I spent a Saturday in July with my mom in Casco Viejo. As noon was approaching, she asked me where to go for lunch. I told her that I wanted to try the new Greek restaurant called Opa Greek Tavern. We walked down A avenue until 3rd street to go to the locale that used to be Mostaza restaurant for many years. This place is located right across from the famous Flat Arch (Arco Chato) in the Convent of Santo Domingo.
Opa Greek Tavern has tables across the street with parasols which seem more suitable for the evening and nighttime. Noon time can get quite hot in Panama City, so we opted to sit inside. This restaurant in Casco Viejo opens from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. From Thursday through Sunday it stays open until 10 p.m. and it closes on Monday. It is possible to make reservations, which would be recommended on weekends since it is a small place with a few tables.
From Greece to Panama
I asked the waitress for the contact of the owner of Opa Greek Tavern, Yoli Liakopulos, to interview her for this article. She told me the story of her family. Her grandfather was born in Greece and he migrated to Panama. Yoli’s father was born in Panama and grew up in his father’s business which was the famous restaurant called “La Puñalada” in El Marañón neighborhood. This place was known as the cafe of the people because it had very affordable prices and was open until very late. Set up in 1940 by Juan Panagiotis and Pericles Liakopulos, this popular sandwich restaurant stayed in that area until 1983.
Yoli’s father spent his whole life around food. His mother was a great chef and when they saw the opportunity to open up in Casco Viejo they decided to do a Greek restaurant to honor his parents and their flavors. Opa Greek Tavern has plans to open a second establishment in Costa del Este in the near future.
Opa Greek Tavern is a small and cozy establishment like a tavern in Greece. The owners were inspired by the Greek islands and they wanted a fresh vibe which they portray with the decoration like the wallpaper that is colorful and full of palm trees and buildings with domes. Following the Greek island style, its tables are white with blue place mats just like the plates and the glasses are blue or yellow.
What to eat in Opa Greek Tavern?
Greek food is great to share. So we decided to order a few dishes to try them out in this restaurant in Casco Antiguo. For appetizers we order the tomatokeftedes which are tomato croquettes with feta cheese, mint and tzatziki, as well as the octapodi sjaras which is grilled octopus with a yellow pea puree. Both dishes were incredible. They have other appetizer options like grilled eggplants with garlic and peppers; zucchini croquettes with feta cheese or spanakopita or tyropita which are fried filo dough empanadas with spinach or feta cheese; or feta filo which is feta cheese with honey.
The menu has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options like a greek salad, grilled vegetable platter or lentil soup. Seafood lovers can order the fried calamari platter.
For the main dish we ordered the souvlaki pork pinchers which were grilled and served with tzatziki and French fries. The table next to us ordered gyros which looked very tasty. Opa Greek Tavern has several options of the gyro including pork, mushrooms and vegetables, chicken, lamb and Greek hamburger meat. All gyros come with French fries. They also had lamb chops but it was not available the day we went. Another meat option is the artisanal chorizo.
Those who prefer fish can order the sea bass with lemon, oregano and extra virgin olive oil. Another lemony option is the 1/2 chicken. Pastitsio is a pasta with ground meat and bechamel sauce. While the moussakas have layers of eggplant and potatoes with ground meat and bechamel sauce. Finish your meal at Opa Greek Tavern in Casco Viejo with one of their three dessert options. Choose between Greek fitters covered in chocolate Nutella and ice cream; Greek fritters covered in honey, sugar and nuts or a traditional Greek pie made with filo dough with orange creme covered in honey.