What We Ate in Panama City

As with every new vacation destination, one of the first things that I research is the food scene. Since X lived in Panama for roughly four years, he had some childhood spots that he wanted to hit. In addition, I did my thing and found a few new spots for us to try.

Our first night in Panama City brought us to Casco Viejo, where we were staying for the trip. Nestled in the middle of Panama City’s Old Town is Fonda Lo Que Hay, one of the most famous restaurants in the city. Helmed by one of the most celebrated chefs in Latin America, José Olmedo Carles Rojas, Fonda Lo Que Hay offers upscale versions of traditional dishes. Our first dish was perhaps our favorite dish of the entire trip – Yuca Tostada con Carpaccio de Atun + Cevche de Cebolla. We also really enjoyed Empanda de Maiz Ahumado, which came with a delicious beef filet sauce. The sauce was super smokey and so flavorful.

Another delicious Casco Viejo staple is Santa Rita Casco Viejo, which serves Panamanian-inspired Spanish tapas. We enjoyed a delicious Panamanian Ceviche, Grilled Eggplant with Olive Oil, Grilled Octopus with National Potato and Santa Rita Sauce, and Cream Iberian Ham Croquettes. We are both big fans of Spanish tapas, so we really enjoyed the Panamanian twist to some of our favorite classics.

While most of our meals were pretty affordable, we did splurge on our last night in town and had dinner at Maito, #30 on San Pelligrino’s 2021 50 Best Latin American Restaurants. Maito’s Degustacion Menu features 8 savory courses and 2 dessert courses, totaling 10 courses for $75. Some of our favorite dishes out of the 10 courses were the Gnocchi de maiz nuevo con coco y queso blanco (Corn Gnocchi with a coconut and cheese sauce), Carimanola de Pulpo (Puff Pastry with octopus and curry), and Ceviche Rallado (Seabass ceviche Tigre de Lethe and lime).

And lastly, of course, is Athen’s Pizza, the legendary restaurant from Xavier’s childhood. We had a surprisingly delicious pizza and their famous Ladopsomo, which is a completely made up dish. Featuring chopped onions, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, shredded chicken, and grilled pita, it was flavorful and super interesting. It has nothing to do with authentic Greek food, but as a Panamanian-Greek concoction, it’s delicious and worth a try if you run into one while you’re visiting Panama City.

A special mention goes to Palacio Lung Fung, where we had some delicious and super cheap dim sum, including some of the best cheurng fun that I’ve ever had.

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