Eating out in Panama is a whole new experience. If you don’t know what to expect, you’ll never want to dine out here again…at least that’s how I felt at first. These are a few the things I think will help you overcome the “difference” inservice.
1. It is common for restaurants to have items they are consistently out of! Don’t get frustrated. Just ask the server to tell you what they do have.
2. If you don’t like something, or it came out bad, they don’t take it off the bill.
3. Close your menu or your server will never show up to your table.
4. Specifically ask to get your drinks first, if you want them first! If you don’t tell your server, your drink will come with your food.
5. There are no free refills…even at McDonalds.
6. Food comes out as it is ready. So if your appetizer takes a while to cook, you might be getting it with your entree. If you’re dining partner’s food doesn’t take as long to cook as yours…they will get theirs first!
7. Don’t be afraid to call your server. The service in panama is atrocious, so it can take a long time to get him/her to your table if you don’t say anything. It’s the norm here. Since Panama’s economy doesn’t rely on tourism dollars, you don’t get better service because you’re American.
8. Ask for your check or it will take forever for the server to bring it.
9. A good tip is 10%. We like to tip 15%. Servers tend to remember us when we frequent a certain restaurant so we get better service…sometimes!
10. Don’t be in a rush. It will take a minimum of 1 hour to eat here. Remember…you’re in a tropical paradise, slow down and enjoy!
A few of my favorite restaurants with impeccable service…Mar del Sur, Meson de Santa Cruz, Sweet Tamarindo, Pampas, and Churreria Manolo(this one is outside Albrook Mall in Panama City and has stuffed churros that will have you asking for a dozen more to take home!). All of these restaurants are in Penonome except for Churrería Manolo.