Familia, Comida y Comunidad | Family, Food and Community
When I think of Panela Restaurant I immediately think of family. Panela has not been in Lowell for many years but it feels as if they have simply because of the amount of care and love they put into everything. From the moment you walk in until you leave, you feel welcome and at its heart Panela, the restaurant is really all about great food, family, and the community that surrounds it.
Panela is the main ingredient in their cuisine; made from evaporated sugar cane juice that is not refined in any way during the process. Panela as an ingredient is considered to have more health benefits because it retains the nutrition found in sugar cane. It is often used to sweeten hot chocolate and coffee in Colombia but at Panela, it goes into everything! From juices to meals, this ingredient is used across the board and no sugar is used in the kitchen.
Panela is a family-owned business and the decision to name the restaurant and also use the ingredient as the main ingredient came as a family. Juan is often seen greeting people who come into the restaurant, getting involved in the community, and being one of the faces of the restaurant, while Viviana, his sister, is the Chef and is responsible for all the delicious food that ends up at your table. Often you see Mami & Papi throughout the restaurant helping where needed and greeting everyone with the biggest smiles from here to Sunday. Honestly, every time I walk in I feel like I am back home in Puerto Rico. That sense of community and family is so important in our cultures and I am so happy that we have such a great spot to frequent.
Panela is fairly new, and COVID really hurt their small business. Financially and strategically it was rough on them and they lost some great employees in the three months they shut down. In speaking with Juan, he said that the community has been incredibly supportive since they opened back up with outdoor and indoor dining. The support they gave each other as a family and the support that they received from their community in Lowell is really what kept them going and gave them so much hope.
My hope is that Panela will continue to grow and thrive. As someone who has written about many restaurants and seen restaurants come and go, I can say that not having a place like Panela would be a huge hit on our community here in Lowell. Together we can create the kind of community we hope to live and grow in and places like this small, family-owned, BIPOC owned business are the kinds of places that make me think of how great we could be if we continue to allow small businesses like this one grow and thrive. To allow more culture and color into our lives, to see color and not discriminate, and to make our world just a little bit better because we choose to be loving, giving and remove hate from our lives.
Thank you Panela for being such a stalwart in Lowell, I wish you many years of success and hopefully again soon many nights dancing the night away on the famous Salsa nights.
Now let’s get into the food because I know you are all waiting anxiously for me to just show you pictures right? 😉
Iced Tea with Cachaca | Iced tea, Panela syrup, cachaca, lemon juice, and seltzer water
Another shot because this mint was everything. A great, refreshing drink
First up are the complimentary Tostones served with a savory sauce. These are crispy, hot and delicious
Beef Empanadas served with a house hot sauce that is AMAZING
Inside the empanadas, these are gluten-free by the way!
With the incredible house hot sauce
Ranchera Burger | Ground chorizo and beef patty, glazed with our spicy Panela sauce, melted cheese on top, avocado lime, and french fried onion rings. Served with french fries
I mean come on Mavens!!!! Is this a burger or WHAT
Cayeye Marino | Mashed plantains, fried cod fillet, pan-seared shrimp in a lime butter sauce, topped with our house salad ( Mango, cucumber, shaved kale, almonds, avocado and Panela vinaigrette)
Just a note, this is currently my favorite dish on the menu. I am obsessed with the richness of the plantains, the perfection of the fried fish and the way the mango adds tartness and brightness to the dish. SO GOOD.
To end an incredible dinner at Panela you must then have one of the best desserts EVER. The Blackberry Merengon. I get it almost every time I dine here and it is literally food heaven in a dessert.
Blackberry Merengon | Homemade meringue, topped with dulce de leche whipped cream and blackberry sauce.
Thank you all for reading this story about such a great place, keep staying tied and supporting local!
Life as a Maven