Panama City After Dark

Panama City After Dark

A friend visiting from the States this week has helped to reintroduce us to the other Panama City…the one that happens after we’re normally asleep.

Lief and I are old married folks, in bed most nights by 10 p.m. This week, thanks to our friend, we’ve broken curfew on several occasions…and we’ve rediscovered that this town can be a whole lot of fun after the sun goes down.

Panama City boasts legitimately top-notch restaurants. Market is the best steakhouse in town. Don’t believe anyone who tells you to go to Gaucho’s for steak. Gaucho’s is for tourists. Market is for locals. Plus, the chef at Market knows how to cook a piece of meat. The wait staff is international-standard. The wine list includes Veuve Clicquot (a personal favorite).

Best seafood in the city is at Siete Mares. Also the best escargot.

Great fine-dining establishments…plus fun, off-the-radar dives you wouldn’t think to try unless someone pointed you in the direction. Panama City hides both.

Top of the list of great eateries you won’t read about in any guidebook, we discovered this week, is Rincon Habanero, a tiny Cuban restaurant on Via Argentina, across from Manolo’s. Manolo’s is a local institution. Everyone knows where to find it. Get directions there, then cross the street to Rincon Habanero, which no one has heard of. The menu is Cuban tipico, the bar is stocked with rum Cubana, and the big-screen TV shows Cuban television. The night we visited, we were treated to a review of old black-and-white Cuban sit-coms.

Market and Siete Mares qualify as expensive. Rincon Habanero is at the other end of the scale–super affordable.

What to do in Panama City after dinner? There are the casinos, of course…and there are the gentlemen’s clubs. Fortified by our dinner of rib-eyes and mojitos at Market last night, we decided to venture out to see a little more of what goes on in this town after we’ve normally called it a night.

Here’s what I can tell you without risking censorship:

Le Palace had been reported to us as Panama City’s top choice for gentlemen’s entertainment. The gentlemen in our party didn’t agree.

They say they prefer the show at Cotton Club. Elite, probably the best-advertised club in the city, they report, is also worth a visit.

Alas, that’s as far as we were able to get in our research. The serious Panama City nightlife, it seems, doesn’t get going until well after Midnight…and we had to get home to relieve the babysitter.

Kathleen Peddicord