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Merida, Mexico - Restaurants and Food

Old Feb 5th, 2019, 02:28 PM
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Merida, Mexico - Restaurants and Food

Hello fellow foodies!

We just spent an awesome couple of days in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and we LOVED the food. We are a couple travelling for 6 months in Latin America and we share our adventures.

The place that stood out to us most in Yucatan in terms of food was Merida, the capital of the province. A larger city with about 1M inhabitants. Some of the local specialties include:
- Conchinita Pibil: Pork marinated in a citrus sauce which is then slowly cooked underground.
- Relleno Negro: A stew that is really dark black. The stew is made of chargrilled chillies and lots of other spices, usually with turkey or chicken. It's not really spicy although it contains a lot chilly.
- Queso Relleno: This is a hollowed out ball of Edam cheese, which is then filled with meat and spices. The dish is then baked until the cheese is really melty and gooey.
- Sopa De Lima: A rich chicken or turkey broth with a lot of local lime (which is not really sour) added into it, together with strips of chicken and strips of fried taco.

We visited a lot of places and our favourite restaurants were:
- Manjar Blanco, a smaller restaurant, which comes highly recommended by locals, a top chef we spoke to, as well as international food bloggers. It features a menu with pretty much only local Yucatecan food. Our favourite dishes here were the Sopa De Lima and the Conchinita Pibil. This was our favourite restaurant. The dishes had some slight variations to the standard dishes, while still remaining authentic. Service was very good as well.

- Wayan'e, arguably the best taco place in Yucatan. It has 30-40 different kinds of tacos (and other varities as well) to choose from, with a lot of local specialties as well like poc chuc and conchinita pibil. They are reallyyyyy delicious. Our favourite was the Pavo de la reina (Chicken stew).

- Chaya Maya, a well-known place that is in pretty much every guidebook. There is a good mix of locals as well as tourists here. Chaya Maya focuses on authentic Yucatecan food. We really loved the atmosphere at their second location where you can sit outside in a tranquil environment (the original location is a bit loud). They offer loads of different dishes to try, even some lesser-known ones. We went here a couple of times (the lime drink with Chaya - Local spinach- is really good). We highly recommend the tasting platter of the four different local specialties: Queso Relleno (the best we had in Merida), Relleno Negro, Pavo de Pivian (Turkey in pumpkin seed sauce) and Conchinita Pibil. A bargain at 10 EUR/12 USD for two people.

We also made a video about our eating adventure, which features the above restaurants and dishes. Check it out if you want some more info:

Kim
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Old Feb 7th, 2019, 05:17 AM
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Merida

we just have to agree that Merida is the tops, especially with the soap de Lima and with the pibil, available throughout Mexico but only in Merida does it have it’s own unique taste with local ingrédients . Good job.
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Old Feb 8th, 2019, 11:09 AM
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I love eating in Merida
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Old Feb 8th, 2019, 12:31 PM
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Thanks for those notes. I plan to rent a place there next winter and it's never too early to be collecting notes on where to eat, so this is helpful. Love both cochinita pibil and sopa de lima much that mention of those two standards get me hungry!
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Old Feb 8th, 2019, 02:36 PM
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ekscrunchy - Since you are taking notes, consider Casa de Frida on Calle 61, a couple blocks west of the plaza. I went there specifically for the Chiles en Nogada, and it was definitely worth the visit. Here's a Wiki article on Chiles en Nogada in case you are not familiar with it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiles_en_nogada
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Old Nov 16th, 2019, 11:18 AM
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Oh, that's great! Thank you. I read a recent CondeNAst Traveller article that named Merida as THE best small city in the world, according to their readers. While I don't see how you can choose ONE city as the "best," the article did mention a few restaurants, including two that are very upscale. I figured I'd try one of the latter, so booked a table at Nectar for one of the nights we will be there (you can book on OpenTable now, for January).

Do you think they have chiles en nogadaa all year round? I like those so will certainly check out Casa de Frida.

I rented a place near Parque Santiago, through Air B&B, my first experience with that company. The rental is for 9 nights but I can change it; I just wonder if 9 nights is too long, given that iti looks as if temps are in the mid 80s and the house has only a tiny, unheated pool. But we can do some day trips by taxi--maybe to Uxmal. And I would LOVE to swim in a cenote, which I have never done. There seem to be many close to Merida.

I hope more people will chime in here...
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Old Nov 18th, 2019, 07:22 AM
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I'm pretty sure they have Chiles en Nogada year round. It looks like they changed the name of the restaurant to Los Platos Rotos de Frida, but still the same place.
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Old Nov 19th, 2019, 05:32 AM
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Thanks so much!

What about cenotes where I can swim, near Merida (within an hour drive, hopefully). Is the water freezing? Is the access easy, no climbing on rocks with no stairs??
Do you have the names of specific ones?

I'm wondering if it is worthwhile to take a day trip or three; to where? We could rent a car (Ii have driven in parts of Mexico and do not recall that it was scary or particularly difficult) or hire a driver for those. Even spend a night someplace else. I've been to Cancun, Tulum, Chichén, but not seen much more than those and my last Yucatecan visit was a good 25 years ago. One thing I fear is the heat, even in earlyl JAnuary but not much to do about that. I will go to Uxmal cause I've not been. Where else??

Any upscale hacienda hotels where we could have lunch and take a swim in a large pool? What is the nearest or best beach that we can go for a morning, to swim, near Merida? Is there anything besides Progreso?? Is the water clean and clear in those areas??

Last edited by ekscrunchy; Nov 19th, 2019 at 05:34 AM.
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Old Nov 19th, 2019, 06:15 AM
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>>>I will go to Uxmal cause I've not been. Where else??<<<

Uxmal is wonderful.. Nearby are the cities on the Ruta Puuc. These are gems, and you will often have them to yourself. Many have elaborate facades.

There are several large resorts near Uxmal with pools, but my last visit was fifteen years ago, so I can't vouch for them.
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Old Dec 9th, 2019, 01:07 PM
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I wonder if by the time Conde Nast names Merida as the "best small city in the world" if it is not too late for some of us..will report back once I return in January...I rented a place in the center city for part of January.....we are based in south Florida suring that month so it is a quick and not expensive trip from Miami....please offer any tips on food, cenotes, day trips, etc. etc.
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Old Dec 19th, 2019, 11:40 AM
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Great info here so far....

From other reading I learned about the village of Homun, near to several cenotes. How warm is the cenote water in January?

For anyone who has been there, can you offer any tips for us..we would likely make this a day trip by taxi from Merida.

Also, any hacienda that might be worth spending one night to relax and swim?? Must be not more than 1.5 hours from Merida...

I got word of a worthy sounding local restaurant not far from Merida and have my hopes up that I will get a table on a Sunday in early January..the name is PUEBLO PIBIL.about a half an hour from Merida..sounds nice for Sunday comida about 2pm...i'd love to hear some comments from people who have been there....best table?? Best dishes?/ etc

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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 02:24 PM
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Reporting here from our renchanting 3-bedroom rental house in the Santiago area. Had breakfast today at CHAYA MAYA, a lovely place situated in an old colonial buildling where we saw very few people that appeared to be foreigners.

Very good breakfast of superb Sopa de Lima and one taco of cochinillo Pibil for me, plus lemonade. Partner had eggs with bacon, black beans, and platanos maduros, plus lemonade. Next time will try the Chaya beverage. You can wwatch a trip of local women making tortillas by hand in the courtyard.

The Central Market (Galdos) was overwhelming....and I say that after being in many large markets in DF and many other cities. This makes the Abastos Saturday market in Oaxaca seem like a calm oasis. The one in Merida is just sprawling and confusing and having someone else tagging along was not so much fun. Not a lot of interesting tropical fruits (not the season) few cheese vendors, some good-looking eating stalls that i would have liked to try. But HOT even in January. From now on, apart fro a foray for those cute plastic totes, I might give this a miss unless I went early morning on a cool day. Apart from that, the locals here are startlingly friendly, going to far out of the way to gide me to various sections of the market, of which there are so many!! And then many would come to find me to make sure I found what I was looking for...

Tomorrow's destination will be Mercado de Santiago near the house, plus maybe Chedraui or another place for staples to stock up the house. There are Costco and Walmart here but I will skip those.

Tonight we booked NECTAR, which is kind of fancy but gets good reports.
Tomorrow, out of town: PUEBLO PIBIL, a local favorite for Yucatecan dishes.

There seem to be many Italian places so we might try one this week. (ENOTECA OLIVA)

Last night we got delivery from Los Trompos, a popular local chain for pizza and tacos al pastor, neither of which are local fare but this mini chain is a decent bet if you are hungry and do not want to go far in the heat.

There is UBER and there are taxi ranks, and you an hail a cab on the street, too. Taxi prices for North Americans are very low.

So we will see....hopefully the heat will keep low. Again, the people here are so amigable, a word I'd not heard before but learned from a loal woman who owns a convenience store on our corner who filled me in on lots of local lore. I hope I got that word right!!

The older folks here seem to be selling their homes to foreigners, so come before it gets too late. Mexican are right up there in my book for friendliness and helpful attitudes, but the locals here top those in many other regions tht I have visited over the years...I would imagine i've made about 30 trips here, many of long stays; come to Merida! Entirely different in many ways to the rest of the country and truly lovely.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 07:07 AM
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Huge thumbs up for PUEBLO PIBIL, outside Merida and very much worth the trip. Take an UBER and either have the driver wait or take a collectivo back; there are no taxis or UBERS in the small town where the restaurant is located.

For upscale dining in the north of Merida: NECTAR, where the blackened onions were a hit of the week so far. Excellent pasta as well. Beef, not so much.

Fabulous cochinita at the main (large, central) market which was far easier to navigate on a second, solo visit. The stand is named LA TIA. Just go; eat there or take home.

Attempted to go to Manjar Blanco but an hour before closing they had two dishes left. Walked out.

Tonight is ENOTECA OLIVA. Tomorrow, MICAELA MAR Y LENA. Thursday, APOALA in Sta Lucia Park where there is love music Thursday nights.

For breakfasts, cook at home or eat at one of the markets where there are many options. And buy the fresh fruit aguas to take home; I love the sandia (watermelon)

I won't write anything long here until they get those Norton pop ups fixed...this site is too annoing to use much right now.

Last edited by ekscrunchy; Jan 7th, 2020 at 07:10 AM.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 03:16 PM
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Thinking of writing a food report but only if there is interest beyond what I already wrote, above.
I do think that Merida is vastly underrated by Americans; many of the expats we met (not all that many) were Canadians or Europeans.

Just want to make note of a lovely driver who we hired, based on recommendations of an expat American couple who know him well. His name is Manny Lug.

We hired Manny for two very full days and found him to be personable and very informative. He always arrived ahead of time. His English is excellent due to his having lived in the USA for about a decade. He looked after us in all the best ways. His prices are based on distance, so each trip will cost a different amount. We checked the prices he asked with the hosts of our B&B and they thought that they were very reasonable and they will, from now on, be recommending Manny to their guests.

[email protected]

There are so many great attractions outside Merida and while collectivos are fine, they are not the best option if time is at a premium. And there are many rural destinations not serviced by taxis or UBER. (we learned this on our first visit to PUEBLO PIBIL, when we had an UBER drop us off and naively asked the host to call us a taxi when we finished our comida!!)

I thought hiring a private driver was a very good value option. I am already hoping to return to Yucatan to focus on cenotes (!!) and will certainly be calling Manny, hoping he has the time to take me around.
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