René Café (Calle 7 Este on the north side of the cathedral, tel. 228-3487, www.renecafe.com, 10 A.M.–3 P.M. and 6–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) has survived for a few years now in a spot that has seen many cafés come and go. It’s a pleasant little air-conditioned oasis with just six table-clothed tables and a gracious and attentive staff. Lunch here is a great deal: two starters (e.g., a large salad and crepes), a choice of main course (chicken, fish, pork, or veggies) and dessert (e.g., coconut flan) for just US$8.50. Everything I’ve had here has been pretty good, especially for the price. The set dinner menu consists of more than double the number of items—at more than double the price.
Diablo Rosso café/art gallery (#11, Avenida A and Calle 7, tel. 228-4833 or 228-4837, www.diablorosso.com, café 9 A.M.–7 P.M. Tues.––Sat.) is a café, but more important it has quickly turned into an arts and culture hub for Casco Viejo. Owned by the popular Panamanian rock band Señor Loop, it displays modern works by local artists, hosts after-hours art openings and events, and holds a Tuesday night dinner-and-a-movie evening, showing independent films and documentaries. It’s part of an emerging arts scenes that includes Relic Bar/Luna’s Castle, Super Gourmet, and La Casona.
Granclement (Avenida Central between Calle 3 Oeste and Calle 4 Oeste, tel. 223-6277, 11:30 A.M.–8 P.M. Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 A.M.–9:30 P.M. Fri.–Sat., 12:30–8 P.M. Sun.) serves gourmet ice cream and sorbet by the scoop or the tub in flavors that range from the tropical (mango, guanábana, passion fruit) to the exotic (basil, lavender, spearmint), as well as more conventional choices. It’s pricey for Panama, but hard to resist on a hot day (i.e., every day).
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition