There are plenty of places to eat on and near the Amador Causeway , though I’ve yet to have a memorable meal at any of them.
The much-lamented Balboa Yacht Club (tel. 228-5794) has risen from the ashes (literally, it was burned down some years ago). It’s roughly in its old location—despite the name, it’s in Amador, above the water near the Country Inn and Suites. At this point it’s just an outdoor place serving burgers, buckets of beer, and the like from a wagon, but it’s popular with both diehard Zonians and yachties.
Mediocre American chain restaurants (T.G.I. Friday’s, Bennigan’s, Subway) are also making inroads. Flamenco Plaza on Isla Flamenco and a newer complex on Isla Perico have an impressive number of theme restaurants squeezed into cramped spaces. Oddly, both have been designed so the parking lot is on the best real estate, with a view of Panama Bay and the Panama City skyline, while the restaurants are set so far back they really only have a view of the parking lot. Most are indoor/outdoor places. It’s pleasant to sit outside in the evenings and enjoy the tropical breeze. There are also places to eat at the Gran Terminal de Transportes/Albrook Mall.
The food at Centro de Visitantes de Miraflores (Miraflores Locks Visitors Center, tel. 276-8325, noon–11 p.m. daily, US$10–15) is decent. It includes sandwiches, pastas, seafood, salads, and so on. But that’s not the reason to come here. Dining on a terrace just a few meters from the locks of the Panama Canal  is, to say the least, a novel experience. Diners can watch ships transiting day or night (high-mast lighting turns night into day at the locks). Come early or reserve a table against the railing, where the view is best. Service charge is included.
Niko’s Café (tel. 228-8888, 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily), at the end of the Prado next to Stevens Circle in Balboa , is one of a small chain of successful cafeterias in Panama City  that offer simple, tasty food at rock-bottom prices. This one is in the heart of the old Canal Zone, between what was once the high school football stadium and the employees’ commissary, built on the site of a bowling alley.
Reflecting its location, the cafeteria has great panoramic black-and-white photos of the Canal Zone, U.S. military bases, and parts of Panama dating from the 1920s and 1930s. Much to the amazement of old Zonians, the seal of the Canal Zone is above the counter. About US$4 will get you heaps of food, which includes traditional Panamanian fare, sandwiches, soups, individual pizzas, and desserts. The café now has wireless Internet access.
Lum’s Bar and Grill (tel. 317-6303, 11 a.m.–midnight daily, US$6 or less), just off Gaillard Highway across the tracks from the railroad station in Corozal, is one of the last bastions of meat-and-potatoes Zonian spirit. Turn off the highway at the lovingly preserved Panama Railroad train cars. It’s a converted warehouse that features a restaurant in the main room with pastas, salads, sandwiches, and the like. Attached to it is a sports bar with pool tables, ESPN, and, on some nights, live local bands.
A favorite is a blues-rock outfit called Bitches Ghost, composed of Panamanians and gringo expats. These include Rod Richards, the original lead guitarist for the late 1960s/early 1970s rock band Rare Earth. Enjoy.
Restaurante Pencas (Amador, tel. 211-3671, www.pencas.com , noon–11 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 12:30 p.m.–12:30 a.m. Fri.–Sat., noon–10 p.m. Sun.) is just past the Panama Canal Village. It’s a large open-air place with tables on a raised deck near the water, and it has a view of the ocean and the Panama City  skyline. The menu tends toward American comfort food and includes baby back ribs and other grilled meats, sandwiches, burgers, fajitas, pasta, and seafood. The filete de canal frances is a small but tender cut of beef.
Pencas hosts a típico music performance Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. Other musicians perform Thursday–Saturday nights.
Mi Ranchito (Isla Naos, Amador Causeway, tel. 228-4909, 11:45 a.m.–midnight Mon.–Thurs., 11:45 a.m.–1:30 a.m. Fri.–Sat., 9 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Sun.) is a simple but clean open-air place under a thatched roof on Naos, just past the turnoff to the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas. It’s the most popular place to eat on the Amador Causeway . Instead of adopting a cheesy theme like the others, it serves traditional Panamanian food, with an emphasis on fish and seafood at low prices. It also has—wonder of wonders—a view of the bay.
While many people have good experiences here, I’ve found the food to be just so-so—the corvina is not very flavorful and is drowned in sauce, and the soup is thin. Still, the location is good and a típico meal in pleasant surroundingscan be had for less than US$10. The patacones (fried green plantains) are tasty.