26 Best Restaurants in Panama City, Panama

La Posta

$$$ | Bella Vista Fodor's choice

Elegant ambience and an innovative mix of Latin American and European flavors have kept La Posta one of Panama City's most popular restaurants. Located in a refurbished house just off Calle Uruguay, it has a classic Caribbean feel, with ceiling fans, cane chairs, colorful tile floors, and potted palms. There is usually Latin music playing, and the shiny hardwood bar stretching down one end of the dining room is the perfect place to sip a mojito. The menu changes regularly, but it always includes fresh seafood, USDA beef, and organic pork and chicken prepared in inventive ways, plus a few risottos and pastas. You can check current offerings on the restaurant's website. Reserve a table in the back, overlooking the small, tropical garden, and try your best to save room for dessert.


$$$ | Bella Vista Fodor's choice

This trendy steak house a block off busy Calle Uruguay is the best option for a meat lover, whether you're in the mood for filet mignon or a cheeseburger. You can get USDA Omaha beef here, but it costs considerably more than the Panamanian beef. The chicken and pork are organic and free-range from the restaurant's own farm. You can also get such American classics as a Cobb salad or a side of macaroni and cheese, which are no doubt novelties for the predominantly Panamanian clientele. The steaks are excellent, but so is the Moroccan-style chicken with couscous, and the salmon grille beurre maitre d'hôtel. There's an extensive wine list, and the service is excellent. You may want to reserve a table on weekends, when this place gets packed and noisy. They also serve brunch from 11:30 to 2:30 on weekends.

The Dining Room at American Trade Hotel

$$$$ Fodor's choice
Set in the high-ceilinged lobby of the American Trade Hotel, The Dining Room is an elegant venue that pays great attention to detail. The stylish decor blends antique and contemporary touches, and the cuisine is largely the work of chef Clara Icaza, a well-regarded culinary expert who was named one of the top 20 young chefs by the Spanish-language Gato Pardo magazine. Top dinner choices feature an array of meat and seafood creations, including corn-dusted filet of cobia served with spicy piccata sauce, and beef tenderloin served with a sweet potato tamale and guava sauce. The wine list is equally impressive, with varietals from regions including Argentina, Australia, Chile, Italy, and Spain.

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$$$ | El Cangrejo

Named for the year it opened, this restaurant serves traditional French and Swiss cuisine in an eclectic mix of dining rooms. It holds the strange distinction of occupying the only building in Panama City that resembles a Swiss chalet. The owner, chef Willy Dingelman, trained in Lausanne then moved to Panama three decades ago, and has since developed a small restaurant and wine-importing empire. They consequently have an excellent wine cellar. When President Ricardo Martinelli was on the campaign trail, Dingelman promised he'd share a $15,000 bottle if he won the election; there's a photo of the post-election moment on the wall at the entrance. Dingelman's original Swiss restaurant, called the Rincón Suizo, is now a rustic dining room in the back of 1985—two menus under one roof. The decor is a bit of this and a bit of that, with a cluttered collection of chairs and couches in the long entrance, but people come here for the food, such as chicken cordon bleu, tenderloin in green peppercorn sauce, raclette, bratwurst, or Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (veal chunks in a mushroom cream sauce).

Calle Eusebio A. Morales, Panama City, Panama
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Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted


$$$ | Calzada Amador

The best tables here are across the drive from the main restaurant, overlooking the Flamenco Marina and the city skyline beyond, but they are also the first ones to fill up. The other options are to sit on the large covered terrace, cooled by ceiling fans, or in the air-conditioned dining room. The food here is good, but the service can be leisurely. The menu has something for everyone, including a good selection of pizzas and pastas, but seafood is usually the best choice. You can start with duo de mar (corvina and lobster in béchamel sauce) or mero (grouper) carpaccio, and move on to pizza, salmon ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce, corvina al cartucho (sea bass and julienne vegetables broiled in foil), or langostinos provençal (prawns sautéed with fine herbs and tomatoes). You may want to walk around the island a few times before visiting their Italian ice cream shop.

Panama City, Panama
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Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted


$$ | Area Bancária

The interior of this Lebanese restaurant goes a bit overboard, with faux-stone columns and arches, but the food is consistently good, and the waitstaff is attentive. The extensive menu goes beyond the Middle East to include dishes such as grilled salmon and pizzas, but the best bets are the Lebanese dishes, which include an array of starters such as falafel, baba ghanoush, and nearly a dozen salads that can make for an inexpensive, light meal. It's a good choice for vegetarians. Be sure to order some fresh flat bread to go with your meal. Belly dancers perform on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 9 pm. There is a collection of hookahs for smoking on the patio, which is a nice place to eat at night, as long as it isn't full of hookah smokers. The owner also has a restaurant on the Amador Causeway.

Calles 52 and Ricardo Arias, Panama City, Panama
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Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted

Caffé Pomodoro

$$ | El Cangrejo

Decent Italian food at reasonable prices served amidst tropical foliage make this restaurant in the Hotel Las Vegas a local favorite. Though there is a small air-conditioned dining room, the nicest tables are on the hotel's large interior patio, with its tropical trees, potted plants, and palms decorated with swirling Christmas lights. At lunch, it feels like a jungle oasis in the heart of the city, with birds singing in the branches above. The food is standard Italian, with eight varieties of homemade pastas served with any of a dozen different sauces, a variety of broiled meat and seafood dishes, personal pizzas, and focaccia sandwiches. For dessert, choose from chocolate cheesecake, tiramisu, and other treats. There is usually a guitarist playing at dinnertime Monday through Saturday, and the Wine Bar next door has acoustic Latin music until late.

Costa Azul

$$$ | Area Bancária

A bit of an institution, this large, 24-hour restaurant half a block south of Vía España is where locals head for a good meal at a reasonable price. The decor in the large, bright restaurant is functional, and the service can be slow when it's busy, but the terrace in front is a good place for people watching. The menu ranges from Panamanian classics such as bistec a la criolla (steak in a tomato sauce) to Spanish dishes such as corvina a la vasca (sea bass in a shrimp and clam sauce). An extensive list of daily specials printed on a piece of paper inserted into the menu is usually the best option, both in terms of price and freshness. They also make about 40 different emparedados (sandwiches), including the classic Cubano with salami, ham, roast beef, cheese, and toppings.

El Trapiche

$ | El Cangrejo

El Trapiche is a popular spot for traditional Panamanian food, thanks to its convenient location and reasonable prices. The menu includes all the local favorites, from ropa vieja (stewed beef) to cazuelo de mariscos (seafood stew) and sancocho (chicken soup). They serve inexpensive set lunches, and typical Panamanian breakfasts, which include bistec encebollado (skirt steak smothered in onions), tortillas (thick deep-fried corn patties), and carimañolas (cassava croquets stuffed with ground beef). The decor is appropriately folksy, with drums, Carnaval masks, and other handicrafts hanging on the walls, and a barrel-tile awning over the front terrace, at the end of which is the old trapiche (traditional sugarcane press) for which the place is named. The owners also have a branch location at Albrook Mall.

Fusion Restaurant

$$$ | Paitilla

This restaurant combines wild decor with an inventive menu that melds the cuisines of three continents. The central dining area looks like something out of a Hollywood adventure movie, dominated by a 20-foot bust reminiscent of the statues on Easter Island. By day, sunlight glistens down through portholes in the bottom of the pool on the roof. If the statue is a bit too much for you, look for a table in the other dining area, where the artistic decor includes giant vases and a wall of TVs broadcasting fire images. The menu matches the atmosphere with an inventive mix of Continental, Asian, and Latin American cuisines that is true to the restaurant's name. You can start your dinner with Peruvian ceviche or turkey ginger spring rolls, then dive into some shrimp and vegetables in a coconut curry, lamb ribs with a sweet and spicy sauce, or creamy lobster risotto with palm fruit.


$$$ | Bella Vista

This Argentine restaurant in a Spanish-style house on Calle Uruguay is for serious carnivores who like their steaks big, tender, and juicy. The meat is USDA, but the cuts are mostly Argentine, such as the bife de chorizo, a thick sirloin cut, or the filete en trozo, a 16-ounce slice of filet mignon. They are served with chimichuri, whereas salads and sides, such as a baked potato, are à la carte. The restaurant also serves corvina, langostinos, and a dozen salads, but the real attraction here is the beef. Big windows surround the kitchen, so you can watch cooks slap slabs of meat onto the grill, or you can admire the cowhides, black-and-white photos, and paintings of gauchos (Argentine cowboys) that adorn the walls.

Calle Uruguay and Calle 48, Panama City, Panama
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Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted

Golden Unicorn

$$ | Atlapa

Hidden on the fourth floor of the Evergreen Building, down the street from the Sheraton Panama, the Golden Unicorn is one of Panama's best Chinese restaurants. A Cantonese restaurant that serves some Mandarin and Szechuan dishes, its a popular weekend spot with families who gather around its large round tables and order enough dishes to fill the lazy Susan. The menu is as long as a novella, and is written in Chinese, Spanish, and English. You can't go wrong with dishes such as pollo salteado con setas (sautéed chicken and seta mushrooms), pato salteado con piña y jengibre (sautéed duck with pineapple and ginger), langostinos Yau Pau (prawns with mini vegetables), or the spicy Szechuan shrimp. They also serve dim sum, the traditional Chinese breakfast, starting at 7:30 am. The spacious dining room has walls of windows that afford ocean views, beyond the roof of the ATLAPA Convention Center.

5 B Sur Edificio Evergreen, Panama City, Panama
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Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted


$$ | Calzada Amador

This collection of simple tables shaded by umbrellas at the edge of the Flamenco Marina is the place to go for an inexpensive dinner or a cold drink with a view. The food is basic but good—the Panamanian version of bar food—with dishes such as ceviche, sea bass fingers, hamburgers, and whole fried snapper, all served with yuca (fried cassava root) or patacones (plantain slices that have been fried and smashed). The relaxed atmosphere and low prices are a winning combination, and the place is packed on weekend nights.


$$$ | Casco Viejo

Quality Italian cuisine served amid ancient walls make L'Ostería a popular dinner option. The restaurant is located under the Casa del Horno boutique hotel, in a restored colonial building, and the back patio, with its stone walls and small garden, is a lovely spot to spend a couple hours. The menu includes a small selection of pizzas, pastas, meat, and seafood dishes. Try the pennette with a zucchini and almond pesto sauce, corvina alla piastra (sautéed sea bass served with grilled vegetables), or one of the excellent pizzas.

La Mexicanita

$ | Bella Vista

This unassuming Mexican eatery on the corner of Parque Urracá serves a small selection of homemade Tex-Mex standards at very reasonable prices. Tortillas and chips are house-made, and the guacamole is whipped up to order. There's a fairly predictable lineup that includes soft tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, and a combo platter called the "Especial La Mexicanita." Wash it down with a Mexican beer, margarita, or horchata (a sweet, cinnamony drink). The ambience is "nothin' fancy," limited to a few, time-faded Mexican tourism posters, but this place is all about the food.

Las Clementinas Café & Bar

$$$ | Casco Viejo

An eclectic blend of Panamanian, European, and Asian cuisines and the choice of dining in an old-world café or a distinctly tropical patio make a meal at Las Clementinas a memorable experience. The bright dining room evokes a Parisian bistro, with its large, arched windows, tile floors, and long, marble-topped bar, and the lush garden patio is a lovely spot for an intimate dinner. The menu ranges from sea bass with jasmine rice and roasted eggplant to three-chili-braised goat tacos with homemade corn tortillas. They offer several cuts of beef and a selection of sandwiches, soups, and salads, and a popular Sunday brunch. It can get quite lively on weekend nights, when reservations are recommended, but as soon as things calm down, the manager usually sits down at the piano and plays a song.

Masala Indian Cuisine

$$$$ | Bella Vista

Panama City's best Indian restaurant is also one of your surest bets for going vegetarian in a town short on options for herbivores. The shrine behind the bar shows a traditionally dressed Indian woman making the gesture meaning "welcome," and owners Koreena Bajwa and César Marín certainly make guests feel that way. Their authentic north Indian cuisine is served in cozy, colorfully decorated dining rooms, which include an area for shoeless dining on the floor on plush cushions. Just about any of the dozens of vegetarian, chicken, and lamb options on the menu are guaranteed to make your taste buds smile. A great nonmeat option is the thali, a plate that includes four hefty samplers including beans or lentils and a yogurt-based dish. This popular restaurant is small, so reservations are essential.

Justo Arosemena, Panama City, Panama
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun., Reservations essential, Credit cards accepted

Mi Ranchito

$$ | Calzada Amador

Topped by a giant thatch roof that has become an Amador Causeway landmark, Mi Ranchito has a great view of the city across the bay and is one of the best places in town to sample Panamanian cuisine. The food isn't gourmet, but it's authentic and inexpensive. House specialties include various ceviches, corvina entera frita (a whole fried sea bass), crema de mariscos (seafood chowder), camarones a la criolla (shrimp in a tomato and onion sauce), corvina al ajillo (sea bass in a garlic sauce), and a rib-eye steak encebollado (smothered in onions). They serve tasy batidos (frozen fruit drinks) made from papaya, piña (pineapple), and other tropical fruits; this is an excellent spot for a drink at sunset, when the skyline glows. At night, you can enjoy the live Latin music, often traditional Panamanian.


$$$$ | Casco Viejo

Nestled in a restored colonial building across the street from the ruins of Santo Domingo, Mostaza offers a cozy and delicious dining experience in the heart of the historic quarter. Start with a drink on the plaza, then move into one of the two narrow dining rooms, one of which has a centuries-old exposed stone wall. The Argentine and Panamanian owners are usually in the kitchen, preparing an eclectic mix of local seafood and meat dishes that range from lenguado (sole) in a mushroom sauce to pork tenderloin in a maracuya (passion fruit) sauce. They offer some inventive fresh pastas, such as seafood ravioli in a vodka salmon sauce, and langostinos (prawns) sautéed with Gran Marnier, but meat lovers will want to try the classic Argentine bife de chorizo (a thick cut of tenderloin) with chimichurri: an olive oil, garlic, and parsley sauce.

Parrillada Jimmy

$$$$ | Atlapa

This large, no-frills eatery on busy Vía Cincuentenaria is packed most weekends, as Panamanians arrive in droves for sizzling steaks and seafood, served with a salad and baked potato, at reasonable prices. Though the owner is Greek, there is very little Greek food on the menu. If he'd opened his restaurant in Chicago instead of Panama City, it would no doubt be called Jimmy's Grill, which is basically what the name means in Spanish. Its big draws are the steaks, but the extensive menu has a lot of good options, such as corvina al ajillo (sea bass with garlic), pulpo a la parrilla (grilled octopus), or sancocho (Panama's national dish, chicken soup with tropical tubers). Seating is available on the front terrace, for a view of the traffic, or in two large, air-conditioned dining rooms.

René Café

$$$$ | Casco Viejo

After managing Manolo Caracol for years (see review), René opened his own place, while following Manolo's popular formula of offering a set menu that changes daily and consists of about a dozen items served in five or six courses. The difference is a more intimate setting, more Caribbean influence, and lower prices. René is almost always there, making sure his guests are happy. The small restaurant is in a historic building on the northwest corner of Plaza Catedral, with a high ceiling and white walls that are invariably decorated with the work of local artists. There are also several tables on the sidewalk with cathedral views. The dining experience is a sort of culinary journey, in which fresh dishes appear every time you complete a course, and you happily chew your way forward, toward a light dessert. Simpler, inexpensive lunches are an alternative to René's seemingly endless dinners.

Calle Pedro J. Sossa, Panama City, Panama
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun., Reservations essential, Credit cards accepted

Restaurante Angel

$$$$ | El Cangrejo

Angel is the most elegant of the city's Spanish restaurants, with antiques and original art decorating its plush dining room, as well as a few photos of the owner receiving awards for his cooking. The cuisine is Spanish with some French influence, with dishes such as cordero chilidrón (lamb sautéed in tomato sauce) and conejo deshuesado (rabbit in a garlic sauce). It's located on quiet, tree-lined Vía Argentina, a short walk from most El Cangrejo hotels. Dress well if you dine here.

Vía Argentina No. 6868, Panama City, Panama
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Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted

Restaurante Barko

$$$$ | Calzada Amador

This open-air restaurant is known for serving large portions of fresh seafood, prepared a variety of ways, with an ocean breeze. The specialties are all from the surrounding sea, such as ceviche, corvina con hongos (sea bass with a mushroom sauce) and crispy langostinos (prawns) served with coconut rice and guandú (pigeon peas). The name is a misspelling of the word barco (boat), and you'll probably see a few as you dine, because most tables face the canal, whereas the rest overlook the bay and city, beyond the parking lot. The wine list has 10 vintages from various countries. It's the first restaurant in the Brisas del Amador shopping center, on the left as you arrive at Isla Perico.

Panama City, Panama
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted, Closed Mon.

Restaurante Machu Picchu

$$ | El Cangrejo

This popular Peruvian restaurant named after that country's famous Inca ruins occupies an unassuming house a short walk from the hotels of El Cangrejo. Its relatively small dining room, decorated with paintings of Peruvian landscapes and colorful woven tablecloths, is often packed with Panamanians at night. The food they come for is traditional Peruvian, with a few inventions such as corvina Hiroshima (sea bass in a shrimp, bell pepper, and ginger sauce) and langostinos gratinados (prawns au gratin). You can't go wrong with such Peruvian classics as ceviche, ají de gallina (shredded chicken in a chili-cream sauce), seco de res (Peruvian stewed beef with rice), and sudado de mero (grouper in a spicy soup). Be careful how you apply the ají hot sauce; it's practically caustic.

Super Gourmet

$ | Casco Viejo

This American-owned deli, in a historic building behind the Palacio Municipal, is a popular breakfast and lunch spot thanks to its selection of sandwiches, salads, and homemade soups. The ample breakfast menu includes several English muffin sandwiches and a house version of eggs Benedict, as well as excellent coffee. In addition to a dozen sandwiches, they offer a good selection of salads and such treats as homemade hummus and a Brie and fruit plate. They also make good cookies and other desserts. The central location and free Wi-Fi make this a popular hangout for local expats.


$$ | Casco Viejo

This trendy tapas restaurant packs in the locals on weekend nights, but it's a fun place for a meal any time. Seating is at long, high tables, which different groups share under a tangle of wires and hanging lamps. The tapas are an international mix of flavors: from Greek salad to coconut cashew chicken to a selection of Panamanian empanadas (fried pastries stuffed with sausage and potato or beans and cheese). The portions vary in size, but the best thing is to start with two per person, and share. The atmosphere is hip, with house and other contemporary music on the stereo and original art on the walls. You may want to head up to the rooftop bar—a popular night spot with an impressive view—once you've had your fill of tapas. The restaurant's weekday lunch specials are reasonably priced and make for a nice break while touring the historic neighborhood.