San Francisco is the coolest neighborhood in Panama City that as a visitor, you’ve probably never of. This residential area of the city is where I’ve called home the past six years and it has quietly become the neighborhood offering the widest variety of food & drink options in Panama City. It doesn’t have the Spanish colonial charm of Casco Viejo or the walkability of El Cangrejo, but locals know this neighborhood is packed with hidden gems that will satisfy any foodie.
* Feature photo taken at Brutto
The gastronomic scene in San Francisco is booming right now. Maito was one of the first creative restaurants to open in the neighborhood and has been voted the #20 best restaurant in Latin America. They grow their own herbs in the backyard garden and incorporate typical Panamanian ingredients into the cuisine. A few other restaurants that locals are buzzing about right now include Intimo, Casa Escondida, Azafran, Brutto, and 5inco. There’s also the classic Los Años Locos that has been around for over 20 years and serves up a flavorful steak.
Food Trucks & Casual Dining
Most of Panama City’s trendy food trucks have set up shop in San Francisco. The most famous one is definitely Esa Flaca Rica and you’ll typically a line of people patiently waiting for El Choripan or one of their iconic burgers. A few other neighborhood trucks to stop by include Pig Backside, Anti-Burger, What Da Fork, and The Smoke Truck. There are also plenty of spots for casual dining. The tacos at Taco T are authentic Mexican style while Tacos La Neta adds an artisanal twist. La Tapa del Coco serves up flavorful Afro-Caribbean Panamanian food and the pizzas at Botanica and Ciao Bella Pizza are some the best in the city. For Asian cuisine, there’s Restaurante Vietnamita, Nacion Sushi, and Golden Unicorn, which is known for their legendary weekend Dim Sum.
Cafes & Coffee
If a cozy cafe is what you’re after then there are plenty of options in San Francisco. Leto, Siete Granos, and Unido are amazing third-wave coffee shops that specialize in serving coffee produced in Panama. Miranda Bakery and Local serve up fresh-baked bread, desserts, and more. And when you want an Instagram-worthy setting to hang out for a quick bite then Paraiso Cafe, 4 Bistro, and Tinto Cola’o are the places to go.
Pixvae and El Mercadito Biologico are my go to spots to find locally produced food items. They stock fruits, veggies, eggs, jelly, skincare, artisanal soaps and more that are 100% Panamanian.
Cocktails & Breweries
There’s no shortage of cocktail bars & breweries in San Francisco. Tucked away in a remodeled house is the El Republicano brewery which features a few of their own house-brewed beers and other local brews on tap. My other favorite spots for a good beer include Cerveceria Central, Lynchburg, Istmo, and of course the neighborhood La Rana Dorada. If you’re after a craft cocktail then Amano, Hooch, and Fulo’s can help you out with a good gin & tonic.
Besides having upscale hipster bars, San Francisco is also home to some of the cities oldest cantinas (dive bars). You’ll see the real locals playing a game of pool at Rancho Grande or La Radio on any night of the week and drinks here are cheap! A bottle of local beer is $1.25, a giant bottle of beer (la manga larga) is $1.75, and mixed cocktails will set you back $1.50.
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