beef. My recent experiences with their burgers haven’t been great with all the patties having the tell tale densely packed nature of a frozen burger (not to mention the processed cheddar, blegh!) When ground beef gets too densely packed it gets that unsightly flaky dry appearance that just screams “I’ve been deprived of my life juices”. BUT foodie friend claims to have had some better experiences recently so they may be on the up and up. The quality of the food at TGIF in is so inconsistent though, I hesitate to give this burger my full backing (even though I indulge in TGIF comfort fare as much as the next person!)

For my money, Market is still the best. A burger joint ought to be defined by the basic cheeseburger and honestly at 6.95$ it doesn’t get any better than Market in this city. Order it medium and marvel at the fact that a hunk of beef can produce such pleasure.

If you don’t agree with Market being tops, bring it! Let me know where to go, I’m always up for a burger J.

Next I’m on the hunt for the best steaks in Panama. I have been to several of the well known steakhouses and had some great cuts, but specifically I’m looking to find a place where they dry age their meat at least 21 days.  Suggestions are welcome!!

Note: Before I get some rants on this: I haven’t tried the San Carlos burger joint people murmur about… but I will follow up. Apparently that is the best burger outside the city (and depending on whom you ask: the whole country).

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Vegetarian Eats in Panama City

The unlikely find in Panama City, there are a few amazing vegetarian restaurants available ranging from the cheap cafeteria style to the sit down dinner, allowing even the vegetarian to dine in style.

Casa Vegetariana – Located in the Plaza New York in Marbella and on Via Veneto around the corner from the Veneto Casino. Very tasty options in a buffet style for $.50 per item. Options include tofu saute, fried eggplant, various soy meat plates, steamed vegetables and all meals include a free cup of soup. Hard to beat the price when you can fill up for $2. Recommended as a great place for a cheap lunch, that isn’t Panamanian food.

Super G:  In the heart of Casco Viejo, Super G is one of the best places to garb a salad or a fruit smoothie.  Expect to pay around $2-$8 depending on the drink or dish.

La Novena – Located on Via Argentina, this restaurant has the feel of being in someone’s kitchen with them cooking you a personal meal. A bit more expensive than their vegetarian counterparts, La Novena offers the more classy option to vegetarian dining. Servings are modest but delicious, and run around $8 a plate.

The Red String – The Red String, located on Federico Boyd, offers tasty kosher and veggie options. Try the portobelo sandwich or the veggie fajita, both are popular favorites. They do offer some fish options in addition to their sushi for those not looking for all veggie. Enjoy the outdoor seating and a hint of citrus in your complimentary water. Plates range from $5-$10 but are worth the price.

Riba Smith – Is the “yeye” supermarket, but is nice when you are looking for a wider selection, or something special you might miss from home. Prices are higher than some of their supermarket counterparts, but you can find such items as tofu, Annie’s salad dressing, soy milk, soy cheese and an amazing amount of fresh produce and other veggie/vegan products to make the dietary limited smile in delight. Located at the Mulitplaza and in Marbella.

Deli K - The largest kosher supermarket in Panama City with a huge selection of goods that are hard to find anywhere else in Latin America. Check out their array of arabian spreads, fresh breads and pita, and their health food section. Located in the parking garage of the Multicentro mall.

Looking for a Cheap Lunch? Casinos

Casino Lunch Specials are one of Panama’s best kept secrets. Eating lunch in Panama is economical to begin with, but Casinos during lunch time making eating out ridiculously inexpensive. These Reno-inspired Casinos serve stomach-busting lunch specials for $3-$5, leading me to believe that they must be losing money. I discovered these mid-day deals by tagging along with my Panamanian co-workers to lunch one day. We ate a decent 3 course meal with a drink included and my bill came out to be $4.50 including tip. I was amazed at just how much food I ate and how little I spent, especially since I had been paying over $6 at Subway and that wasn’t even a full meal. Today, I am an advocate for eating at Casinos if you are looking for the best bang for your buck. Here are the best Casino Lunch Specials that I have found in Panama:


**** All the following lunch specials run Monday through Friday from 12pm-3pm.

1. Royal Casino– Located in the Banking District (next to Hotel Marriott). For $2.99, the meal includes a beverage, soup, main dish, and a desert. The menu is changed daily and the restaurant is located on the ground floor, in back towards the stage.

2. Super 99 Casino– Located in Obarrio. Here you will find one of the best Sancochos in town. The Panamanian traditional chicken soup is gigantic and is accompanied by rice and a beverage. Any trip to Panama is not complete without trying a bowl of Sancocho, and this is one of the best places to get your fill.

3. Fiesta Casino. Located between the Panama and Veneto Casino in El Cangrejo, the Fiesta Casino lunch special is the best in town. The menu includes an appetizer, your choice from 5 different well portioned entrees, a desert, and a drink. The entire 3 course meal cost 4.50 including tip! It is not gourmet, but it’s the best deal in town.

If you know of any other lunch time deals, please leave a comment below.

More about the Author:  Read Evan’s Bio

The Cheapest Meal in the City: Casa Vegetariana

This is a deal that to many first time patrons seems unbelievable, boggling the mind even as they savour the first bites of their meals. A pure veggie delight served up at 50 cents per portion. Four portions give you a full plate of lunch for $2. With about 30 different dishes to choose from as well as homemade natural juices, you can go there for a month straight and try something new every day! If you eat at the restaurant, your meal also comes with a bowl of soup and cups of tea at no additional charge.


Casa Vegetariana is operated by Taiwanese immigrants, so most of the dishes have an Asian-inspired origin. However, the Panamanian palate is also taken into consideration and many of the local and freshest favorites are also served in traditional Panamanian form. Various tofu, soy meat, beans, greens, noodles, rice, veggies and desserts can all be enjoyed on the same plate at the same great low price. There is one Casa Vegetariana just off of Via Veneto in El Cangrejo and another in Plaza New York in Marbella, making it easy to get your delicious and nutritious veggies in whichever way that’s most convenient for you!

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