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Alexis Martin knows his ingredients. He is the owner of Los Cebollines, a restaurant serving authentic Mexican food in Panama City since 2012. A native of Venezuela, Alexis lived in Mexico for a number of years and became fascinated by the cuisine. He jumped at the chance to bring the Los Cebollines franchise to Panama, and to indulge his passion for the real flavors of Mexico.
The restaurant chain has locations in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. Panama’s is located in the Punta Pacífica mini-mall next to the Super99. Its spacious yet cozy interior exudes cantina charm, with painted tile and punched-tin accents and a ceiling of metal stars illuminated from within.
For starters, all diners receive complimentary salsa, made tableside with oven-roasted tomatoes, and served with warm, crunchy tortilla chips. The red tomatoes are presented with green cilantro and diced, white onions as homage to the tri-colored Mexican flag. The corn flour tortillas, from which the chips are made, are pressed using a hand-operated machine. The guacamole ($8.45) is also prepared tableside. Made from ripe Haas avocados, this dip, like the salsa, is tailored to the customer’s taste.
The main courses range from quesadillas (including vegetarian, $12.50 and up), fajitas ($15.50 – $16.50) and nachos ($12.50 and up) as well as specialized dishes like “chilaquiles” (crunchy, fried tortilla strips served with a variety of toppings) or the “caldos” (soups, $6.50 – $14.50). To get a taste of everything, order the Super RancheroTacos ($10.50), a plate featuring three tacos (al pastor, beef, and chicken) served with guacamole and charro beans. It is the restaurant’s most popular dish.
Los Cebollines easily accommodates large groups and has many dishes designed for parties. The “Metro” ($59) serves 3-4 people. Its 36 oz. of beef is served on a meter-long board with small bowls of refried beans and a variety of salsas. The “jirafa” ($19.50) contains three liters of beer served in an enormous glass cylinder with a pour spout. The fishbowl-sized mega-margaritas ($16.75 – $19.95) are made to share as well. The bar is fully stocked, with an array of 100% agave tequilas.
Breakfast is served on weekends only, starting at 8 a.m., a delicious way to enjoy eggs Mexican-style, served with salsas, tortillas and other toppings. Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., ladies receive a free margarita with the purchase of an entrée. Lunch deals are served Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. These specials, which go for $9.99, feature dishes so substantial that many are hard-pressed to finish them. Try the Santa Fe salad or the “Al Chipotle” burrito.
The horchata ($2.25 – $3.25), a sweet beverage made from rice or almonds, is served ice cold and sprinkled with fresh cinnamon. Desserts include classic flan and “tres leches” cake ($4.50 each). The “Dulce Ignacio” ($3.95 – $5.50) is a house creation, a bed of flour-tortilla wedges dusted with cinnamon and topped with caramelized apples and ice cream.
Taking a trip to Mexico now only requires going across town. Leave your passport at home. Los Cebollines is open Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. They can be reached by calling 396-7377 or by visiting Facebook.com/LosCebollinesPanama.