various: Lake-front cafes
Along the lake shore near the jetties where the boats dock are a series of bars and cafés on wooden piles. They all appear to be similar although we only ate in one so I can’t really compare. I don’t know its name, but it was one of the first you come to if approaching from the foot of Calle Santander or the point where the tuk-tuks park. The food (a tuna sandwich for me and a cheese burger for Chris) was nothing special but you get a great view if lucky enough to secure a lakeside table and it’s a convenient spot before or after a boat trip.
Las Palmeras: Pizza!
This is a casual restaurant opening onto Calle Santander and serving Italian dishes, chicken and seafood, as well as lighter meals such as salads. It also has a pizza oven, and pizza was what we fancied that evening.
Favorite Dish: We shared a medium chicken pizza, which was ample for the two of us (although if really hungry you might prefer the larger size). It was very good – generous with the cheese and the base thin and just a little crisp. Chris had a Gallo and I had a bottle of sparkling water, and the bill was just 95 Q. Service was friendly if a little slow, but as we weren’t in a hurry that wasn’t a problem.
La Parada Café: Coffee time
Just opposite the top of Calle Santander on Calle Principal is this big barn-like space with a small counter serving excellent coffee, a few bookshelves selling second-hand books, and a scattering of furniture including some soft squishy sofas. It’s a great place to relax after climbing the main street and browsing all the handicrafts stalls perhaps. A well-chosen seat will give you a great vantage point from which to watch all the comings and goings at Pana’s busiest junction – tuk-tuks, gringos, local Maya women in colourful costumes, stray dogs dodging the traffic, children playing and more ...
Sunset Bar & Cafe: Best views in Pana?
This is the third of Jorge’s recommendations that we tried. We came here for lunch and were very happy with it. We also intended to come back one evening to test its claim to be a prime sunset viewing spot, but somehow never got round to doing so. Certainly it has the right location, with tables overlooking the lake and volcanoes beyond.
Favorite Dish: The menu has a Mexican slant, but we were after something fairly light. Chris chose the ham and cheese sandwich while I went for the chicken one, which turned out to be served hot, with fried onions and mustard – not what I was expecting, but quite tasty. Both came with a side of pasta salad. With a Gallo each we paid 152 Q including service. The meal was fine, but nothing special – you come here for the view above all.
Café Bombay: Good veggie choice
Despite its name this is not an Indian restaurant but a vegetarian one, although it does have a few curries on its menu. It’s a pretty tiny place, although a few tables out on the street add to the capacity. The walls are decorated with a lot of old maps covering all over the world, which I loved, and pictures of elephants.
It appears to be family-run and the owner / waiter seemed a little overwhelmed by a small group of travellers who’d arrived just before us (we were the only other customers apart from this group). Service was consequently rather slow, but he was very apologetic and as we liked the food and the ambience we didn’t really mind having to wait between courses.
Favorite Dish: We hadn’t spotted the small print on the menu that said that all main courses come with soup, so we ordered a shared starter of pitta bread with hummus. The bread was lovely though the hummus was oddly dry. The soup was great – a bit like a spicy minestrone. Chris’s main was burritos which had a good flavour and were of a generous size, though they could have been warmer. My choice was the “vegetables in pipian sauce” – another chance to sample this local dish after the disappointment of the Casablanca version. This time the sauce seemed much more what it should be – thick, spicy and with plenty of texture from the pumpkin and sesame seeds. It came in a separate dish to pour over the vegetables, which consisted of broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, beans, a corn cob and half an avocado – plus rice. My only gripe was that I could have used more sauce on such a generous plate of vegetables.
With two Moza beers each the bill came to 222 Q with service – very good value for the amount we ate.
Deli Jasmin: Great spot for breakfast
This was another of Jorge’s recommendations and this time he was spot on! This is a really lovely breakfast spot. The tables and chairs (painted in bright candy colours) are set out in the garden and surrounded by greenery. The service is friendly and you can feel quite comfortable lingering here over a coffee or juice, maybe reading a paper or catching up with your travel journal while birds and butterflies dart around the bushes. We came here twice for breakfast and would have come on the third day (a Tuesday) too had it not been closed.
Favorite Dish: There is an extensive breakfast menu with something for all tastes I would imagine. On the first morning I chose the ham and cheese omelette which came with hash browns (both were very good) while Chris had the Eggs Benedict – Jorge had claimed that these were the “best in the world” and while not quite living up to that billing, they were certainly good. With two large mugs of good strong filter coffee we paid 120 Q including service.
On our second visit I had the delicious banana pancakes and Chris the omelette that I’d enjoyed the previous day (well, not the same omelette, you understand!) We were just as satisfied on this occasion, although I don’t seem to have noted the price – but it must have been similar.
Casablanca: Smart - but disappointing
This restaurant was recommended to us by Jorge who drove us from Antigua to Pana, but to be honest we didn’t like it as much as his other recommendations. The service was patchy – almost too quick at first and then rather slow when a couple of large-ish groups arrived. And although it was nicely decorated we somehow found it lacking in atmosphere.
Favorite Dish: The food too was of a mixed quality. My bass in garlic butter was nicely filleted but a little over-whelmed by the garlic (I love it, but it was a bit too much for this delicate fish). The accompanying broccoli though was great – just cooked enough, rather than the soggy mess you get in some places. Chris chose the local dish of pollo pipian but was disappointed with it. The thick sauce should be rich and slightly spicy, with a distinctive texture created by the inclusion of ground pumpkin seeds, but this one was bland and could have been any sort of generic gravy. We skipped dessert as nothing much appealed to us, and the bill for the single course each, a Gallo and a glass of (good) Chilean red was 236 Q – quite a lot for Guatemala.
The website below has an unattributed quote claiming this to be ".. One of the 100 best restaurants in Central America" – well, we didn’t eat in 100 restaurants but I find it hard to believe that there aren’t at least that many better than this. It’s not bad – just not great.
El Patio: Taste the local Pollo Pipian!
El Patio is situated on the main drag of Panajachel, Calle Santander. As its name advertises, the outdoor patio is the main drawing card for this restaurant. Heavy cast-iron tables and chairs are set on a large patio with ample parasols to give shade. The menu is rather eclectic but it specializes in local dishes such as the delicious "pollo pipian"...which is pieces of stewed chicken in a lovely mild peppery sauce, called "pipian". It is one of the best-known dishes of Guatemala and El Patio delivers the goods! People watching is the main activity here and there are certainly enough Gringos passing by to keep you occupied!
Favorite Dish: Pollo Pipian...
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Pana Pan: Baked Goods and Coffee
Located towards the Calle Principal end of Calle Santander, Pana Pan (pan = bread in Spanish) offers a variety of Guatemalan baked goods. Be sure to try the champurradas, largish flat sweet cookies, and beef empanadas. The latter is large enough to possibly satisfy someone for lunch. They also have an espresso machine so you can get your caffeine fix here as well.
I have to say that the champurradas here are not the best, even disappointing based on those we had in Antigua. There's another panadarilla up on Avenida Los Arboles that may make better ones. But if you're going to be in Antigua, don't miss the champurradas at Panadarilla San Antonio. That's the real stuff!
Favorite Dish: Beef empanada
Hotel Atitlan: Fancy in Pana
The restaurant in the Hotel Atitlan, the best hotel in Pana, lives up to the reputation of the hotel. The large dining room is brightly lit (perhaps too bright for dinner), has high ceilings, Spanish colonial decor, and large windows that look to the south and Lake Atitlan. Service is very good and the dishes all have a Guatemalan flair. I had the grilled shrimp and filet mignon which were done very well. Rita had the grilled salmon with cilantro sauce and nicoise salad. Also very good. They also had a nice wine list including a Spanish, Italian, and California varietals. If you're looking for a more formal night out, this would be the place to go.
Favorite Dish: Grilled shrimp and filet
American Churro: A cafe that's open early
This place just opened the weekend we arrived in Pana (June 2007). The nice thing we found was that it was open early (6:30am) unlike a lot places in Pana. Definitely a good choice to get that first jolt of caffiene in the morning and a pastry or two to go with it. At the time, the nice owners, an ex-pat Canadian and his Guatemalan wife, were only offering espresso drinks and toasted bagels. Churros were not available until after 9:00am for some reason. But who needs a churro when one can get a bagel with Nutella? Mmmmmmmm! Espresso, machiato, cappucino...they were all good.
Favorite Dish: Espresso drinks, toasted bagel with Nutella
Sunset Cafe: Dining with a View
The Sunset Cafe has Mexican and Guatemalan dishes in a nice setting that overlooks the lake and, if it's not too cloudy, great views of Volcan de Toliman and Volcan de Atitlan. The limonada con soda come in large glasses. The food is fine without being spectacular. I had the tacos al pastor and the meat was tender and a bit on the salty side. But you really come here for a great view and the sunset. Later, like around 8pm, live music starts which may or may not be a good thing depending on who's playing. The night we were there a duo played much too mellow latin-y and American ballads. We made our exit not long after they went on.
Favorite Dish: Guacamole and chips
Perro Loco: Hot Dogs and Sausages
We had to eat here just because of the name and the crazy graphic on its logo. The restaurant consists of several stools around the grill in kind of a bar setting plus a few tables in the back. It's covered but open to the outdoors due to a lack of walls. The offerings include some Mexican dishes, hamburgers, and a variety of sausage types and we went with chorizo. They basically halved it and grilled it up, put it on a warm bun with tomato and a spicy mayo sauce and voila! Not a gourmet meal but a perfect snack. And very cheap as well.
Favorite Dish: Chorizo
Super Tacos: Street Food
We actually saw three different taco street carts on Calle Santander. This one was a bit further down towards the lake than the other two which were situated by the rural elementary school next to the fried chicken and papas carts. They appeared to be serving the same type of tacos. Shredded pork served on small corn tortillas with cilantro, onion, and lime. Your order will be ready within 5 minutes of ordering. The cost? 3 tacos for 10 quetzales (USD 1.30). A great snack or shell out Q20 and have a full meal of 6 tacos! Definitely worth the money as the meat is tender and juicy and the tacos overall very well done!
Favorite Dish: Tacos...that's all you can get!
El Bistro: Good Italian
Need a change of pace from frijoles and plantains? El Bistro cooks some decent Italian dishes and has a nice, albeit small, wine selection. I ordered a pasta dish (spaghetti bolongnese) expecting overcooked pasta. Imagine my surprise when I took my first bite and found the spaghetti to be perfectly al dente! The food was good and portions ample. The dining area is in a nice open air setting and the service is good.
Favorite Dish: Spaghetti bolognese, liguine puttanesca