After three months on the road through Central America, crossing the bridge of the Americas, we arrive in Panama City, our last stop before flying back home. It is by far the most modern and vibrant capital of the eight countries we have visited during this trip: its modern skyscrapers, architectural landmarks, and well maintained parks show its prosperity, mainly due to the business revolving around the canal. When the sun sets on the Pacific ocean, lights colour the skyline, fancy cars take the streets, and dressed-up locals make their way to Casco Viejo, the old quarter of Panama City where its booming nightlife is about to start.
Strolling through the streets in our best outfits, we pass by food stalls with blasting music, reminding us we are still in Central America. Families sit side by side and dressed up youngsters grab a grilled fish or chicken before hitting the bars and clubs. Once we reach the heart of Casco Viejo, the about-to-fall-down colonial houses are nicely renovated and host art galleries turned into cocktail bars with DJ’s for the night, high-end cosmopolitan restaurants, trendy food trucks or hotels with rooftop terraces overlooking the colourfully lit skyline of the modern city.
The lively terrace of the micro-brewery La Rana Dorada is packed with locals and tourists chatting and enjoying a slice of pizza with the various homemade beers, such as the dark La Rana Porter. Having lived in Belgium for about three years, one of us is quite serious about beers, and thoroughly enjoys the variety and quality of the local brews.
An original drink list prompts us to push the door of a cosy bistro where some of Panama’s most original and delicious cocktails are being shaken. Traditional Margaritas (tequila, triple sec and lime or lemon juice, served with salt on the rim of the glass) have a different twist here at Las Clementinas: tequila, triple sec, basil, tabasco, fresh mango juice, honey syrup and lime. The Temptation Sour mixes the bitterness of campari with the sweetness of passion fruit and vanilla, topped off with egg foam. To die for!
Seduced by the Old-World-meets-New-World menu, we leave the talented bar tender and proceed to the outdoor patio, planted with nicely lit palm trees. There, we let Ana, the passionate Spanish waitress advise us on what to taste.
The presentation is fantastic with attention to details, colours and textures. The ceviche from the catch of the day is mouth watering, the octopus pleasing and the croquetas caseras, home-made croquettes, crispy and delicate.
The creamy risotto rice with pigeon peas and pork rinds is cooked to perfection. The baklava stuffed with zucchini, eggplants and walnuts served with an original beetroot tartar is vegetarian-friendly. Their all-time favourite, the oxtail stew in red wine sauce is the best meat we have had for the past three months!
I run my eyes over the attractive menu one more time and the dessert is a no-brainer: the Nutella cheesecake exceeds all expectations and is a perfect way to pack enough energy to start clubbing!
The entrance of Onplog, a black door covered in cassette tapes from the 80’s, sets the tone. In a groovy decor completely made of recycled materials, (including the spinning table), this chill hangout features great music to rock the night away with a live band.
The amazing nightlife of Casco Viejo leaves us with a bitter-sweet after-taste, as we have to say goodbye to Central America after a fantastic three-month trip, full of discoveries, learning experiences, intrepid adventures and a huge appetite for more!
Claire & Marcella
- We strongly recommend you to stay in Casco Viejo as it is a great and safe neighbourhood by night and day.
- Make sure you book ahead and ask for a table on the patio to not miss out on this great restaurant of Las Clementinas. Note that the menu is vegetarian friendly.
- Onplog is located around the corner of Rana Dorada, Calle 11. Music varies from night to night between life gigs, hip-hop, electro, rock & Indie rock, reggae…
- Dress up!
- Take a visual tour of Panama!
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!