It's about time that I wrote this review of El Patio, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Panama. We have lived here over 2 years, and we go to this restaurant about once per month. And it is a place we always take people who come to visit us.
Note: this is the same place listed separately on TripAdvisor as "Patio". Not sure how to get that reconciled.
When you first walk in, the decor is a little overwhelming. Seemingly every inch of the place is painted and decorated in bright colors and different artifacts from Mexico. In fact, it's so much that overall it comes off as fake. But when you're sitting at your table and look at each part and piece, it is quite impressive.
If you like margaritas, you will have perhaps the best frozen margarita you have ever had at El Patio. We have been to Mexico many times as well as eaten at Mexican restaurants all over the southwest U.S. (we also have a home in Arizona), and these margaritas are our favorites of all time.
The menu admittedly focuses a lot on meat. The dishes are authentic Mexican, so for you Gringos whose only Mexican experience are the chain restaurants in the U.S., don't expect to find your meal stuffed with cream cheese and covered with melted cheese. The Marimbas (ribs) are dry-rubbed with spice, not lathered with sweat tomato-based sauce. The nachos are served as in Mexico: a small dish of tortilla chips and several separate dishes of sauces, guacamole, etc. with spoons to add a little to each single chip.
Good red meat in Panama is difficult to find, but El Patio consistently has good cuts and cooks them to perfection. One of my favorite dishes is Mujer Dormida. My wife invariably gets one of the enchilada dishes.
The service is great. You are greeted at the door and then choose your table; and just a look at any one of the men will bring them to your table quickly.
There is one important negative about this place: it is expensive, especially by Panama standards. Meals are $15-20; the jumbo margarita is $11. As you can read from the above, though, we still consider it to be a good value. But I'm sure that if it were less expensive we would eat there more than once per month.
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