Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Panam Supermarket in Laurel

If you are looking for Hispanic foods -- especially for tropical produce or a speciality butcher -- then consider driving to Laurel for the Panam Supermarket.

Lily's Mexican Market is a great small grocery and takeout in Columbia. A spot for fresh tortillas, Mexican and Central American cheeses, canned goods, and even a small butcher.

But Panam is a supermarket. It's huge. You can buy everything from the shelves at Lily's -- although not the takeout tacos or the horchata -- and then shop through full-sized departments for produce and meat. Those look like the real draws to me. The produce section stocked fresh-looking vegetables and fruit -- including tropical items like fresh cactus, chayote, green mangos, and several kinds of coconut. Cheap price on limes. Extremely ripe avocados. If you are looking for a picture, imagine the produce that you can find at places like the H Mart in Catonsville or the Super Grand in Laurel -- except not the Asian items.

The butcher looks more like Beiler's at the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Burtonsville. There weren't big steak displays. This is like

the other end of the Beiler's display where you find roasts, stew meat, ribs, goat, oxtail, and pig's feet. There were a half-dozen sausages that looked like they were made in-house, including Mexican and Salvadoran chorizos and a goat sausage. There were marinated meats ready for tacos. They also had live tilapia, some whole fish, and several varieties of shrimp. This is the place if you know a Latin cut or just want to explore something new.

Panam offers aisles of the standard American products like corn flakes, Dole fruit and terriyaki sauce. It also has all the packaged food that you would see in a Hispanic market. Rice, tortillas, chipotles, nopales and a dozen varieties of dried beans. They have such a selection of the Goya brand that I found Goya organic beans.

Spanish is the first language in Panam, but don't be intimidated. The music and the customer chatter was all in Spanish. So were most of the signs. But the packages are all in English. Even the Mexican soda that I bought had the standard ingredient sticker applied so you can understand everything. You can also speak English with the employees. I tried to ask a question in Spanish at the checkout, and the employees quickly switched to English as I exhausted my vocabulary. In completely fluent English, they identified the spiny vegetable that I had bought as a spiny chayote and explained that it was a Guatemalan variety.

If you want a Howard County Mexican market, check out Lily's in Columbia. It's one of the best ethnic markets in the county. Click here for all the posts about Lily's.

If you go to Panan, consider checking out the Laurel Meat Market on Main Street or Laurel Health Food in the same shopping center as Panan.  Laurel Health Food has some organic produce and shelves of organic packaged goods and health supplements. You can also drive around to the shops that face Rte 198 and back against Laurel Health for a great Indian market  Eastern Bazar, the sugar cookies at La Espiga de Oro Latin bakery, and a Jamaican restaurant/take-out.

Panam Supermarket
111 Bowie Road
Laurel, MD 20707

NEAR: Panam is across the line into PG County just south of Rte 198 off the north-bound lanes of U.S. 1. You need to go a block south of Rte 198 on U.S. 1, then U-turn. Panam is in a shopping center set back from the road. This is the same shopping center as Laurel Health Food. Panam is on the far right set back pretty far from U.S. 1.


Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Here's the joke I make about H Mart in Catonsville: Occasionally, while I'm there, I'm checking my pocket to make sure I still have my passport.

Does Panam give you any of that foreign country vibe? I.E., you feel like you need your passport to go there, not just an interpreter?

HowChow said...

I don't feel like a foreign company, but then I lived four years in Miami. :-)

The music is in Spanish. The customers are talking mostly in Spanish. The signs are in Spanish.

But it's an American grocery store. Produce department. Butcher. Aisles of packaged goods. Freezer section. As opposed to the H Mart, Panam has an array of standard American brands like corn flakes, toilet paper, etc. In the West African markets, I often don't know what I'd do with many of the products, which seems like that passport issue. In Panam, I was looking at stuff that I knew.

I tried to ask a question in Spanish, and the staff switched to completely fluent English as soon as I had trouble.

Anonymous said...

so they don't sell taco's at pan am? is there any taquerias near pan am?

HowChow said...

@Anon -- You can definitely get tacos in Laurel along that U.S. 1 corridor. I have gone to Irene's right on U.S. 1, although I'm still looking for the item to inspire a blog post. I also want to try Toucan Tacos, which is on the eastbound spur of Rte 198 just before it hits U.S. 1. I'm also sure there are other places that I don't know.