East Panama City
Cafeterias and Diners
There’s a newer, rather sleek outlet of Churrería Manolo in Obarrio (Avenida 1D Sur and Calle Juan Ramón Poll C., tel. 214-3986, 7 a.m.–1 a.m. daily). Check out this well-loved chain for its great churros, Spanish hot chocolate (chocolate a la española), breakfast, and sandwiches.
Sushi Itto (Calle 55 Este near Avenida 2 Sur/Samuel Lewis, tel. 265-1222 or 265-1136, noon–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., noon–11 p.m. Fri. and Sat., 12:30–10:30 p.m. Sun.), right next to the Reprosa jewelry store, is part of a Mexican sushi chain (yep, Mexican). It’s a modern place with an extensive sushi menu as well as tempura, rice dishes, pastas, soups, and even a few Thai dishes. The sushi’s okay. There’s a second outlet in the Multiplaza Pacific Mall.
The Pony Club by Limoncillo (Calle 69 Este just south of Vía Porras, tel. 270-0807, www.limoncillo.com, noon–2:30 P.M. and 7–10:30 P.M. Mon.–Thurs., noon–2:30 P.M. and 7–11 P.M. Fri. and Sat., US$14–25) is the successor to the late, lamented Limoncillo, one of Panama’s best restaurants, which fell victim to the construction boom. The new place has a more casual café feel and is quite small (seats about 40), but the food is still delicious. In the kitchen is Clara Icaza, one of Panama’s most celebrated chefs.
The restaurant specializes in “contemporary American” cuisine, but my favorites here are nouvelle twists on traditional Panamanian fare. Beef and yuca, for instance, become a marinated entraña (skirt steak) with an unusual yuca cake. It’s almost sweet, but it’s tender and delicious (US$23). The salads are also good. The manager, Jennifer Spector, understands the importance of decor, lighting, and music in creating a mood that complements fine food.
This is not a place for a cheap meal on the run, but when it all comes together it’s worth the taxi ride to its location near Parque Recreativo Omar, not far from the Sheraton Panama Hotel and Convention Center. (Print or jot down the map on the restaurant’s website, as not all taxi drivers will know where it is.)
Napoli No. 2 (Calle 57 and Avenida 1D Sur, tel. 263-8799 or 263-8800, noon–midnight Tues.–Sat.) is the somewhat more upscale younger sister of the original Napoli in the much more upscale neighborhood of Obarrio. It’s air-conditioned and pleasant. The service is not-so-hot, but the food comes fast once you finally get to order.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition