I’m always on the lookout for something new here. It’s exciting to see familiar businesses open up. In the U.S., a lot of restaurants seem to stick with certain regions of the country. For example, you’ll see my favorite donut spot, Tim Horton’s, in the Ohio area, but not down in South Florida. Duffy’s, one of my favorite places to go for beer and hot wings, is a really cool bar & grill in South Florida, but I’ve never seen them anyplace else. Red Robin, which has my all-time favorite burger (The A-1 Pepperjack burger) was in Ohio, Florida, and even in Anchorage, Alaska, but they’re not everywhere. Jack in the Box has limited locations, mostly in California and Texas.
Panama seems to be a melting pot, where businesses from any region can join together. Some of the restaurants you may be familiar with that you’ll find here are Tony Roma’s, Bennigan’s, Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Friday’s, Hooters, Benihana, and of course fast food hotspots like Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Subway, Quiznos, Dunkin Donuts, and Cinnabon. I’m sure I’m missing a few.
Papa John’s pizza and Carl’s Jr. have recently joined the ranks. You can find Papa John's in Costa del Este, Punta Paitilla, and now in Brisas del Golf. If you’ve got a hankering for delicious chili cheese fries, you’ll find Carl’s Jr. on the third floor of Metro Mall, in between McDonalds and the movie theater. I read online that there’s a Carl’s Jr. in the Tocumen airport as well, but it’s been awhile since I’ve traveled outside of Panama, so I'm not sure about that. Johnny Rocket’s is a recent addition to the Albrook Mall food court.
I took a walk through the new wing at Multiplaza Mall last week and I couldn’t believe my eyes. A Chuck E. Cheese is coming to Panama. I’ve been saying for a long time that there’s not enough for kids to do in Panama and how great it would be if a Chuck E. Cheese would open up here. Well the dream has come true. Now, let’s just hope that the prices stay the same as they were back in the U.S., or even lower. And let’s hope that the owners can keep the place clean and in working order. Many of the kid-friendly pizza chain’s locations back home were really rundown. At a couple of their locations I spent more time getting my coins returned (due to broken games stealing change) than I did actually playing with my kids.
Ruby Tuesday will be directly above Banana Republic in the new wing at Multiplaza Mall
Also coming to Multiplaza is a Ruby Tuesday, which I remember frequenting at the Palm Beach Gardens Mall in Florida. They had great bottomless fries. Bottomless fries could be a crowd pleaser here. Businesses change a lot when they open up overseas though, so the name might not mean that it’ll be the same.
For example, I worked for Tiffany & Company years ago. It’s a great company. I walked into the branch in Multiplaza Mall, to get my watch fixed (a Tiffany Mark T-57), and they couldn’t fix it. I don’t think the salesman had ever even seen the watch before. So not everything is the same here. Some things are better in Panama. I think Domino’s Pizza here is much better than back in the states. Taco Bell tastes a little different, but I’ve gotten used to it.
I thought this was a Buffalo Wild Wings (the logo is almost exactly alike) but I think it's a different chain. Plus, its location in the mall looks way too small to be a Buffalo Wild Wings. :(
Other stores in town, the non-restaurant type, are Zara, XOXO, Tiffany & Company, Kenneth Cole, Victoria’s Secrety, and many more. Claire’s is opening up in Metro Mall (which my kids are thrilled about). Their selection of affordable and cute earrings and jewelry always drives my girls crazy. A/X Armani Exchange is coming to Multiplaza Mall, as is Banana Republic.
A few other places I’d love to see in Panama:
Ikea - As much as I hate having to put their furniture together, I can spend hours going up and down the aisles of an Ikea. Am I that much of a nerd that I have such a great time seeing all the neat, random stuff I could spend hours putting together with an allen wrench? And being able to drop my kids off at the play area is an added bonus. Come on Ikea. Come to Panama.
Boston Market - Panamanians love chicken. It’s not a stereotype, it’s a fact. KFCs are everywhere and even the fast food joints like McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s sell fried chicken combos. Grilled and roasted chicken is usually handled by local places though. I really miss good ol’ American comfort food, so being able to get my hands on a moist rotisserie chicken, a few slices of meatloaf, or a chicken pot pie would be awesome. And corn bread with macaroni & cheese. If not a Boston Market, even an Old Country Buffet would be great.
Starbucks - There have been rumors of Starbucks coming to Panama. There’s a special place for Starbucks in my heart as I spent countless hours typing out screenplays at the Starbucks off Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Something about the relaxed atmosphere, the chill laid back music, combined with an apple fritter and iced coffee not only added on pounds (damn apple fritters), but helped me write...a lot. This blog would probably have a thousand posts by now if I had a Starbucks to hang out in.
Arby’s - Would an Arby’s do well in Panama? I’m not sure. I think Panamanians are more open to trying new things now. I heard Taco Bell failed years ago, but they’ve since opened several branches and seem to be doing well. Having a fast food option other than burgers, pizza, and fried chicken would be great. I could go for a roast beef with melted cheddar all over it right about now. And the curly fries...mmmm.
Cold Stone Creamery - Panama has a few of its own ice cream chains. Plus Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins are in town. They’re all old news though. I think something cool like a Cold Stone with its variety of unique flavors would be a hit here. And the kids always get a kick out of hearing the staff sing "Hi ho, hi ho, we thank you for your dough" every time you tip them.
Build-A-Bear - Build-A-Bear isn’t cheap. So I don’t know how many locals would want to spend that kind of money on a bear, but it’s something new that you don’t see here. And kids love building their own little animals (at least mine do...the little Frankensteins that they are...love you kids!!!). If placed somewhere in Costa del Este or in Multiplaza Mall, where the higher end stores are located, I think Build-A-Bear would be a nice addition here. Plus, aside from the larger department stores, there aren’t any real toy stores here, except for Felix Juguetes in Los Pueblos.
A Roller Skating Rink - I heard there was a roller skating rink here in Albrook Mall at some point in time. I’d love to take the kids to a roller skating rink. Or an ice skating rink might be even better. Not sure how well the rinks would do here, but it would be cool to have one.
A Waterpark - For cryin’ out loud, this is the tropics, why don’t we have a water park? And I’m sorry, but Avalon doesn’t count! I’ve been to Avalon (see my post about taking my kids) and it is technically a water park, but it almost seems as if it has been abandoned. There is water...and it is a park. I guess it’s owned by Avalon Resorts so I don’t know how likely they’d be to sell, but geez, if somebody would just take over the place, slap some paint on it, fix the slides, clean it up, add a few fun twists, it would be so much appreciated...by me at least.
Like the song goes, “These are a few of my favorite things.” At least we’ve got Chuck E. Cheese and Ruby Tuesday coming in the meantime.
I’d love to hear from anyone else living in Panama. What would you like to see arrive in Panama? Answer in the comments section below and who knows, maybe someone reading is looking for a business opportunity, and you might be the person to clue them in.
Thanks for reading,