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Jan 25, 2008 07:27 AM

Guatemala City and Panama City experts?

I'm leaving for GC/Antigua next week and then a few days in Panama City.Anyone around who knows the better restaurants in Antigua? In PC I'm staying at Playa Bonita Intercontinental. Can anyone recommend some restaurants in that area and downtown? Thanks.

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  1. The restaurant at Meson Panza Verde in Antgua is excellent and the setting is lovely.

    3 Replies
    1. re: janeh

      Thanks for the tip. Best wishes. Roland

      1. re: janeh

        I went to Panza Verde night before last and it was wonderful. Also, you couldn't wish for a prettier setting or better service.

        1. re: janeh

          Thank you to all contributors. I have just returned to Europe from a second trip to Guate at the end of July and can confirm that Panza Verde in Antigua was a winner with me and my guests. Best wishes to all.

        2. I’ve always been fond of La Casserole in Antigua, a French restaurant with polished service at tables surrounding the courtyard of a handsome Spanish Colonial mansion. It’s a bit off the beaten tourist track, at Callejon de la Concepcion 7.

          1. I live in Antigua and regret to admit that Guatemala is not a generally thought of as a culinary capital of the world, and I don't much make it to the nicer places, but I have plenty of suggestions nonetheless.

            I adore a tiny restaurant that I don't know the name of in Antigua, but I can tell you just where it is. It on 1a Calle Poniente and is the second business east of 6a Avenida Norte. This is the intersection where La Merced church is located. It is painted yellow and the menu is written on a mirror sitting in the doorway. I believe that it is only open in the evening. (To help locate it: the place right on the corner is red, called Fusion, has a big sign so it is easy to spot. It just opened and I have not eaten there yet.) The menu is small, really I keep going back for the roasted tomatoes - tomates rostizados. My husband goes for the carrot soup - sopa de zanahoria. There are only 4 or 5 tables, very intimate. The kitchen is directly behind the bar in the same room as the tables. You feel a bit like you are in a friend's home.

            My favorite meals in restaurants here might actually be breakfasts - frijoles volteados (I love these), fried plantains, eggs (huevos al gusto - eggs to your pleasure!), and fresh tortillas. Simple and good.

            Guatemalan food is very mild to my taste, I make fair use of hot sauce. My favorite variety is the red Maya-Ik.

            Other simple culinary delights for me here are the cafe con leche at Fernando's Kafe on 6th Avenida Norte and avocado or bean tostadas with cabbage salad at street stalls. There are also these gorgeous red cabbage and beet tostadas with a slice of egg on top that are tasty and just dazzling to look at. You may want to try a few vendors as some are admittedly better than others, but they only cost 3-5Q a piece so this shouldn't be a hardship.

            From the same vendors you can get many different types of atol. My favorite is the corn - elote blanco. Like a thin corn pudding. You may also find chocolate with rice or banana/plantain. Look for the stacks of cups to discover who has it or just ask around.

            My husband is partial to the roasted corn on the cob - harder than sweet corn, chewy and served with salt and lime. Also you may see tamales, sometimes these are roasted here as well after they are steamed. I have never met a tamal I didn't like.

            The chile rellenos in Guatemala are filled with shredded meat rather than just cheese. These you can find from vendors or in restaurants.

            For a sweet some of the vendors also have platanos rellenos - plantains filled with black beans, pan fried and sprinkled with sugar.

            All the fruit vendors are selling sliced green mango with salt and lime right now and ripe mangoes are just appearing. Yum!

            You would have to go to the market for them, but granadillas (sweet passion fruit) make me truly happy to eat right out of hand. (You should go to the market in any case. It runs everyday - Thursdays and Saturdays are the biggest. The produce make me swoon.)

            Back to restaurants - I have visited but not eaten at at Panza Verde, but my husband has and he enjoyed it. It is pretty there, as is Casa Santo Domingo. Yet again I cannot vouch for their food personally, but it has won many awards. Fonda Calle Real is supposed to be good as well though not as upscale. They serve pepian - a classic Guatemalan dish. (For the vegetarians out there it is good to note they also have a veggie version.) Next dinner out this is where we are going. If it is in time for your trip I will give my review.

            Please report back when you return. I would love your suggestions as well. You will likely visit some of the fancier places than I normally do and I await your discoveries here in Antigua or in the city.

            ¡Buen viaje! ¡Buen provecho!

            2 Replies
            1. re: guate

              I'm replying to myself, but I said I would report on Fonda Calle Real. We went last night and enjoyed it. I wasn't blown away, but I will probably go back when we have friends in town. My husband had the grilled vegetable plate which was nice, very pretty and drizzled in balsamic vinegar. Maybe a bit pricey for just veggies, but sometimes such is the life of a vegetarian. (and "a bit pricey" was around 50Q - around US$6.50 - not much for a nice place really!)

              I had the vegetarian pepian. Good, milder than I expected, but it came with a spicy green salsa that fixed that. Served with rice, tortillas, and a tiny corn tamal. Around 50Q as well. I will try to make it at home now, so I am glad I had it. This is often why I eat out :)

              We also went to Bistro Cinq which was more upscale - very nice. Also recommended, but for more of a splurge (for me anyway).We pieced together a meal of appetizers and sides. Cauliflower gratin, roasted beets, greens beans, mac and cheese. The beets and cauiflower were very good and I would definately have again.

              We were with a large group so I saw a lot of dishes and they all smelled and looked very good. The mains were mostly seafood and ran about 100Q. I tasted the robalo of a companion and it was mild. She said the salmon was better and recommended the roasted potatoes as well.

              I could be wrong, but the duck confit down the table appeared to be fried. You may just want to inquire about preparation methods to be sure.

              Reading over this I can see they aren't glowing reviews. Both places were good, nothing amazing. Certainly worth visiting once and of course meat-eaters might have more rave reviews.

              1. re: guate

                The yellow restaurant is Hector's and as of Nov 2009 is still very good.

                Sorry to bump this thread up from oblivian.

              2. I can only tell you about Panama and refer you to this thread:

                Ironically, I booked tickets to Panama this morning and leave in over a week. If I find anything new (which I am hoping to), I'll report back!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Carrie 218

                  Well, in my five days in the city I only got to one new place: Le Bistrot which is across the street from the Four Points Sheraton. The décor is straight out of a late-70s/early 1980s French restaurant complete with pale green and pink chintz, padded banquettes, and stilted, formal service (well, sort of). The Lobster Thermidor was rich and creamy but the shocker was the escargot... They *have* to be injecting these little buggers with dextrose or something; they were way too tender to be natural. It was freaky. We tried to ask where they were getting their supplies or how they were prepared, but no one ever responded. I am used to escargot which is slightly rubbery or at least has a tooth to it and these did not. Stunning, really.

                  Of my mainstays, I have to say that Ten Bistro has taken a HUGE downhill slide; a mushroom mille fleur starter was actually a soggy empanada topped with horrifically bitter dressed greens. A puff pastry-wrapped cut of beef was burned and should never have been served. The sauces were gloppy and unappetizing and it was heartbreaking that this restaurant, which showed so much promise two years ago, has gotten so bad.

                  Beirut, on the other hand, continues to be my favorite dining destination.

                  Lastly, a business meeting was held at the sushi bar in the Radisson. On the grand scale of sushi, it was passable, but hardly remarkable.

                2. Just back from a few weeks in Guatemala and the best meal of the trip, including quite a bit of traditional home cooking and the two top steakhouses in Guatemala City, was at Panza Verde in Antigua. The venue is indeed lovely and the service very professional—and bilingual. I forget what my friend had for an appetizer, but I had wild mushrooms in a garlic and cream sauce that was outstanding. We both ordered fish, my friend grouper and I snook with a sauce that included green grapes. Both dishes were perfectly prepared, not the least overcooked. And the portions were more than generous. Neither of us could even think of dessert. My friend picked up the tab and I don’t recall the prices on the menu. It wasn’t cheap, especially for Guatemala. But it was worth every nickel.

                  We also had a couple of meals at La Fonda de la Calle Real. It’s almost a cliché and always loaded with large groups of tourists. But my friend was so enamored of their Gallo en Chicha that we went back so he could have it a second time.

                  Also in Antigua, although we didn’t eat there, is El Sereno on 4th Ave Norte between 1 & 2 Calle Oriente. I’d heard the food was decent, although not close to the caliber of Panza Verde. But the real reason to go is for the view from the bar which is at the top of a church tower ruin. On a clear evening there’s a perfect view of Agua volcano. With street sounds and the hubbub of Antigua far below, it is “sereno” indeed.