New Owners and a Menu Makeover at Punta Lava Bar & Grill
We are excited to introduce two dedicated owners at Punta Lava Bar & Grill and a menu makeover!
With a location one of Panama’s favorite beaches, Punta Lava Beach Bar & Grill offers stunning views, beachfront access, and sea-to-table freshness that satisfies guests day and night. Recently, Punta Lava has been reinvented by two innovative, dedicated and energetic owners. We are excited to introduce Rich Littlefield and Kristie Craven, each with 20+ years of valuable experience from Tahoe restaurants to hot bars on Waikiki. They are the ones bringing the goodness to your plate, and your glass, right here on Red Frog Beach.
Here’s the scoop from our Q/A with them about their love for Bocas, why they relocated here from Hawaii, and how they are making Punta Lava better for guests and the island community.
What attracted you to Bocas del Toro & Red Frog Beach? What attracted us to Bocas and Red Frog is the natural and unspoiled beauty that exists here. We were enamored by the panga boat taxis to get around, the clear warm tropical waters, the surfing, the diving and the variety of animals found in the jungle here.
We could also clearly see that tourism was relatively new to the area and growing and that Bocas was becoming a destination that people were discovering worldwide. We thought that Panama was the new Costa Rica and very much like Hawaii must have been fifty to sixty years ago and that the timing was right to locate opportunities here.
When did you know you wanted to run a restaurant as a career? What is the best part? Kristie and I [Rich] both knew that we always wanted to work for ourselves on a dream or project that we could have direct effects on. The corporate mega hotels in Hawaii are too ingrained with red tape, bottom lines and corporate policies… The “best part” we both believe is being able to create nightly exciting specials that we feel the guests will enjoy and then chatting with the guests to hear their feedback and stories about where they are from and how they, too, discovered Bocas.
Who is in the kitchen on a typical night? Our executive Chef Kinga Samudia is in charge with his Sous Chef Yasir creating incredible food combinations and sauces. Kinga is from Bocas and has owned his own restaurant here in the past. He also has cooked in Italy for four years, Thailand for two and Malaysia for one year before returning to Panama. With this wide variety of cooking knowledge coupled with his incredible ability to speak five languages he is truly an asset and superstar that we are proud to have and showcase here at Punta Lava.
What’s Chef Kinga cooking tonight? Though we change up our nightly menu every night here we strive to have Lobster on the menu as much as possible. In addition to that we also have local caught octopus (pulpo) and sashimi grade yellow and black fin tuna on the menu most nights of the week.
What is it like behind the scenes at Punta Lava? A typical day and night at Punta Lava is much different than most restaurants in the states or surrounding developed areas. We work with over 25 different local fisherman, farmers, bread bakers, and jungle fruit collectors in order to write our menu daily and keep our guest coming back for more.
What has impressed you about Bocas del Toro? What has impressed us the most about Bocas Del Toro are the friendly people: local people as well as the array of tourists from around the world who also love Bocas. In addition to that is the bountiful availability of seafood and produce found in the surrounding ocean and jungle.
What do you hope to add to the island? We hope to bring … consistently great food and five star service. This combination back in Hawaii, coupled with the aloha spirit, has made the Hawaiian islands a legendary destination location…We hope to see happen here in gorgeous Bocas Del Toro.
What is the Fan-Favorite drink at Punta Lava? Our most revered drink here at Punta Lava would be a toss-up between “Snappers Rum Punch,” which has six fruits and two different rums in it and has a phenomenal balance and texture to it, and our famous “Coco-Loco Surprise,” which is one fresh coconut opened, the water blended with coconut puree, Malibu rum and Seco Herrano (local sugar cane liquor) and then poured back in the coconut and topped with a garnish of toasted coconut. Yum!