October 28, 2011

My (Former) Panama Restaurant

For three and a half years, from March 31, 2011 until August 15, 2014, my then husband and I owned a restaurant in Panama. We started with a whole lot of ugly, to wit: horrible blue and yellow fast-food style picnic tables with fixed, metal seats. Ouch.  No artwork, no outdoor seating, and a tacky, reflex blue sign that came out all wrong.  It took so long to get all our approvals that we nearly closed our doors before we opened them.  We worked 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for the first year, at least.  Larry built a rustic porch and bar out back which became the popular spot to hang out and drink margaritas, enjoy fresh fish tacos, and watch the chickens hunt and peck.

Larry is a genius in the restaurant business and he knew super fresh fish would sell.  But that was a double-edged sword; he was saddled with with the unbelievably difficult task of obtaining -- on nearly a daily basis--  fresh, whole ocean fish, straight off the boats (hours away from our mountain village) and and personally portioning out hundreds of pounds of the stuff himself.  While we were never a good match in our matrimonial life, in business our skills sets made a perfect marriage.  Larry did the fish, all pricing and portions and training of kitchen staff.  I painted the walls and ceiling and even some of the artwork, I  typeset all the menus, handled all internet marketing, and trained all wait staff. We were just both good at our jobs and the division of labor was a good flow.

I used to pull folks off the street and seduce them with my sexy food talk. And at first, and for a long time, I prayed to achieve an average of 30 guests at the end of both lunch and dinner shifts, combined.  We began with the six ugly tables, one waitress and two kitchen helpers.  We ended with eight loyal employees and regular service for between 100-150 guests daily, off season, and between 200 and 250 per day in season. We were usually ranked number 2 of 53 restaurants, and that behind the number 1 spot, a fine bakery and not our competition. We were written up in both the Panama Moon Guide and The Lonely Planet with high compliments.  The restaurant became a sort of "Cheers" for Boquete's classiest, fun people, a great core local following. But much of our business came from Panamanians and travelers.

My life, and all the adventure and drama that comes with running a restaurant, happened at Big Daddy's Grill, Boquete. I could not blog about the hilarious and perilous events that occurred during those three-plus years. But now I can... And I have some tales!

Coming soon, My Panama Restaurant Chronicles.  Meantime, below is the original post used for advertising purposes, before Facebook & Trip Advisor became the go-to sites.   Big Daddy's has, after just days, taken on a new feel, look and will grow with the new owner.  Best to them!

Home of Boquete's Original,
Grilled Fish Taco

Fish so Fresh, it was swimming yesterday!

Best Hand-Crafted Margarita
Outrageously Good Buffalo Wings
A Delicious Selection of Grill Items

Double-Washed, Daily-Picked, Organic Salad
Vegetarian /Vegan Options
Gluten-Free Options

A Food-Safety Conscious Establishment
Home-Made, Fresh Local Ingredients
Prompt, Friendly Service
Outdoor Seating in our Garden Patio

PRICES:  $2 - $8.95  
(Whole, Fried Corvina at Market Price. Filet Mignon Dinner, $13.95)

CASH ONLY. No checks, no credit cards.
NOON - 9 pm Tuesday- Saturday
NOON - 8 pm Sunday

Questions re: Jubilado/Pensionado Restaurant Discounts? Click:  www.mypanamalife.com
    Grilled Fish Tacos
    Mr. & Mrs. Big Daddy,  William, 2011. (Missing Dylan.)

    Mimi's Whole Corvina w/Patacones & Slaw
    Ronni's favorite Chcken over Salad, Strawberry Dressing
    Grilled Fresh Dorado/Mani over Salad,Lemon Dressing
    Informal, festive, inside dining area.
    Filet Mignon Tacos, Monterrey Jack, Fresh Salsa Verde
      Grilled Amberjack on Hydroponic Salad

      Made with "LOVE & BUTTER" from Elizabeth's kitchen
      Fish Tacos w/Hand-Dipped Rings, Avacado-Chipotle + Fruity Pico de Gallo 
      Grilled, Blackened Tuna Filet Sandwich (L)..Cheeseburger (R) + Rings
      One-Day Special. Fresh Grilled Tuna Filet Salad atop Organic Salad
      Home-Made Citrus Ice Cream w/Fresh Strawberry Mandarin Topping
      Dayra, Jim Omer, Gisela & One 3-lb. Corvina!
      Jim, Boquete Outdoor Adventure. Numero Uno Fish Eater!
      Shrimp Tacos, Double Slaw
      Big Daddy's Grill, Boquete, purchases it's fish directly from the boats of Boca Chica, Pedregal. Never purchased frozen or pre-cut ... never farm-raised.

      Depending on the catch, varieties include:  Tuna; Snook; Amberjack; Swordfish; Dorado; Corvina; Pargo; Shrimp & more.

      Fish is served GRILLED or FRIED, as a Sandwich on a  Bakery Bun; atop a large, organic Salad, or as a Platter... with a choice of fresh sides.  We've been told by people who seek them out that our Grilled Fish Tacos are some of the tastiest! Sandwiches (Fish; Chicken Breast; Vegan) are ample & served on a bakery bun.  For something Very Panamanian, try the  Whole Fish "Entero" ...
      Our Fried Chicken is juicy and cooked to perfection! Corn Dogs & Onion Rings are hand-dipped. It's been said by many that Big Daddy's Grill has the Best Burger in town, served with a side of Pickles, LTM plus  Cole Slaw, Fries or Rice & Beans.  Our Grilled & Blackened Tuna Sandwich has become a local favorite.  Portions are ample so you never leave hungry!

      Whether you are Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian or just a Healthy eater, we have several options for those who don't want to sacrifice taste for freshness! Our large Salad Platters are  Organic, Hydroponic & Double-Washed & SAFE.  Home-made dressings include Strawberry or Olive-Lime. Vegetarians can fill up on Salads, Delicious Vege Tacos or our own, Home-Made, Vegan Burger.

      Citrus Ice Cream is Home-Made, just for Big Daddy's, fresh, light & topped w/Elizabeth's Strawberry Sauce. 

      Big Daddy's is known for it's hand-crafted MARGARITA prepared with our own Home Made Sour Mix & Premium Liquors, including Cointreau & Jose Cuervo Tequila!

      Dine in the peaceful setting of a Panamanian non-smoking "Patio" (a.k.a. the Secret Garden), in our casual dining room, or, for a busy street side view, out on the front porch.


      Elizabeth's Hand-Pulled Chowder, Personal Loaf Bakery Bread

      Vegan Burgers on Bakery Bun (hidden), Black Beans & Rice

      Chayote Soup w/Saffron, Lemon Grass & Secret Spices

      Chris & Lindsey on her Birthday




      Rodrigo w/our Kitchen Staff & Me. He grows all our Hydroponic Salads!

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      News About The Boys

      Mrs. Bliss told us there is a caterpillar here that is pink and fuzzy, and, if you touch it, its fur will stick in your skin and sting you! This happened to her daughter, Aylana. It was very painful and they had to pull the fibers out using tape! There are also scorpions and snakes, but I think there are more poisonous snakes in Florida.

      William is busy, busy. In the morning he does his home schooling (Dad is his teacher!). Then, around 9:00 he rushes happily off to the local, Catholic, Spanish-only school where he audits the 4th grade! He's been doing some skim boarding but we are seriously missing the skating. Surfing looms in the near future. For a change we finally have kids on our street to play with, (not to mention dogs and roosters, snakes, toads, etc.) and it is wonderful making new friends. Still, William really misses his friends and family back in Sarasota. It's wonderful to get messages from the folks back home.

      We send a special "Hello How Are Ya?" back to Nolen, Max, Connor, Emily W. and Teah!

      Larry is Mr. Handy! Between homeschooling and making repairs on the house, he is never without something to do. And we have gone from never seeing him, to having him around all the time. Hmmmmmm.....

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