One day, I was really craving a gourmet sandwich. I knew I could find one in Casco Viejo, the coolest neighborhood in Panama. Casco consists of 16th & 17th Century Spanish Colonial Architecture and is protected as a World Heritage Site. While the rest of Panama City is being torn down and reconstructed into high rises, Casco is cleaning up its crime and restoring and redeveloping all the crumbling buildings. It is the cultural hub of the city.
I had a cabbie drop me off at some park in Casco and I figured I would just walk around until I stumbled upon a sandwich shop. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have much luck with this “plan”. I kept walking down the gross and sketchy streets where all I was finding was cheap, traditional Panamanian fried food. I couldn’t do that anymore. I needed something fresh. After walking around to no avail for half an hour, the sky started to darken. I knew I had to find something fast, so I dipped inside René Café.
As soon as I walked in, I realized I wasn’t in the right place. They had tablecloths and a wine rack. Whoa! The place was too upscale. I was wearing gym clothes. Before I could slip back out, I was ushered to a table and given the lunch menu. Salad, quiche, fish, rice, bread, and a brownie for $8.50. Yeah, I was there to stay. This wasn’t the sandwich I was looking for, but it was the best deal I had found thus far in Panama.
There is no such thing as service in Panama and it is not unusual to have to request the bill three times before it comes is what I have been told by several people. Within two minutes, I was served bread and salad. Another couple of minutes my quiche came. As soon as I finished my salad and quiche, the fish and fried rice were served. Shortly after that, came my brownie.
It wasn’t the best meal I have ever had, but it certainly was the healthiest, freshest, and most diverse meal that I have had since I have been here. The portions were just the right the size and service was swift. I was in such a fabulous mood afterwards that I didn’t even notice that I walked half an hour home in the rain.
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