Restaurante Tropicalismo is a smallish restaurant on the main street in Santiago.
They have two dining rooms and outdoor seating.
At lunch time, they have cafeteria-style set-up, you grab your tray and order from the steam table, they usually have a couple of rice dishes (black bean and guandu usually) and a couple of meat dishes, (chicken and pork asado) They also have a couple of salads (cole slaw and spinach usually). If you want a sandwich (emperadado) you order it at the register and they bring it out to you when its ready. They have a really good Cuban sandwich, also Club, ham and cheese and grilled cheese.
At dinner, it is sit-down and one orders from the menu and they bring your order to you.
They don't serve alcohol, but have a nice assortment of sodas and bottled water and have a really good house punch that is worth getting. (Ponche Tropicalismo). They also serve batidos, (like a smoothie). It's juice whipped with some condensed milk. They usually have at least three kinds of juice available.
Favorite Dish: I've had their lunch dishes several times, it's all been good. I really like their cole slaw. I've also had their Emperadado Cubano which is one of the better one's I've had in Panama. It has ham, pork loin, and cheese on cuban bread with lettuce, tomato and dressing. They recently raised their prices, this sandwich is now $4, used to be $3.50.
They make really good chow mein here, too! It's not a Cuban dish, for sure, but their chow mein is about the best I've had in Panama. They used thin vermicelli noodles, not real chow mein noodles, but the rest of the ingredients made up for that. I ordered the shrimp chow mein, now understand in Panama shrimp is cheap and easy to get, so it cost no more than the chicken or pork chow mein, they didn't scrimp on them, either, had about a dozen near cocktail-sized shrimp a good two inches across, curled up. So they were pretty big. They also had loads of carrot, celery, onion, in a nicely subtle garlic sauce. I will definetly get this again! They didn't have mushrooms or bamboo shoots or bean sprouts in it, but I have yet to find chow mein in Panama that does, and for $5.50, it was a reasonable price for the portion and amount of ingredients. I have gotten cheaper chow mein in Panama but it is mostly noodles and not much else.
Pizza Happy is a small place in the Pyramidal Mall in Santiago, it is down the same side from the KFC.
The pizzas at this establishment are more like US pizzas, meaning they have a thicker crust and more sauce than most of the pizzas I have encountered in Panama, which tend to be thinner crust and light sauce and more cheese.
They also offer lasagna here, which I have not tried, but looks and smells delicious, perhaps next time...
It is a simple place with four sizes of pizzas (personal - family) and one size lasagna.
One can get the usual toppings in whatever combo you like.
The prices are extremely reasonable, $2.50 for a personal, and up. We had a personal with three items, and it cost $3. Cheap lunch, almost as cheap as a fonda! It really was fine for two people. It was a bit much for one!
The restaurant does try to imitate an Italian restaurant with plastic checked tableclothes and brick walls and Italian decor. Small, homey, neighborhood feel kind of place.
They sell sodas and beer there, Atlas on tap and bottle beer as well, among them MGD and Bud.
Favorite Dish: I had the personal pizza with pepperoni, ham and mushrooms. It tasted fine, wasnt super-spectacular, but the crust was baked well and the items were plentiful. For the price, it was a good deal. I have eaten here several times and will come back again.
Only disappointment is that they don't serve Cerveza Panama. But they have Miller Draft and Bud in bottles.
If you are at the Bus Terminal adjacent to the mall and dont like the looks of what is offered in the cafateria, then come over here! It's about five minutes walking time from the terminal. Much cheaper than KFC or Mickey D.
But if you are on a break, you may not have enought time, as the service is not glacial, but not real fast, either.
There are two bus terminals in Santiago, one on the Pan American Highway (Carreteria Interamericana) at the Pyramidal Complex, is almost exclusively for the David to Panama City buses. They stop there as a break as it as about half way between the two cities. One can get on the bus to go to either of those two cities or points in between from this terminal. It would be preferable as these are big touring buses and many of the intercity buses, otherwise, are 24 passenger "Coaster" buses that are very cramped.
The other bus terminal is near downtown (Calle 10A) and one can take buses to either of the two big cities from there, as well, but they often are the smaller-sized buses and are cramped. They cost the same as the fares are set by the ATTT (Ministry of Transportation) so why not take a more comfortable bus? Fare to Panama is $7.50 as of 2010. Fare to David is $7.25. Fare to Chitre is $2.50 on the Tramline bus that leaves fm the downtown Santiago terminal, but stops across from the Pyramidal Terminal.
Across the street from the Pan American terminal is a bus stop where one can catch the bus to Chitre or Ocu, or buses to other towns east of Santiago, and not have to go downtown to get those buses. Be advised! These buses don't stop unless you flag them! They keep going if you don't wave them down!
Below is phone number to Santiago office of the David-Panama bus route. Be advised they only speak Spanish!
Pirimidal Mall is on the north side of the Carreteria Americana at the fork where the main street of Santiago meets it.
There is a bus terminal there for the buses that run between David and Panama City. Most of the buses on this route stop here for a rest on the way between the two cities as it is about half-way. You can catch the bus to either of the cities or some point in between here.
There is a full-service cafeteria and a pharmacy here.
The Mall itself is adjacent to the bus terminal, seperated by a medical clinic.
The mall has several bank branches and branches of several of the local telecommunications providers (Cable and Wireless and Cable Onda). There are also medical clinics, jewelry stores, clothing stores, restaurants, a bakery and a four-screen movie theater). The anchors are a Spiegle store and a Machetazo super market. Buried in the back of the mall is a Caney's Cafeteria, which are pretty good and inexpensive. I've been to the one in Chitre adjacent to Pollmart many times. They have decent, cheap food. I didn't eat at the one here, yet, but it seemed fine, it was clean and bright like the one in Chitre.
The Mall also has a small bakery and a pizza restaurant (Pizza Happy) which I review seperately.
Also at the end of the mall is a KFC and adjacently, a Mc Donald's. You can get Panamanian dishes such as arroz con pollo and sancocho at KFC besides their usual stateside stuff.
This is a good place to go for clothes, or food, housewares, depending on what they are, and to go to the movies.