Unless you're a Panamanian, it's natural to believe that because the country's so small, it's underdeveloped, stuck in time, and old-fashioned—WRONG. 

Located in the very heart of the American continent, Panama is a place in which countless cultures from all over the world come together. This fusion has consequently allowed the nation to grow and prosper endlessly, in every possible aspect.

Until only several years ago, Panama city had a few good stores, shopping malls were a rarity, and people would always go to the same four or five restaurants. Having lived here my entire life, I have observed how it has made outstanding progress and increasingly become a gold mine. 

One of the main areas in which Panama has noticeably improved over the last couple of years is in the gastronomical field. With the purpose of helping both tourists and locals decide where to eat and drink, here's a guide to 25 of the most favored, drool-worthy restaurant choices in Panama, mainly in the city but also in its outskirts, in no particular order:

1.  Café Unido

Ranging from dishes as simple as burgers and sandwiches to fancier offerings like quinoa bowls and salmon, Unido's assorted menu offers heavenly choices for all tastes and desires, any day of the week.

If you're looking for a hearty breakfast, this is also the right place to go, especially if you're into coffee. I'd be lying if I said I've always genuinely enjoyed drinking coffee, because this place was definitely a game-changer for me.

My personal favorite? The chai latte. Yes, I know this isn't actually coffee, but give it a try. You'll end up wanting to marry it. 

2. Tacos La Neta

If you're a taco lover like me, Tacos La Neta is a must. Not only is the food A1, but the portions are just the right size, and the margaritas and passion fruit mojitos are amazing, too. The best part? The "Los Tacos Tropicales" course lets you choose three out of six taco options, giving you a variety of choices and reducing indecision.

If you happen to be around Casco Viejo, Panama's historic district, don't think twice before stopping by this gold mine, and if you're not in the area, make the trip. Trust me, it will be worth every second. We all crave the occasional Mexican meal, right?

3. Los Camisones

Getting hungry during a road trip is perfectly common, and if this happens as you're driving to a particular beach in Panama, do yourself a favor and stop by Los Camisones.

Over the years, this place has become a Panamanian tradition, as well as a highly superior alternative to McDonald's and KFC. If you're a seafood lover, be ready to spend awhile browsing the menu, because everything not only sounds amazing, but it tastes just as great. You will treasure this place, as well as its casual, outdoor environment.

Oh, and they allow pets; that's a definite winning point. 

4. La Rana Dorada

Going by the name of one of the Panamanian fauna's most representative animals, La Rana Dorada is an incredibly successful brewery in the capital. It's an excellent place to hit up with friends and unwind on a Friday evening, after a long week of school or work.

No matter where you find yourself, if you're craving a beer, don't think twice before dropping by at one of Rana's various locations in the city for some of the finest handcrafted brews you'll ever try. And, to accompany your beer, what goes better than a classic pepperoni pizza? It's the perfect, delicious combination.

5. Pano's Kretan House

Even if you're a picky eater, you've gotta love Greek food. In all seriousness, who doesn't? At Pano's, you'll get some of the best, especially if you order the Ladopsomo with add-on chicken (my personal favorite). 

Setting aside its Greek delights, Pano's is perfect for practically any occasion: a casual meal with friends, an informal date, dinner with the family, and even hangover recoveries. Whichever the circumstance, don't hesitate to stop by and make your day a whole lot better. 

6. Donde José

Not everybody enjoys all kinds of food. More specifically, not everybody has a refined palate. If you don't have one, I definitely wouldn't recommend Donde José; if you do, this is the right place to go. 

This restaurant has a quite distinct concept from most of the other places in the city. The menu is based on the seasons, and instead of choosing a specific dish, your entire meal, comprised of numerous courses, is prearranged for you.

Every bite you take from these gourmet Panama-inspired treats will make you rejoice, as you simultaneously listen to brief bits of the country's rich history. Needless to say, Donde José is a fully state-of-the-art gastronomical experience.

7. Mercado de Mariscos

After spending the day touring around Casco Viejo, take a break at this local market. The Mercado de Mariscos offers the chance to enjoy freshly snatched seafood, with a view of the Panama Bay and the Pacific Ocean in a homey, outdoor setting. 

The Mercado de Mariscos is basically a mandatory stop when you're visiting the neighborhood, not only because of its overwhelmingly delicious, refreshing seafood, but because it's where you capture Panama in all of its essence. If you haven't already, you'll fall in love with the city and all of its enchantments (and probably want to move there, too).

8. Gaucho's Steak House

Talk about the ideal Sunday night family dinner restaurant: a casual setting, mind-blowingly delicious food, and a good bottle of wine. What else is there to ask for?

Once you've tried Gaucho's, choosing where to get a good steak will be a no-brainer and chances are it'll become your go-to. This restaurant has been a family favorite for years now, and nobody has ever described their food as being something other than excellent. Without a doubt, this place is a must

9. Barrio Pizza

"Pizza, anyone?" The answer to such a tempting question is always yes. If I had to pick my three favorite pizza parlors in Panama, this one has great chances of being #1. Despite having only recently opened its doors in 2015, Barrio Pizza has been a massive hit, and for obvious reasons. 

No matter what kind of pizza you're craving, Barrio has the perfect variety of options for you to choose from. Customers can order something as traditional as a margarita pizza or one of the Barrio house creations. And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can build your own. Honestly, is there anything we don't love about this place?

10.  MOMA Restaurant & Lounge

If you're seeking a chill place to grab a bite and have a few drinks with friends, I can't think of a better one than MOMA. Also inaugurated in very recent years, this place is a gold mine, and has become a huge trend, especially among teenagers and young adults. 

MOMA's international cuisine offers exquisite choices for all palates and preferences, with dishes ranging from traditional Panamanian-inspired delicacies to sushi. My go-to dish is the TTT (Tuna Tartare) roll, and yes: it is as glorious as it sounds.

To the sushi lovers out there, you can't go wrong with this roll. Actually, you can't wrong this restaurant, if I'm being fully sincere.

11. Parrillada Jimmy

Popularly known as Jimmy's, this Greek restaurant has become a cash cow since it opened its doors to the public decades ago, and with its scrumptious food options, it has increasingly grown to be one of the most traditional places in the city.

Jimmy's casual, rustic setting goes perfectly with its predominantly seafood-comprised menu, and if you're not into seafood, you can always order pizza (because who's not into pizza?). Truthfully, the entire menu is delicious, so you'll be thrilled regardless of what you order. Pin this restaurant up, and give it a try on your next trip to Panama City. 

12. Granclément

Exploring Casco Viejo is a must when visiting Panama, and no matter how pleasant it is, the walk can be pretty exhausting. Luckily, Granclément's refreshing ice cream cones are the ultimate quick fix to this problem. 

Containing only of natural ingredients and zero artificial food coloring, this French shop's artisanal ice creams are the crème de la crème. I've never been a sweets lover myself, but Granclément has forever been an essential stop when I'm in the area. I'd say "delicious" is a vast understatement. 

13. The Dining Room at American Trade Hotel

When it comes to Sunday brunch, the options are endless, but none of them are nearly as great as this one. Once you try The Dining Room's brunch menu, every other restaurant you've ever had this particular meal at will become insignificant, and possibly be forgotten.

With its pet-friendly environment, complemented by bottomless mimosas and divine food, The Dining Room at the American Trade Hotel is the place to be for Sunday brunch.

My suggestion? The Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon. Trust me, you'll feel your taste buds dancing joyfully with every bite. It's the kind of dish you force on yourself when you're stuffed, because not eating it would be a terrible mistake (yes—it's that good).

14. La Casa del Marisco — ACHA

shrimp, fish, lobster, seafood, crab
Gloria Berguido

In case you ever wonder what seafood heaven looks like, it's this restaurant right here. ACHA, as well as several others, has been a Panamanian tradition for many years now, and it is only getting better every day.

I myself have never been a huge seafood fan, but I can vividly remember beginning to cherish it when I tried this place for the first time. Often described as having the best lobster in the city, ACHA will give you a whole new, refined perspective on seafood (and food in general).

You'll most likely spend a good fifteen minutes browsing the menu undecidedly, as everything on it sounds tempting.

15. Capital Bistro Panamá

Casco Viejo has an active, captivating nightlife, regardless of what day of the week it is. It's hard to contain yourself from enjoying it once you're already there (and there's no reason you should), but before diving in, having a good dinner is essential.

With a beautiful view of the city's concrete skyline, a cocktail in your hand, and twinkly lights above you, Capital Bistro's outdoor rooftop is the perfect place to savor dinner and start off your night. And if the wind's bothering you, there's a jazzy indoor area downstairs for you to sit instead.

In all sincerity, the truffled mushroom ravioli is among the top ten dishes I've tried in my life. These will make you believe in love again; this is not an exaggeration. 

16. Segundo Muelle

Peruvian cuisine is popularly known as being like a crossroad for various cultures, and finding the right place to eat it outside its home country can be a challenge. With two highly successful locations in the city, Segundo Muelle offers a delicious assortment of beautifully arranged, authentic Peruvian dishes. 

This place is particularly essential when in Panama, not only because of its spectacular courses, but because its roots differ from those of the majority of the restaurants both in the city and on this list. To the ceviche lovers out there, this will be your paradise; go nuts. 

17. Restaurante 1985 y Rincón Suizo

butter, sage, cream, fettuccine, pasta, sauce
Gloria Berguido

This next restaurant is essentially two in one, as its name suggests: it has a French wing and a Swiss wing. While enjoying both, I've always had a preference for the Swiss wing. Its warm, cozy setting will make you feel at home as you feast on its finely crafted cuisine.

Providing a five-star-worthy menu in its entirety, El Rincón Suizo has been a family favorite ever since I can remember. My personal picks are the risottos (any of them, really), but regardless of what you order, you can't miss out on their cheese fondue starter—"exquisite" falls short. 

18. Esa Flaca Rica

Knowing where to get a great burger will always be necessary, because honestly, who doesn't enjoy one every once in a while? Esa Flaca Rica is a food truck that sells, among other treats, praiseworthy burgers; possibly some of the best in the city.

When food cravings kick in, they ought to be curbed, and in the best possible way. So the next time you find yourself lusting after a burger, instead of heading over to the nearest McDonald's, do yourself a favor and stop by Esa Flaca Rica. Your hands will get greasy, but every bite is worth the mess


Sitting in the middle of vibrant Casco Viejo is OCHOYMEDIO, a gastronomical terrace that befits every mood. Whether you're craving a refreshing drink to loosen up, or a full dinner to enjoy with family or friends, this cozy little gem will appease your every need. 

This brasserie-style restaurant with both an indoor area and an outdoor patio gives customers a relaxed, peaceful vibe. With a very diverse, international menu comprised of A1 courses entirely, OCHOYMEDIO has become a public favorite in a short period of time.

If you're looking for innovative dishes, such as the beet ravioli, to divert a little from your routine, drop by. You'll be wowed by every bite.

20. Maito

Despite its main goal being the innovation and modernization of Panamanian cuisine, Maito offers bits from everywhere in the world on its appetizing menu. Don't mind losing yourself (in a very good way) as you indulge in every one of its delights. 

Apart from other factors that label Maito as extraordinary, the restaurant has its own orchard, where herbs and vegetables are constantly being grown to take directly to the dining table, with the purpose of giving each course a fresh and unique touch. This place will undoubtedly provide you with an incomparable culinary encounter.

21. Brutto

Here's another (excellent) restaurant with an international menu. Complemented by its modern yet classy lounge setting, Brutto's menu will give you the perfect lunch or dinner, whether it's with your family, a friend, or a date.

In my opinion, it can be quite difficult to find a global cuisine restaurant that excels in every single kind. At Brutto, this will be the least of your concerns. It doesn't really matter if you're craving sushi, pizza, risotto, or steak. Everything is great, and you will not be let down. That's the magic of this place.

22. Madrigal

Similar to many other restaurants on this list, Madrigal is located in the heart of Casco Viejo, with its doors wide open and ready to serve divine Spanish-Mediterranean treats

Simultaneously excelling in every aspect of food quality, service, and ambiance, this restaurant is for sure making its way to the top of the "Best Restaurants in Panama" list.

Madrigal's most famous customer pick is the tasting menu, and it's pretty easy to tell why. Why order just one dish, when you can have several small ones, and delight yourself with little bits of everything the place has to offer? The more food there is, the happier you'll be, or as us Latin Americans would say: "Barriga llena, corazón contento." Case in point: it's a no-brainer.

23. Tántalo Hotel

When Sunday comes around, there isn't a single, more overwhelmingly bitter feeling than remembering that Monday's next. Tántalo's rooftop, with a beautiful view to the city, is just the right place to drown your troubles away.

Accompanied by mouthwatering dishes ranging from stuffed calamari to empanadas, ordering one of Tántalo's unique cocktails, such as the Ketel One "Blondie" Mary, is the key to relaxation, and to starting off the week on the right foot. And if that isn't enough, the rooftop's bustling nightlife should do it for you, any day of the week. 

24. Bambú

Asian cuisine is a spectacle in its intactness, and while not everybody's into it, I, on the other hand, simply can't get enough. If you're also a member of that club, I strongly suggest you try Bambú, for an entirely unique Oriental experience.

In a modern, fashionable ambiance, Bambú offers its customers an exquisite menu; one in which every course is better than the previous one.

With my everlasting love for sushi, the Spicy Tuna roll is my go-to pick, but if that doesn't sound convincing, there's always a myriad of other phenomenal courses to choose from. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.  

25. La Séptima Central

Last but not least is La Séptima Central. This part-nightclub,  part-restaurant is definitely not one you want to miss out on. Also located in Casco Viejo, it offers a very modern experience, in regards to both its delicious menu and its nightlife. 

Because of its successful, unique concept, La Séptima has been ceaselessly increasing in popularity, offering its customers not only five-star-worthy dishes, but also a buoyant nightlife to revel in. So, before diving into the party, feast on their succulent skirt steak tacos, and you'll be ready to go.

Whether you're a tourist looking to try some of Panama's best places during your visit, or a simply a hungry local craving some of the city's greatest eats, this list provides restaurant choices for all tastes and preferences. Because no matter where you are, eating well is always essential.