Restaurante Beirut (Calle Ricardo Arias and Avenida 3 Sur, tel. 214-3815, noon–3 A.M. daily) has quickly become one of Panama City’s favorite restaurants. What’s not to like? Huge amounts of yummy, reasonably priced Lebanese food is whisked to your table by a friendly waitstaff, whether you sit in the air-conditioned interior or outside on the breezy covered terrace, which has fake stalactites dripping from its ceiling, creating a cave-like effect.
The latter is the louder option, since the restaurant sits on a busy street across from the Marriott, but, especially in the evening—and especially on a Friday evening—that’s where the action is, and the people-watching is fun.
Go for one of the combination platters for around US$14; it consists of eight tasty items that can feed two reasonably hungry people. Even the pita is fresh and piping hot. Oddly enough, the only thing I haven’t been crazy about here is the hummus, which is a bit bland. The reasonable prices attract a younger crowd than one normally finds at this kind of restaurant, but everyone loves this place.
Habibi’s (Calle Uruguay and Calle 48, tel. 264-3647, 10 A.M.–12:30 A.M. daily, US$10 or less) is a Lebanese café in a lovely old home that’s been given an attractive modern makeover. It offers tasty Middle Eastern food, complete with hot pita bread. It’s a popular place with a large front terrace for those who’d rather dine al fresco—a good option on dry-season evenings. This is also a good place for drinks and appetizers before a meal elsewhere.
The inexpensive Athen’s (Calle 50 and Calle Uruguay, tel. 265-4637, www.athenspizzapanama.com, 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Thurs.–Tues., US$5–10) is a popular place for pizzas (about US$5 for a nine-inch pie), and for Greek salads, gyros, souvlaki, and other Greek dishes. It’s a casual, fast-food kind of place with an air-conditioned interior and an outdoor terrace overlooking Calle 50 and Calle Uruguay. (And yes, sadly, it really is spelled “Athen’s.”) Each table has a phone customers can use to place an order, a gimmick undercut by the fact that the servers come around unprompted. The pizzas are just so-so. The pita sandwiches are huge and drowned in yogurt sauce but otherwise tasty. There’s a second Athen’s in the Obarrio neighborhood (Calle 57, tel. 223-1464) that’s open on Wednesday when this branch is closed; its night off is Tuesday. A third one recently opened up in El Dorado, far away from the usual tourist haunts.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition