Ocean Mall, Avenida de la Rotonda, Panamá, Panama
Photo by Tarina Rodríguez
Mercao Mercao owes its name to chef Francisco Castro’s grandmother, and the contemporary cuisine is inspired by his homeland’s local markets, ingredients, and culture. He loves working with acidic, fruity flavors, fresh herbs, and every aspect of the food you find at fondas (humble working-class eateries). Thus it’s no surprise his most popular recipes are the pork chop served atop a Panamanian de olla tamale (which uses the same masa dough as tamales, but is served casserole-style) and the ropa vieja (shredded beef) raviolis.