Tierra Firme is iconic. Though Panama City’s international terminal has added the culinary diversity of a Subway and Dunkin Donuts in the past couple of years, Tierra Firme is still the lone sit down eatery. Everyone to have passed through the international lounge of Tocumen knows it. For some reason layovers here are almost always long. For an airport of this size – it’s a hub of travel between Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and North America – you would assume half a dozen restaurants and bars. Instead there are 50 Duty Free shops selling liquor, perfume, car stereos, LCD TVs, chocolate, and MP3 players. The selection of shops is reminiscent of a crappy mall attached to a Mexican bus station. It’s bizarre to say the least.
Being the lone restaurant in Tocumen you would think Tierra Firme was decent. The name, meaning firm land, is so perfect for an airport. It’s mediocre at best. A stand that fronts the entrance sells empanadas and sandwiches that have probably sat in the glass case a little too long. On the menu there is a odd selection of dishes: pizza, Spaghetti Bolognese, Sancocho, Seabass in a butter sauce, Pork Chops and Apple sauce, and Tuna salad. They serve Panama and Soberanna beer, which are nearly the most typical Panamanian options on the menu. The translations from Spanish are at least comical, i.e. Langostinos a la plancha are called in English “Prawns to the Bass.” I’m not a fan.
* Written on location in Panama City, Panama’s El Tocumen International Airport.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.