One thing we love about the Panamanian province of Chiriqui is that the cuisine bestows an experience as varied and sensory as its celebrated landscape. Thanks to the rich traditions and thriving expatriate community with global roots, a wide range of dining experiences can be had in Chiriqui. Maybe you feel like dressing up and enjoying gorgeous views while you savor sumptuous culinary creations. Or perhaps, you just need to refuel with something delicious and nutritious before you hit the trails again.
Foodies and adventuresome eaters have begun to flock to Chiriqui in recent years, and for good reason. Chiriqui is known for its varied cuisine and ethnic eats, and visitors can curb just about any craving — whether it’s for burgers in Boquete or authentic Panamanian food in David — without leaving the province.
Here are 4 restaurants in Chiriqui you won’t want to miss:
1. Madre Tierra
Located at the far end of the Rancho de Caldera property, this restaurant overlooks a lush, tropical valley and a band of misty mountains. Beautiful views are complemented by beautiful presentation on the plate — patrons of Madre Tierra frequently take pictures of Chef Craig Miller’s culinary creations before tucking in. Miller, an internationally-acclaimed chef, imbues his food with exotic flair and locally-grown ingredients.
Madre Tierra is open for lunch and dinner five nights a week, Thursday through Monday. Lunch is served between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Dinner is served promptly at 6:30, and the three-course meal is always prix-fixe. Reservations are required for dinner, and guests are encouraged to fill out the proper reservation forms online.
This charming little bistro is located smack dab in the center of Boquete on the Avenida Principal. It’s impossible to miss – its windows are always open to the busy street outside, and there’s often lively music piping through the restaurant. Teakwood interiors, colorful cloth placemats, and interesting artwork help to create a casual, come-as-you-are vibe.
Bistro Boquete serves up an eclectic menu of international dishes and innovative creations, such as chili-rubbed filet mignon and cumin chicken salad with apples and raisins. The bistro is known for its gut-busting burgers and delicious desserts, but you can also find lighter fare such as tasty salads and sandwiches.
The bistro is open every day of the week from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.
3. Java Juice
If you ever find yourself in the middle of Boquete with a big appetite and nothing but small change in your pocket, Java Juice is the place for you. This Chiriqui institution serves health-conscious salads and smoothies at a reasonable price. Paradoxically, it also serves some of the best burgers in town, and for far less than most burger joints in the area — a cheeseburger at Java Juice costs just $1.25 and comes fully-loaded with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, condiments, and cheese.
The interior of Java Juice looks like an old-fashioned general store with wood and burlap coffee sacks for decorative accents; the shaded front patio affords outdoor diners a pleasant view of the busy avenue. The clientele is equally relaxed and unfussy – shorts and T-shirts are acceptable attire – making Java Juice an ideal spot to grab a bite between adventure activities such as ziplining, rock climbing, and rainforest hiking (you can find all of these in Boquete).
Java Juice is open every day of the week from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.
This local favorite is located along the Playa Las Lajas, the longest beach in Panama. The restaurant overlooks the Gulf of Chiriqui, and diners enjoy beautiful views of the beach and the ocean as they eat.
El Mundo Bar and Restaurant specializes in international cuisine with a Panamanian flair as well as delectable seafood and desserts. Their daily specials are a surefire hit: try grilled shrimp, buttered with rosemary and thyme and paired with yucca in a savory garlic sauce for a mouthwatering mix of taste and texture. El Mundo also offers delicious ways to quench your thirst with refreshing cocktails, an impressive imported beer list, milkshakes, and fresh juices.
The Playa Las Lajas is easily accessible – only an hour’s drive from David, Panama. El Mundo Bar and Restaurant is open Thursday through Monday from 11a.m. until late into the evening.
Whether you want to sample some of the best traditional Panamanian cuisine, taste an innovative modern dish, or nosh on something wholesome and delicious, Chiriqui’s got you covered. If you’ve had the chance to dine at any of these restaurants, leave us a comment and share your experience! And be sure to let us know if we overlooked any great Chiriqui eateries you’ve discovered in your Panama travels. We’ll give them a taste post haste and post our restaurant reviews on The Ambler.