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What were the best meals you had in Costa Rica and Panama City??!!

What were the best meals you had in Costa Rica and Panama City??!!

Old Jan 7th, 2009, 03:24 PM
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What were the best meals you had in Costa Rica and Panama City??!!

Hi everyone!

My husband and I are officially less than a month away from our trip to Costa Rica and Panama City! I was hoping that you all could provide some restaurant recommendations (favorite dishes would be appreciated too!)... we will be staying at the Peace Lodge for our first three nights. Are there any restaurants (besides those at the hotel) that we should try in the area?

We will be staying at Hotel Parador in Manuel Antonio for the next three nights. I know the hotel has a few restaurants, but we'd be happy to venture outside the hotel for a great dining spot!

We'll be spending our last three nights in Panama City (staying at the Bristol). Would love recommendations for lunches and dinners in PC as well.

Also, should we make dinner reservations in advance?

Many, many thanks!
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Old Jan 7th, 2009, 03:41 PM
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The Peace Lodge has a casual outdoor restaurant called the Trout Bar. The food was really good and cheap on our first visit - we had casados, Imperials, and homemade guac. Last trip the food was not good. I ordered nachos, and they had Cheez Whiz topping that wasn't even warm. I asked them if they could heat it, and they said that the plate was too big to fit in the microwave - lol! So I'm not sure if it has gone downhill or just what we ordered. Their fine dining restaurant was very good - it's pricey though. They served us a 4-course meal - great salad, surf and turf, and fabulous desserts. So much food we couldn't eat it all. There's also a French restaurant nearby called Colbert's. Shillmac recommends it, so she can probably give you details on that if it interests you. Not a ton of restaurants in that area.

In Manuel Antonio, we liked Ronnie's Place/Mi Lugar for fresh seafood and Sangria, also liked Salsipuedes for tapas, Barba Roja was pretty good, and Cafe Agua Azul was yummy. We liked Cafe Milagro for a Starbucks fix - got really good espresso shakes.
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Old Jan 7th, 2009, 03:46 PM
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I don't usually like hotel restaurants, but the restaurant at the Bristol in Panama City was excellent - at least it was a couple years ago when we stayed at the Bristol. We also really enjoyed Manolo Caracol in Casco Viejo. If you go over to the tripadvisor.com forum for Panama there's a current thread there for "best restaurants" in Panama City. I've been watching it, as we'll be there a week from tomorrow ourselves.
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Old Jan 7th, 2009, 04:16 PM
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My favorite in Panama City was La Posta. It's just a couple of blocks from the Bristol Hotel and is easy walking distance. The food (can't remember what I ordered - sorry!) was excellent. The service was attentive. We did need a reservation; they weren't very busy when we arrived, but a little later they were full.

We also ate at the Bristol Hotel and I enjoyed the breakfast. We also had lunch there one day and my lunch was average, but my friend's lunch was very good.
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Old Jan 7th, 2009, 05:16 PM
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Sent this e-mail to some friends who are going next week:

/// One of our favorite places is a French place where we think the food is pretty darned good. Now this place is a little odd in that it is owned and operated by a chef from France. Rarely is there anyone else there. I don't know why, but it's been there for years. A few times we've been and there have been 2-4 people, but have never seen it crowded. Have been at night and in the mid-late afternoon. Place is called Colbert's. From Peace Lodge it is about 5km. When you exit parking at Peace Lodge, you make a right (going back the direction you came from when you arrived). Down the road not too far is the little town of Vara Blanca. Make a left there. You'll see it sitting alone up on a hill to your right after a bit. The drive takes about 10-15 minutes. Vara Blanca is maybe halfway. That's my one big suggestion. We always order the cheese plate (only if you don't mind weird French cheeses) and an entree. And wine. The mushroom chicken is good and there is a shrimp dish enclosed in a pastry that's pretty good. Have tried a few other things, but can't remember the names. Never have had something that I didn't care for. The area is frequently foggy during the day, but once my daughter & I were there in the afternoon and it was sunny and gorgeous with a view to die for. We stayed for 2 or 3 hours.

At Arenal, we like a place in town (La Fortuna) called Don Rufino's. Also like El Novillo steakhouse. Ask your hotel for directions. It is between La Fortuna and the volcano on the right as you drive toward the volcano, but I can't remember exactly where it is. Doesn't look like a steakhouse--it's open air, plastic tables and chairs (very common). Steaks are pretty decent, though, although you mustn't expect them to be like ours. They aren't as good and sauces are popular. Especially mushroom.

Do try a casado while you are there. Casado means "married", but it is also a "blue plate special" with rice, beans, salad, your choice of fish, chicken, sometimes plantains (cooked in various ways), a veggie, just depends. Occasionally it'll have a big fried egg on top--but not often. That's the old fashioned way when the women were feeding the men the kind of lunch they needed to go back out to the fields the rest of the day (I guess). Casados with fried fish is one of my favorite dishes.

On the drive up to Peace Lodge, you should pass a couple of good restaurants. Dona Julia on your right (not visible from the road, there is a sign, I think) and Chubasco's on the left. Chubasco's is excellent. About halfway to Peace Lodge (or a little further than half).

Manuel Antonio, there are lots of good places to eat. Do try Ronnie's Mi Lugar (Ronnie's Place). It's a little weird to get to, but very good. Also Mar Luna. The grill at Si Como No hotel is excellent. Called the Rico Tico Bar and Grill. Although we have stayed there, we haven't eaten at their evening restaurant, but hear it is good also.///

Second Manalo Caracol in PC. We really liked that place, as per Glover's recommendation. We did make reservations there, but not at the others. You might consider the restaurant at Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, for dining and viewing the ships passing through the canal. I can't imagine going to PC and not visiting Miraflores Locks!

Hope this helps a bit. Have fun!
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 04:25 AM
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Glover, I didn't realize you were headed to Panama so soon. I am going down on the 30th and would love to read your reviews.
Buen viaje!
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 09:07 AM
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In MA - Would agree with the Rico Tico Bar and Grill at Si Como No. And the evening meal at their more "formal" restaurant is excellent. It's casual elegance and food and staff were very good.

We also had 2 excellent meals at El'Avion. Very good fish dishes. Note their evening specials, 3 courses which can include wine, for a good value.
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 09:20 AM
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I'd also like to read Glover's trip report. We're heading to Panama on Feb. 7.
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 10:10 AM
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In MA, El Avion is also cool because it's built in an old plane - good back story and photo op.
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 11:36 AM
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Well, gosh, thanks for the pre-trip interest in my Panama trip report. We'll be down there at the same time as all of you though as we're leaving next week and won't be back till March 3. The plan is to tool around Panama City for 5 days or so on day trips, then go to El Valle/Penomene for another 5 or 6, then hit 2 coffee fincas (Suiza and Hartmann), and wrap up, more or less, with a month in a rental near Boquete.

We'll be dragging around the laptop though so I'll try to send a Panama City report ... . while we're there.
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 02:01 PM
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Glover, if you prefer to just send some rough notes rather than post here, please feel free to email me at my screenname dot yahoo.com I will pass on any info to Susan in Toronto.
Did you see the 360 view from Volcan Baru I posted last week? Very cool. We will be in Boquete and Panama City so info on either will tickle me.
Buen viaje.
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 06:04 PM
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We love to eat at the TajMahal Restaurant, Indian food that is so yummy. They are closed on Monday's, we usually stay across the street at Out Of Bounds Hotel, that way we can just walk over. The area Escazu is safe and has a great view. I also like to eat at Los Anonos BBQ they are also located in Escazu. Have a great trip. No reservations needed but they accept if you like.
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Old Jan 8th, 2009, 06:05 PM
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The best meal I've ever had in Costa Rica was at Kapi Kapi in Manuel Antonio. The Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with Sweet Chili Plum Sauce and the Mangos Foster were to die for! The ambiance was more upscale than most restaurants in the area as well, although it is still open-air like most others. Very nice!

I also really took a liking to The Marlin across the street from Manuel Antonio beach. It's just a casual beach restaurant, but it has great views for both beach- and people-watching. The smoked trout with creamy dill sauce and crostini was simple, but so delicious I had to go back for more the next day.

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Old Jan 9th, 2009, 10:06 PM
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I think you are going to like the food at Parador. We were there last month. Their blackened tuna is great and the mahi mahi is good also. We mostly ate from their bar menu. It is a full menu and it is not nearly as spendy as their regular restaurant menu. You can be seated in either dining area and get which ever menu you want, but if you are in the main dining area, you will have to ask for the smaller menu.

Parador is fantastic but the 5-mile drive up/down the bumpy road to the main road got old.

Don't miss the adult pool or the path down toward the beach. There is a nice little gym too if you feel like getting some exercise.

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Old Jan 10th, 2009, 11:36 AM
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Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions! Can't wait to try some of these places!

Very sad news about the earthquake in Costa Rica. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by it. Since the Peace Lodge is closed, we are now looking into other options.

Linda137- Glad you liked Parador! Was curious if by chance you stayed in one of the new rooms (or if you heard anything- good or bad- about them)...
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Old Jan 10th, 2009, 11:57 AM
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We haven't been to nearly as many restaurants as we'd like to try, but we did enjoy Ronnie's Place very much and our meal at El Avion was also great.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 07:14 AM
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In MA I enjoy the Azteca sauce at the Barba Roja. If you are a fan of spicy food, this is a great choice.
They have also just open a sushi bar in the space next to the restaurant. They have a large selection of rolls and shashimi.


The Kapi Kapi is another favorite restaurant of mine.

I have had good and bad experiences at the Avion. When they a busy, you run the risk of both bad food and service.

For an inexpensive lunch, Mono Azul has a good Casado de Mahi. You should check out the Kids Saving the Rainforest gift shop while there.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 12:03 PM
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Our best meal in Costa Rica was at Agua Azul in Manuel Antonio. The tuna margarita - appetizer, not a drink (seared tuna in a margarita glass over cucumber lime salad) was the best.

The atmosphere is casual and the food is really good!

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 10:34 PM
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We didn't stay in one of the new rooms and didn't hear anything about them. I'm guessing those are the rooms we were looking up at from the main hotel/pool area? The views would have to be breathtaking, but it looks like it would be pretty steep grade up in that section of the resort.


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Old Jan 25th, 2009, 08:40 PM
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JMGJD:

I just left Panama City. We were at the Marriott just 2 blocks from the Bristol. We ate one night at the Costa Azul which is one block from the Marriott and about 3 blocks from the Bristol. It has always had good reviews. the Corvina with the creole sauce is a great choice. Also, there is a little restuarant next door to the Costa Azul. I think it was called the Terrace. It looks like a bar but we had a great (and cheap meal). If you want a good lunch there is a great pizza restaurant right across the street from Costa Azul.

There are a lot of restuarants in your area. Watch the traffic. They drive crazy!! Like the tour book says "look both ways and run like hell"
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