Bocas del Toro
Tel: 507 757 9062
Nobody goes to Bocas del Toro for the cuisine. Most of the storefront restaurants in the archipelago's only town make no greater claim than having the island's best burgers (and few even rate an honorable mention). That's what makes this Isla Colón hotel restaurant such a find. Seafood should reign supreme here, and El Limbo's chefs serve up whatever the fishermen brought in that day. If they're available, the octopus a la mantequilla (in butter sauce) and the squid al ajillo (with garlic) are both delicious. And if you don't see your favorite preparation, the kitchen will be happy to whip it up for you. There's a pretty sea view from the open-air dining room, where the tables are laid with crisp linens.
Tel: 507 269 4353
Big portions of authentic local fare, cheap prices, and a lively atmosphere greet visitors to El Trapiche. Here, in the residential and commercial district of El Cangrejo, both Panamanians and tourists tuck into specialties like the "Panamanian Fiesta"—a combination plate of eight different local dishes including sancocho (a traditional chicken soup), fried yucca, and ropa vieja (seasoned shredded beef). The dishes pair well with fresh-squeezed juice or a tropical-fruit smoothie. Cool off in the air-conditioned dining room, or people-watch from the sidewalk tables.
Tel: 507 264 7859
While many of Panama City's restaurants try to out-modern one another, Eurasia embraces a traditional sort of elegance. In a 1936 building on a quiet block in the neighborhood of Bellavista, the second-floor dining room has gently curved bay windows, coffered ceilings, black-and-white-tile floors, and pots overflowing with bamboo and ficus plants. The menu of Asian-influenced European recipes has some winning dishes, such as smoked trout salad with grapefruit, and lobster in tamarind sauce. This is where local families go to celebrate—and you should, too.
Avenida Manuel Icaza
Tel: 507 223 7755
Politicians and rich businessmen tend to congregate beneath the beamed ceiling of this formal-ish dining room—which may explain the extortionately high prices. Try it for lunch—it's definitely worth the splurge for one meal, and the seafood is always fresh. Among the preparations, the prawns with garlic, battered prawns with lobster-sherry sauce, and salted corvina with mushrooms and onions are standouts.
Tel: 507 720 1324
Forget this hotel's dowdy dining room; the best place to eat in the old-fashioned clapboard building is the open-air bar. Wrought-iron tables are scattered around the covered terrace beside the garden and inside along the gleaming wooden bar. No matter where you sit, even at one of the cozy couches tucked in the back, you'll be warmed by one of the flickering fireplaces. (Evenings can be chilly in the mountains, even in summer.) The cuisine spans the globe but is uniformly good: Try the grilled salmon with asparagus in a dill-cream sauce, or the seafood stew with lobster, octopus, and squid in a saffron–red-pepper broth. Leave room for a slice of lemon pie, the house specialty; you can always walk off the extra calories on the trails that crisscross the inn's beautifully landscaped grounds.