Terra Nostra: Greek food at an Italian restaurant?
Terra Nostra, as the name implies, is an Italian restraurant. (The name is "our land" in Italian, in Spanish it would be "Tierra Nuestra" FYI) On the awning, outside, it says "Pizzaria" but inside they offer much more than delicous pizza! As my title indicates they also offer a large assortment of Greek dishes, such as Zatziki, souvlaki (gyro), and what I call "Greek Pizza", their name for it is Lodopsomo". They also offer a wide variety of Panamanian food. They have a typical Panamanian lunch of rice, grilled or fried (parillado, guisado, frito) meat and a small salad. They also have Mexican food. Which is partly why I tried this restaurant, I was told that they have excellent flautas. So I decided to give them a try. But did not realize they had so many Greek items on the menu, too. Which was a pleasant surprise and decided to give them a try, too.
The food is similar to many items on the menu at Hotel Karla, about three blocks away, but they are much less expensive and the quality is at least as good. Plus they have the Greek items that I have not seen anywhere else in the area.
I wanted to go back Sunday to have some pizza, but they were closed. We had lunch there on Monday, however, my boss had a "Comida Panamania completa". With grilled chicken, rice and salad. I had a personal pizza with salami. It was very tasty. New York-style crust and really enough for two people, it was about a 7-8 inch pizza, more than a personal-size!
Because this place is very inexpensive, the most expensive item on the menu is $5.75,
I will be coming here more often. Saturday the three dishes we tried came to $9.25 and Monday our two meals were $4.90. Definitely not bank breakers. So if you want to try a restaurant in Chitre that has variety, is cheap and has delicious food, Terra Nostra is it!
The restaurant is located "kitty corner" to the Baseball Stadium. It is across the street from the rec center where there are a couple half-pitch football (soccer) fields. About 2 blocks from the centre of town and across from the big water tower.
Favorite Dish: On our first visit, a Saturday night, we came about 8-ish. Had it not been a fiesta weekend in nearby Villa de los Santos, I would have been nervous about the lack of customers. There were very few people there. Not a good sign in a restaraunt on a Saturday night, except that most folks were a couple miles down the road partying in La Villa.
As stated above, we came to try the flautas, which my boss ordered. I decided on the lodopsomo (Greek Pizza) and we also got a Cuban Sandwich. I love Cuban Sandwiches and that is how I test restaurants here, since most of them offer this type if sandwich on the menu. Although we came to try other dishes I will focus on the Greek Pizza, which was simply marvelous. Only complaint I have, it was a little too salty for my taste, but then I am not a salt lover. (I have had the lodopsomo a couple of other times since and the salt level was greatly reduced. I think someone was overzealous with the salt that day!) The dish was a large, toasted pita bread topped with fresh chopped veggies; tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro mixed with feta cheese and greek dressing drizzled over the top. It was a meal for two people, easily. We couldn't finish it and our other dishes. The flautas were very good, they were kind of thick for flautas, more like egg rolls or spring rolls, and the fillings in them, ground beef, pork and chicken, were more like Filipino lumpias. But they were very tasty and we would order again, even if they weren't close to authentic flautas. The sauce (salsa) that came with them wasn't very spicy and my boss added some picante to it, if she does that, you know it wasn't very spicy! She isn't into very spicy condiments, but she likes a little kick. They also served some pico de gallo with it to add as desired.
The Cuban Sandwich was very tasty, grilled Cuban bread (like a sub roll) filled with julienned pork, tomato, lettuce and melted white cheese. Was very authentic, and very inexpensive. I will definitely get one from here again some time!
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Club Nautico Los Alacranes: Good, Cheap Seafood!
Los Alacranes is a typical restaurant for Panama, has open-sided walls and a menu above the serving station.
The menu is simple, mostly fish, but they offer some chicken dishes as well. The most expensive item on the menu is the mixed seafood platter (mariscos mixtos) for $6.
As with most restaurants in Panama, ask if what you want is available, and have an alternative in mind, as usually not everything on the menu is available that day.
If you want ceviche, you order it from the bar, and pay your bar bill seperately from the meal order. That is a quirk about this place.
They serve some alcoholic beverages; local beer, wine, coolers, and soft drinks.
Meals come with fries, patacones, or yucca (casava) and a very small salad, more like garnish!
The food is good if not excellent, and very reasonable. I will come back!
Favorite Dish: I've had fried corvina and the fish fingers in the past. The corvina was excellent, it was nice and crisp on the outside and light and flakey inside, not greasey at all. The fish fingers were OK, they were edible, but some pieces were a little rubbery. I had yucca with the dinners, some of the yucca was hard, like it wasn't boiled long enough and then over-cooked. The salads were miniscule, a leaf of lettuce and a slice of tomato and onion slivers, looked more like garnish. I didn't even eat it. For $4 I can't complain. Besides Panamanian beers, they had Bartles and Jaymes Pina Coladas and Smirnoff Ice. They were about $3, each. Not bad! The mixed ceviche was the best, it was a decent amount and came with crackers, of course. The items were nice and firm, not mushy at all, and tasted very fresh. The ceviche was $2.50. I would come back here just to have the ceviche and a beer sometime. The total bill for 2 dinners, ceviches and drinks was $18.50. Not expensive at all, even for Panama!
The service was really fast, I was surprised, I'd like to come on a busy Friday or Saturday and see how fast the service is then. The waitresses were older women tho, I find they tend to be more attentive, the younger girls that wait tables tend to avoid doing much and you hardly see them. They usually just want to kill time so they can go hang with their friends or get on Facebook.
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Memories: Best Bistro in Chitre
Memories is one of the "fancier" restaurants in Chitre. It is above some stores next to the movie theater in Chitre. One walks up the stairs to the restaurant where one finds a bar inside and a dining area, outside. The bar is air conditioned. On a balmy night it is not unpleasant to sit on the balcony/patio. There usually is a nice breeze. The decor is sports-bar/bistro, there are antiques and old photos of Chitre and several large TVs that usually play medley mix videos of rock songs. During baseball season (Feb-Mar) in Panama, if the game of the Chitre team is on TV, they will play that. They also will show any sporting event that involves Panamanian teams or athletes. It is not an unpleasant atmosphere, as it is not obnoxiously loud or rowdy. It has some class.
The food is good to excellent, depending on the dish. The American dishes such as Buffalo wings, are OK, not spectacular, but edible. The dishes that are more local are better, such as the corvina. Their pasta dishes are very nice, too. It is not that expensive for an American tourist, but for the locals, it is pricey and usually they only go there for special occasions, so the locals you see there are probably too dressed-up for the place, we would consider it to be a more casual restaurant.
Favorite Dish: I've been here several times over the past three plus years and I have tried several dishes, I would say that their pasta dishes are very good. They have a shrimp with penne and alfredo sauce that I enjoy very much. It comes with garlic bread and is not a bad price at $6.50.
Their wings are OK, I've had better, and they are kinda steep $5.95 for 6 wings, and you don't get much to go with them, a couple of small julienned carrot and celery slices and they don't offer ranch or blue cheese dressing, just catsup or picante sauce. But if you are an ex-pat jonesing for wings, they will do. They have a plate of mini burritos that are good, and not a bad deal at $6.50, they fill you up and taste great! Their burgers are pretty good, too. but kinda pricey at around $6. I think Hotel Rex are about as good for about half the price. The fish dishes are very good and priced around $6-8. A little expensive, but their presentation is very good.
The bar is not expensive, either and they have a decent selection, however, they usually don't have all the beers they portray in their menu, they have usually only Panamanian beers
available, you'll have to ask. I asked for Quilmes once and got "no hay".
Their desserts are pretty good at about $2 a piece, not a big wallet denter and the portions are very adequate to satisfy the sweetest tooth.
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Restaurante Karla: Chinese in Chitre
About the only real thing going for Hotel Carla is that they do have a very good Chinese restaurant on the premises. To enter the hotel one must enter the restaurant, turn left and go up the stairs to the registration desk. It is just another one of the quirky things about the place. The restaurant, I will say, that the food is very good, if not excellent, and that you can go there almost any time and order anything. As with most Panamanian restaurants, they do not have everything listed on the menu most of the time, so have contingency items you want to order!
The decor is totally Chinese restaurant, more red items than a brothel! Giant picture of a young Mao Zedong on the wall.
There is a GIGANTE big screen blaring out Latin American soaps (novellas) most of the time. But the chairs are comfy and the tables innocuous.
The menu is long and mostly Chinese; fried rices, chow meins, moo shoo this and kung pao that, but they also offer Panamanian dishes and American dishes that are well done.
They also offer alcoholic beverages. They tend to serve Cerveza Panama over the other local beers. They also have wine and mixed drinks at reasonable prices.
The Hotel Karla (or Carla, as the signs on the place spell it both ways.) is not the best in town, it is cheap, but the rooms are dinky and the beds are not in good condition, while it is generally clean, I did find mold in the bathrooms. Go uptown to Hotel Rex and pay about 50% more for a decent room if you can afford it, or to the Pension Central and pay about the same for a larger room with decent mattresses.
Even tho the Hotel Karla is wanting for improvement, the restaurant is decent, if not good, and is reasonable, with adequate portions, and reasonable prices.
Favorite Dish: I have gone to Karla several times over the past two years, we like the Chinese food, it is about the best I've had in Panama. My wife likes their clams. I would say it is one of their best dishes, at $4 it is a good bargain as they give you a very generous portion with a delicous garlic/ginger sauce.
Next, I like their spring rolls, they are very tasty, small-sized eggrolls. They are bias cut and come with agridulce (sweet and sour) sauce. I wish they had hot mustard sauce, too, but alas, that is the way it is here, Panama has picante (hot) sauce and usually little else to offer.
You get four rolls for about $5, comes with cole slaw.
Their club sandwich is pretty good, isn't like the usual you find in the US. It has ham, bacon, white and yellow cheese with lettuce and tomato. It comes with fries for $4.50.
Their chow meins are good, we've had pork and shrimp, both with plenty of meat, not just a heap of noodles and not much else. They are about $4 a serving.
If you are in Chitre and have a craving for Chinese, Hotel Karla is worth the visit!
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Restaurante El Meson Del Rex: Best of Chitre
Rex Meson is located in the Hotel Rex in midtown Chitre, across from the city park, Union and St. John the Baptist Cathedral. It is not cheezy or ostantatious, it has neat, wooden tables and chairs and TVs in the front and back dining areas. The front area is open to the street and the rear is enclosed and air conditioned.
It is difficult to place Rex Meson into a restaurant pigeon hole. The type of food offered here ranges from Panamanian stand-bys, such as arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) to filet mignon.
They do offer several fish dishes, mostly revolving around corvina (choker) in baked, fried or breaded style. They also offer pasta dishes, such as a delicious penne with shrimp covered in garlic-alferdo sauce. Rounding out the menu, they have several rice, and beef dishes that I will discuss below
Rex Meson also offers breakfast, which is included in the price of a room if one stays at Hotel Rex. They offer nine different breakfast entrees ranging from the American standby of ham, eggs and toast to desayuno chitreano (Chitrean breakfast) of liver and onions with holjadre (fry bread).
Only thing Rex Meson may be lacking in is a wide choice of desserts, they are expensive and few. I would recommend going to Super Pan a couple of blocks away for dessert as they have a wider choice including several flavors of ice cream and brownies! Plus one can walk off some of the dinner just completed at Rex Maison.
Rex Meson is a safe, reliable, economical choice for someone who wants a decent place to eat good food in Chitre.
Favorite Dish: There are several excellent dishes offered at Rex Meson. I have been going here for over two years and they are consistent and reliable in their quality and portions.
1) Filet Mignon - served in the classic style, wrapped in bacon with mushroom gravy. It comes with choice of potato (baked, fries, mashed), salad or soup and garlic toast. Very tender and juicy, it is the star of the menu, and very economical at $9.95! It's easily worth twice the price!
2) Arroz con Mariscos - rice with seafood - nicely seasoned rice loaded with fish, shrimp, clams, conch, and octopus. Also served with soup or salad and garlic toast, also $9.95, a bargain as well.
3) Penne with shrimp in garlic alfredo. So rich, so smooth, so yummy! Also comes with salad or soup and garlic toast. A deal at $7.50!
4) Hamburgesa Rex - cheeseburger with all the trimmings comes with fries. Better than McDonald's combos and only $3!
5) Desayuno Chitreano - Chitrean breakfast - grilled liver and onions with fry bread, a great, hearty start to your day!
You can't go wrong with the above, other meals are just as good, they have a great club sandwich, too, with ham, white and yellow cheese, and peppered beef for $6 with fries. As I said, it is a good, reliable place to eat in central Chitre.
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McDonald's: Just Like in the USA!
The McDonald's in Chitre will make a homesick Yank a little less homesick. Just like home, even the prices, only thing is you have to order in Spanish! Some times they have a counter clerk who speaks English, but don't count on it!
Food is fine, typical Mickey D's. But I would go to the Hotel Rex, just up the street for a burger combo, it's cheaper and better tasting and in a better atmosphere. Pio Pio is just a block away, and their chicken is better and slightly cheaper.
But for nostaglia or just to remind you that the monument to Ray Croc is still around, a visit to Mickey D's in Chitre won't be a waste.
Favorite Dish: I'm not a big fan of McDonald's, but their food is OK, it is properly prepared and tastes fine.
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