The Panama Canal Restaurant at 40 E. Washington St., has already been serving from a menu that offers selections such as jerk chicken, curry chicken and tacos.
Other entrees include chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish, and empanadas, which is stuffed bread or pastry that is baked or fried in many countries in southern Europe, Latin America and parts of southeast Asia.
Roach said her dishes feature the unique kind of spices she grew up with in cuisine in Panama.
“When you taste it, you know its going to be different,” Roach said.
Other items from the menu include steak, pork and tuna sandwiches, Honduras taquitos and breakfast entrees that include an omelet with plantains, which are a member of the banana family. The restaurant is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Roach said she has worked previously in the restaurant business and sometimes for “too many hours.”
“Why not work for me?” she asked.
Roach said she is running the restaurant herself, although some family members were helping her Wednesday.
Roach, 29, said she has lived in the U.S. for a little more than 10 years. Roach said she used to live in Frederick but moved to Hagerstown about three years ago seeking change in her life.
The restaurant is at the former location of Taqueria El Paisa, and Roach said she has been working for about three months to get her restaurant ready for business. She added she just obtained a liquor license Wednesday.
Officials attending a 4 p.m. ribbon-cutting outside The Panama Canal Restaurant included Mayor David S. Gysberts, Hagerstown City Council member Lewis C. Metzner, several representatives of the Hagerstown Police Department and Brien J. Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
“We are very glad she (Roach) chose to make an investment right here in downtown Hagerstown,” Gysberts said during the ribbon-cutting.
Poffenberger thanked Roach for not only making an investment in the county but for “rolling up your sleeves and making it happen in downtown Hagerstown.”
The ribbon-cutting came after a Hagerstown City Council meeting Tuesday night in which numerous concerned business owners said they are worried about the future of downtown in light of the fact that city officials might be abandoning a proposed downtown stadium. One business owner said its hard for downtown businesses to stay positive without changes in the city’s core and another speaker described the worsening conditions in downtown as “toxic.”
Roach said she is also worried about the future of Hagerstown in light of the comments.
Gysberts, who sat down to eat in The Panama Restaurant after the ribbon-cutting, said he thinks it’s important to address the downtown’s issues through a sense of mutuality rather than adversity.
“I think we’re all worried,” Gysberts said.