Supermarkets are everywhere in Panama City , and in recent years their selections have vastly improved. They now more closely resemble megamarkets in the United States, with an array of imported and local goods, including a better choice of fresh produce (difficult growing conditions make much beyond tropical fruit hard to come by in the tropics).
Panama’s biggest grocery-store chain is El Rey. It has a half-dozen stores in Panama City alone. The one on Vía España (tel. 223-7850, 24 hours daily) is centrally located, and has a pharmacy and many other services.
The more upscale Riba Smith supermarket has four locations in Panama City. The most convenient for visitors are in Bella Vista (Calle 45, tel. 225-6247, 7:30 A.M.–9 P.M. Mon.–Sat., 8 A.M.–8 P.M. Sun.), on the Transístmica (tel. 299-3999, 7:30 A.M.–9 P.M. Mon.–Sat., 8 A.M.–8 P.M. Sun.), and in the Multiplaza Pacific shopping center (tel. 302-3793, 7:30 A.M.–9 P.M. Mon.–Sat., 8 A.M.–8 P.M. Sun.). The stores have buffet-style cafeterias as well. Riba Smith also does home (and presumably hotel!) deliveries with 24 hours notice and a minimum US$7 purchase.
Some of Panama’s best coffee is at Café Ruiz (World Trade Center on Calle 53, tel. 265-0779, www.caferuiz.com , 7 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon., Tues., Wed., and Fri., 7 a.m.–5 p.m. Thurs.). It’s a café and shop that carries all kinds of roasts and flavors of coffee, both whole bean and ground. Attractive gift packages and mugs are available. Café Ruiz coffee is also available at some supermarkets, but the gourmet roast is available only at the Café Ruiz shops.
Felipe Motta in Marbella (Calle 53, tel. 269-6633, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.) has a good selection of wines at prices comparable to what you’d find in the United States. It also has some gourmet foods and fresh bread and pastries.