Roadside Gastronomy -- If you're like me and relish sampling local delicacies, especially those found at cheap road stops and hole-in-the-walls that usually go unnoticed by tourists, try these culinary gems. Bollos Chorreranos (no phone; Fri-Sat 8am-8pm, Sun-Thurs 8am-6pm) is an open-air dive recognizable by the dozens of parked cars of Panamanians out front. It's on the highway outside Chorrera, 35km (22 miles) west of Panama City. Every Panama City resident, it seems, stops here for local specialties that include tasajo, an out-of-this-world gooey smoked beef; bollos, tamale-like corn patties filled with chicken or coconut; chichas, fresh juices such as passion fruit and the exotic guanabana; and the regionally famous chicheme, a thick, sweet beverage made with corn and cinnamon, and said to "put hair on your chest" and "pump you up." Farther down the road, at kilometer 57, next to the defunct Texaco station, is Queso Chela (no phone; daily 7am-8pm) with heavenly light fresh cheeses, fresh yogurt (even chicheme yogurt), soft egg bread, warm beef and chicken empanadas, and chichas to wash it all down. Don't miss the fresh roasted cashews sold at the front door -- this is what cashews were meant to taste like. The town of Chorrera is known for its juicy pineapple. If pineapple is in season, road vendors often sell three for $1 (50p); a little farther past Chorrera, vendors sell mango and papaya. At Antón, vendors sell sweet treats such as candies and coconut cakes.

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