Stellas Marina Panama
great food, prices and location.

Maina view from restaurant

I would love to be a full-time food critic. Imagine, wining and dining at all the best restaurants, being treated like a celebrity, tasting the finest of the finest wines. Ah! But the reality is I don’t have the time, money or room in my body to accommodate high living.

If I manage to discover a great restaurant it is only because my friends have discovered it first. Case in point is a fairly new seafood restaurant in David called Stella’s Marina. The 50-year old Swiss born owner, Walter Unholz, brings a great European touch to Panamanian dining.

Owner Walter Unholz

Walter, trained as a chef in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz, which, the last time I checked was nowhere near the sea. So where did he acquire his culinary expertise in things pescatorial? The answer is that for twelve years Walter ran a successful seafood restaurant in Costa Rica. The crime in that neighboring country was getting so bad that Walter and his wife Anabelle decided to sell up and move to the peace and security of Panama.

You will find Stella’s inside the Pedregal Marina. Just continue the road past the David airport for a mile or so until the road ends at the marina gates. The sign says in Spanish “Don’t Enter” but ignore that and turn to the right and walk into the marina. You should maybe park your car outside to avoid hassles.

In front of you will be a dozen or so motorized or sailing yachts and to your left is the restaurant. When I arrived for lunch with my wife, Walter was installing a new air-conditioned section to the restaurant. Completion is expected by the end of October.

He handed me a thirteen page menu that included everything from pasta, chicken and steak dishes all the way through to the seafood specialties. The first item I check out in any restaurant are the prices. I am happy to report that Stella’s Marina is not one of those “gourmet gougers.” Beer is $1, and a glass of wine $2. The least expensive meal is the humble hamburger and fries for $3.50 and the most expensive is a mixed seafood platter featuring shrimp, squid, and octopus for $15.80. The average price of a meal however I estimated to be around $6.50.

I am not a big fan of bottom feeders such as squid and octopus, maybe that’s why I don’t like politicians, I do however love dorado or mahi-mahi. That was the special of the day. It was $8.50 and came in a vegetable and tomato sauce. “Excellent, excellent,” were the comments from my wife as she devoured the first few mouthfuls. The fish was fresh, flaky and wasn’t overpowered by the sauce.

For me there are three essential ingredients to a great restaurant. Obviously, the food must be good and the price must be right, but a third and very important item is the ambience. Rarely can you find a perfect combination of the three. At Stella’s Marina the restaurant sits right at the water’s edge. Good food, a glass of wine and gazing at expensive yachts is my idea of a wonderful way to enjoy a lunch or dinner. I did wonder if any of the sailing boats were for sale but my wife interrupted me with a clear and unequivocal, “Don’t even think about it.”

Across the river from the marina is thick virgin jungle. On certain days you can see troops of monkeys swinging through the foliage. Cranes and snowy egrets are common visitors to the river and provide a wonderful, natural enhancement to a sunny afternoon meal.

Stella’s Marina is open every day except Monday, from 11:00 to 11:00. For reservations call Walter or Anabelle at: 721-1951