Central American Food

The wine selection at Rey supermarket in Panama.
The wine selection at Rey supermarket in Panama.

The typical Central American meal consists of a piece of meat (usually chicken), rice, beans, and some corn tortillas. In Guatemala they seem to like refried black beans while the other countries just had regular black beans. Although I like this meal fine – other than the corn tortillas – I don’t find it too interesting so I usually ate at fast food restaurants or when staying at a hostel cooked my own meals.

American fast food place are common in the larger cities in Central America. The cost is only slightly cheaper than in the United States. Given that the average income is only about $500 I’m not sure how they can afford to eat in these restaurants but they are usually very busy. I suppose I’m seeing the richer people at the fast food places. I’m also pretty sure that people in Central America spend a much larger percentage of their income on food than here in the United States.

There are also some Central American fast food chains that I tried. They were Pollo Campero, Biggest, and Pio Pio. Pollo Campero makes chicken that is just as greasy and salty as KFC. Their breakfast of eggs with salsa and a side of refried black beans with tortilla chips was pretty good too. They also serve pizza although I didn’t try that. They have locations throughout Central America.

Biggest is an El Salvador fast food chain. They have burgers and chicken. The burger I had wasn’t too great. The meat in burgers in Central America tastes different. The prices were about the same as a U.S fast food place. El Salvador uses the American dollar as their currency so it is easy to compare prices.

Pio Pio is a fast food chain in Panama. They serve chicken. Almost all restaurants in Central America serve chicken. Even McDonalds, Wendys, and Burger King have fried chicken on the menu in Central America. I only had chicken nuggets at Pio Pio and they were not the best. On the plus side my combo meal was only $2.40. Panama also uses the American dollar as their currency making it easy to compare prices.

The cities I visited in Central America had supermarkets that were about the same as you would find in the U.S. This isn’t too surprising since Wal-Mart owns many of them. People there do lots of their shopping at the street markets though so the supermarkets have smaller produce sections. The street markets are much more interesting than the supermarkets but I didn’t do any shopping at them during this trip. The street markets are usually cheaper than the supermarket even if you pay a special gringo price.

There are probably some regional foods that I didn’t find. If I visit again I will have to make it a point to visit more of the local restaurants.

2 thoughts on “Central American Food”

  1. Andy, My best question, what did you drink? I take it no fresh water, only bottles, what about pop, alcohol etc? How far off the ocean were you? What about housing, can I afford to buy or rent if I plan on early retiring there? What do condos, houses, etc cost? Oh and are there any cabanas with the locals to bring me my fruity drinks? (Ha!) Would I be safe? How’s the local environment. Gee, these are just a few of my thoughts.

    • I mostly drank bottled water although I drank soda when I had meals out and beer on a few occasions when I went out to a bar. In Guatemala I was a couple of hours from the ocean. In Panama I was about a half a mile from the ocean. Housing would be pretty cheap in Guatemala but more expensive in Panama. I don’t know what housing costs, I am just guessing based on what it cost to rent a room in each place. Didn’t go to a beach. I’m sure somewhere in those countries there are some cabanas with fruity drinks. It is less safe in Central America than in the U.S. but if you just follow safety rules as you would in a big U.S. city you will probably be ok. I never had any problems with crime.


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