Is Panamanian Pio Pio better than KFC?

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Day 111: Panama City, Panama

I’m not a big fan of fast food; I have the occasional drunken hankering for Burger King but we didn’t eat a lot of it growing up, especially since my mother told me McDonalds put worms in its hamburgers.

We did eat Kentucky Fried Chicken for family birthdays. I don’t know if anyone particularly liked it but it meant no one had to cook so everyone had a nice time.

I haven’t eaten in KFC in years but I have been eating delicious fried chicken throughout Central America.

Pio Pio is all over the the city and the line-ups out the door intrigued me. As I had also seen KFC I started to think this was a fried chicken lover city.

For the low price of $1.99 I ordered the most popular combo #1, which is a fried chicken breast, fries and a coke.

Notoriously dry, the chicken breast was moist but also with just a little more flavour than cardboard.

I wasn’t expecting the spice explosion of KFC, but maybe a dash of pepper?

Panama isn’t known for its spice so I’ll take it that this is exactly how the locals want it.


I won’t head to KFC but I’ll try something elsewhere.

Join the Conversation

  1. Cornelius Aesop says:

    I always like trying the local version of a fast food chain. I never tried a McD’s or BK in Brazil but loved going to Bob’s Burgers and the same goes for Peru with Bembos. If you make it down to Peru I highly recommend Bembos they have delicious burgers and aji amarillo sauce on the side. You could likely get better for an actual restaurant but for a fast food place it is really good.

  2. Aditi L ( says:

    I live in the Pakistani part of London where we have a PFC (Pakistan Fried Chicken) on every block. I don’t recommend it.

  3. Yikes, doesn’t look so good.

  4. Gourmantic says:

    It looked just as bad from the photo. Those chips even look limp!

  5. Migrationology says:

    I had some similar looking and tasting famous fried chicken in Ecuador. If the right spices or sauces aren’t included, it’s just not that great. You need some pretty vibrant chili sauce for that chicken!

  6. LengthyTravel says:

    I tried Pio Pio, probably the same one you did in Casco Viejo near Luna’s Castle? It was truly horrible then as well.

  7. It looks a bit healthier than KFC, though that’s not saying much

  8. Camels & Chocolate says:

    We ate at a KFC for the first time in a decade probably on, of all times, our honeymoon, in a tiny town in Malaysian Borneo. I felt like such a cheater, so American, but we were taking a bus across country and, believe it or not, it’s the only thing that looked “safe” in the town in which we stopped for lunch!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well the one good thing about fried food is that you’re not likely to get food poisoning from it. Unlike the salad I’ve just started eating…

  9. When hubby and I were in Barbados for our honeymoon we tried the KFC (Barbadians eat more chicken per capita than anywhere else in the world to the point where they have to import them for Christmas). The KFC was AWESOME – mainly because they used natural chickens. Much more juicy than the US version.

  10. tasteless for sure but that’s why you need to ask for some of the tasty chili sauce, however, it sometimes goes missing but is usually found by the sweaty diner who is hoarding it at his table rather than leaving it on the counter.

    as for healthy try the meal deal with the soup and rice. one of the soups wasn’t bad. and you can ask for the non deep fried chicken (i think this was at pio pio) which is rotiseried instead. can’t remember what the term for it was.

    but since you’re in ecuador now, you’ll find all the familiar american chains anyways, and tastier local options.

  11. In Indonesia, you can choose plain steamed rice in KFC instead of french fries. I find it nicer that way. The rice is obviously not oily like french fries, and I feel like the rice also absorb away the chicken’s grease from my mouth. I actually quite like KFC (original kind) this way. Oh, they also serve it with chili sauce, yummy.

  12. hildergarn says:

    Since i’m panamenian i prefer ten thousand times KFC. Pio Pio is cheaper but the quality of the food is for shit (sorry hehehe).

    By the way, are you still in Panama Ayngelina?

  13. Maybe Pio Pio failed to genetically mutate their chickens?

  14. dtravelsround says:

    You had me at fried chicken! Sorry Pio Pio wasn’t tasty …

  15. The Travel Chica says:

    The fried chicken fast food chains in Central America are out of control!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know, I actually prefer buying mine in the bus station, it tastes better.

  16. It reminds me of Jollybee in the Philippines, McDonald’s fiercest competitor, but then again the food was quite horrible there too.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      No way I love Jollibees! The burger meat may not be the highest quality but its much spicer than McDonald’s.

      I heard they have a few in the US now.

  17. Hogga aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    Bleh. Bleh bleh.

    Pizza is better.

  18. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) says:

    We have a chain of chicken restaurants in NYC called Pio Pio and they serve huge portions for a few dollars. PS- that’s an old-school serving of fries! I don’t think the kiddie size at a US McDonald’s is even that small.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah the one good thing about eating the junk is that you don’t eat much of it. Unlike at home where you eat so much you feel your mouth being coated with grease.

  19. I hated KFC when I lived in the States and wouldn’t eat it there, so why should I eat it now that I’m living in Panama? I did try a couple of different Pio Pio locations in Panama City, Chitre, Santiago and David. Unadulterated crap that makes you almost long for KFC.

    However, LOVE THAT CHICKEN FROM POPEYES! (I used to live in New Orleans years before Katrina) There are several Popeyes locations in Panama City. Just with someone would open one out here in David.

  20. Im a fan of KFC, but i prefer Popeyes their chicken having a buttered flavor that it comes with a perfect combination to their muffins and a side dish with corn, i order additional muffins.

    I really love to try different food in fast food restaurant specially those restaurant has a long ques it challenge me to taste their food hehe 🙂

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