Anthony Bourdain in Panama: 6 Spots Where Tony Ate

If there’s one country that almost every person on the planet can probably point to on a map, it’s gotta be Panama. Even if you don’t call the American continents home, Panama’s geographic and geopolitical role is undeniable – and it’s uniquely easy to spot as the bridge between North and South Americas, where the cultures and ecosystems of the two meet.

Anthony Bourdain visited Panama to film season 6 (episode 1) of No Reservations; it was his only on-screen visit to the isthmus and he used it to explore beyond the main urban area – Panama City – in search of a variety of local flavors that represent the unique geography and culture of this land bridge.

Anthony Bourdain in Panama Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Panama – especially Panama City – you might be curious about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Panama, and this guide will help. Below, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of each place Tony ate and what he ate there. Let it inspire you to try something new!

Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Panama?
The Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Birú, Bokota (Buglé), Cocles, Cueva, Emberá/Eperara/Épera, Gunadule, and Wounaan peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present peoples of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Mercado de Mariscos (Panama City)

Anthony Bourdain in Panama - Ceviche

Chef Tony begins exploring Panama’s culinary scene at the Mercado de Mariscos. He’s marveled at the amount of damn good stuff he sees. 

He eats ceviche – lots of ceviche. This dish is the everyday quick meal of choice for panameños. Tony starts off with the rock lobster and shrimp ceviche. It’s spicy, fresh, and delicious. 

Next, he tries the corvina and lime juice ceviche. Finally, Tony samples the leche de tigre, which is basically the runoff from the ceviche and the cure for all evils. 

Marea (Panama City)

At night, Tony stops by Marea for more ceviche. This Peruvian fusion restaurant serves fancier versions of ceviche. Our friend Tony starts with seco sours, an authentic Panamanian cocktail made of seco (sugarcane liquor), some sour mix, a little syrup, and a dash of bitters. 

As for the dishes, Tony samples the tuna ceviche with black sesame seeds, and wakame, and topped with wanton. Next, he tries the marisco tropical, a delicious concoction of octopus, shrimp, calamari with sea salt, pineapple, passionfruit sauce, and generous madras curry. 

Kwang Chao (Chinatown) 

Anthony Bourdain in Panama - Roast Duck

Believe it or not, Panama’s Chinatown is older than New York’s. So, of course, Tony includes it in his itinerary. He heads to Kwang Chao, an old-school Chinese restaurant. He indulges in the classics: roast duck, massive wantons, stir-fried tripe, and roasted pork. 

Congo Restaurant & Resort (Isla Grande)

On his visit to Panama, Tony makes it to Isla Grande. Congo Restaurant & Resort is the first and only restaurant in this practically unspoiled town. 

He tries the lobster and crab delivered straight from the source by Guna Indians fishermen. The lobster and crab are steamed and bathed in a garlic-butter sauce. Then, Tony samples the octopus, slowly stewed with onion, green pepper, spices, curry, and coconut milk. Of course, these delicacies are accompanied by coconut rice, an island favorite. 

Sirolo (Panama City)

Anthony Bourdain in Panama - Panamian Fried Fish

Loyal to his traveling style, Tony visits the places that tourists barely do. He sets out to explore El Chorrilo, one of the most conflictive neighborhoods in Panama City.

When exploring, he pops into Sirolo, one of the best places around for fried fish. They keep things simple: fish marinated, breaded, and fried served with a little rice and coleslaw. 

Comidas Benedicta (Sambú)

Tony won’t leave Panama without delving into the depths of El Darién, an inhospitable stretch of Central American jungle between Colombia and Panama, which is known to be one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes. 

Before heading upriver, Tony stops in the village of Sambú to fill his stomach with a good meal. He eats at Comidas Benedicta. The menu is simple but filling: deep-fried corvina, coconut rice, patacones, and beans. 

Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Panama? Let me know in the comments below!

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Agustina is a content writer and editor currently based in Argentina. She has a long-standing love affair with Italian food and meal. When she’s not indulging in a parmigiana, you can find her eating asado with a good glass of Malbec.

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