Panama Food Garden, located in the Zverynas District (across the river, west from the center) is one of Vilnius’s mainstay restaurants and a sister to the well-established but still-popular Meat Lovers Pub. While Meat Lovers Pub is all about red meat and pork, Panama Food Garden is geared more towards seafood dishes and less stick-to-your-ribs fare. It’s a good option when you want to get out of Old Town, for special occasions, or as a way to enjoy the seasons the special Panama way.
Secluded, Outdoor Dining for All Seasons
Panama Food Garden’s main seating area is in a converted house, with one level of rooms painted in gentle blues and furnished with rustic furniture and unique visual elements. It certainly does give the impression that you’re dining over at someone’s house. Greenhouse seating is the other option in the winter—which many people prefer with its roaring fire, fairy lights, and romantic glow. In the summer, the garden seating is lovely; willow branches sway overhead and greenery screens the terrace from the street traffic.
Panama Food Garden Menu
Panama Food Garden’s menu prices have stayed reasonable over its several-year lifespan (prior to Panama moving in, the location was home to a vegan restaurant with spotty service and decidedly less chic). A soup and salad or an entrée will run you under 20 EUR, and wine tends to be on the low end of what you’ll find in town at 5 EUR or under. Favorite dishes include the duck breast with onion jam at 17 EUR, the beef salad at 12 EUR, and the grilled fish of the day at 18 EUR. Panama Food Garden also has a menu of cocktails to start off or end your dinner.
Service at Panama Food Garden
When we last visited, the restaurant had lost our reservation (and reservations are almost always needed here), but a very helpful and friendly server smoothed over the problem immediately and offered a choice of table either in the main restaurant or in the greenhouse. Both are lovely for a winter evening, but we chose the greenhouse and enjoyed the regularly stoked fire. Many groups of diners were exchanging Christmas gifts over wine and food, and the usual mix of Lithuanian, Russian, and English could be heard.
As is common many restaurants in Vilnius (and Europe), diners typically have to wait for food to be prepared, so a nice atmosphere for chatting is essential. However, you can’t always expect to be offered a drink while you’re waiting, so you have to ask. Despite the crowd on this Wednesday night, the wait for our food was reasonable. Service was decent, with two members of the waitstaff checking on us intermittently, and our water glasses regularly filled.
The grilled sea bass was nicely prepared with a side of vegetables. This meal is on the lighter side of the entrees, great if you aren’t famished. However, a more filling choice is a starter (the soup is a popular choice) and the duck or other meat dish.
Reservations are typically required for Panama Food Garden. Even during the summer, when Vilnius empties out as people go to their vacation cottages or traveling, the terrace fills up quickly.