Panama City’s kosher restaurant scene is on fire
Truth is, the best kosher dining outside of Israel is still in New York, followed by LA, in my opinion, but Panama is experiencing a Jewish revival and for Orthodox Jewish couples and families looking for a quick and affordable get-away, Panama City is rapidly becoming a kosher destination of choice.
Jews Have a Long History in Panama
The first Jews arrived in Panama during the time of the Spanish Inquisitions, escaping persecution and death. The next wave arrived in the mid-to-late 1880s in pursuit of economic opportunities. By the time the Panama Canal was completed in 1911, the total Jewish population in Panama City was 505, barely a blip on the demographics charts. But, over time the population grew.
In the 1990s, Israelis started moving to Panama City, and they began to open restaurants, butcher shops and bakeries. Today, the Jewish community in Panama City numbers 10,000, 85% of whom keep kosher. While Jews make up a small portion of the city’s total population of 1.5 million, this fact is irrelevant. A small percentage has not only revitalized Panama’s Jewish history, but the community is vibrant and its kosher restaurant scene is beginning to rival New York, attracting more residents and causing a boom in the kosher Jewish tourist market. From delis and pizzerias to gourmet restaurants and bistros, the kosher Jewish traveler can find something to satisfy his taste.
A Quick Tour
There are 20 kosher restaurants in Panama City today, the majority of which opened in the last decade. Restaurants cover the full range of food delivery, from fast-food such as the Italian bistro, La Spezia, which serves up delicious pizzas made in their special wood fired oven and Solomon’s Deli, owned by former Canadians, which is serving up delicious pastrami and smoked meat sandwiches, just like home. Special bakeries offer everything from breads and bagels, to sweets to treat your soul. If you prefer something more substantial, check out Lula by Darna, a kosher meat restaurant specializing in ribeye steaks.