Historic Restaurant: La Ruina, Nueva Gorgona, Panama

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We had a very enjoyable evening at La Ruina Restaurant, in Nueva Gorgona, Panama. The food was excellent and we were lucky to meet with the owner who enlightened us with so much of the history of the place and area in general. The restaurant has multiple seating area choices. Poolside in the back seems popular, the ceiling of the interior is full of flags of the world, and the outside perimeter has street side seating if you want to see and be seen!

The menu has a mix of Panamanian food including fresh sea bass, plus EXCELLENT lasagna from a treasured family recipe, or a touch of Caribbean heat. Google Maps link

Frank (center) is the owner of La Ruina. Fellow retiree Dave (right) from USA also joined us for the experience.

We walked 1.5km (1 mile) to the restaurant from our our place at Royal Palm Condos. This path goes through some of the dirt back streets of the town, where some of the less affluent people live. I enjoyed watching a fisherman repairing his nets at one home.

Short walk to the restaurant from our our place at Royal Palm Condos.

The restaurant name La Ruina means ruins in English. Frank explained that the name has nothing to do with the stone block ruins that are across the road from the restaurant, but relates instead to the name that the locals used for the building that the restaurant now occupies.

Local expats gather here for a weekly social gathering (Thursday afternoons?)

The small Canadian flag was the first one that was put up, that started the collection of worldwide flags. There are some historical photos on the wall that Frank hopes to expand into a more complete collection some day.


We learned that “Nueva Gorgona” (new Gorgona) is actually a re-location of 1000 people from “old” Gorgona which had to be moved from over 100 miles away, in order to make way for the Panama Canal back in the early 1900’s. They arrived by ocean in a barge, since there were no roads in 1913. The plan involved creating jobs for the low income Panamanians, with an American post and amenities here, with possible plans for a Naval installation. The building the restaurant is in was that old army post (American Legion), that ultimately was left in ruins when the Americans left.

Frank, originally from New Jersey, USA was actually stationed in Nueva Gorgona as a 20 year old, and that’s how he met his Panamanian wife whose family had property adjacent to the restaurant building. Upon retirement from the army after 20 years, he bought the building for the restaurant.

The multiple buildings of the old army post have been consolidated into the one building now. The sleeping barracks used to be upstairs above the bar area. The kitchen was the artillery storage area.

Photo Gallery (click image to see full sized version in a slide show):

Related articles:

History from other sources: https://coronadoconciergepanama.com/the-history-of-nueva-gorgona


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