I spent 11 nights as a guest in Captain Jack’s hostel and took many of my meals in its restaurant/bar. The food at Captain Jack’s is skillfully prepared using fresh ingredients. It is always tastefully presented. It is perhaps a little pricey for the typical hostel goer, but many of the visitors to the restaurant are boaters who have tied up their boats in Portobelo Bay, so you are likely to be dining with a well-traveled, motley group.
I started each day with a breakfast of french toast, fruit and coffee ($4.50) which comes with four slices of honey-covered french toast and usually a good size portion of pineapple, orange and often mango. Coffee is included of course. For lunch and dinner I sampled CJ’s excellent green salad ($6), its delicious red thai curry with chicken and red thai curry with calamari (each $12), its succulent grilled grouper fish with rice and veggies ($15), a special of the day suggested by the omnipresent Jeff, a couple mouth-watering chicken/veggie enchiladas with salad ($10) and the Captain’s and my favorite dish too, the incomparable chicken salad with blue cheese ($8).
It takes upwards to 30 minutes once your order is placed for the food to arrive at your table, but the wait is worth it: you will marvel at the quality of the food at Captain Jack’s and the portions are satisfactorily ample. It was simply the best breakfast/lunch/dinner fare in Portobelo when I visited for two weeks in May of 2013, and I sampled four other Portobelo restaurants for comparison.
If Captain Jack’s has any challenges, it is its ambience in its current location. If you do not smoke prepare yourself to inhale heaps of 2nd hand cigarette and cigar smoke. The recorded music that was often played loudly got a little old too; I think I heard just one song recorded after 1978 in the 11 days I lodged there. I know ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, but do I need to ‘Get It‘ every couple hours? Time to update the playlist, especially if you are having U2’s ‘The Edge’ dropping by one night, as The Edge did in mid-April 2013.
Also the one Sunday morning I tried to get breakfast at Captain Jack’s I waited and waited from 8:30 a.m. until 11:07 a.m. when I finally left. The kitchen never opened nor was there any CJ staff on hand, though breakfast hours are listed from 8:00 - 11:30 with no mention of the restaurant being closed Sunday mornings. (One last tip: the meals might cost a few cents less if less expensive paper napkins were substituted for the humongous paper napkins that now accompany each dish, large enough napkins to substitute for your beach towel if you have misplaced it.)
One last attribute of Captain Jack's: decent free WiFi and power strips to power up your electronics.
Bottom line: for the best food in Portobelo, head to Captain Jack’s.
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