Merida is becoming a real “Foodie” destination with its Yucatan cuisine. I tried and recommend the following:
El Cangrejito, Calle 57, between 64 and 66: I read about this being a favorite for foodies and locals for years. They are known for their fish tacos. The space is very unpretentious to the point where you feel like you are eating in someone’s home. The shrimp and fish tacos were really good and the cost was very inexpensive.
Nectar, Av A Garcia Lavin, Merida Square Garden: I had a great experience at Nectar which was one of the best meals I have had in Mexico of which there have been many over many years. I had just returned from over 25 days in Spain eating at some of the best restaurants including Mugaritz in San Sebastian. I would put my experience at Nectar as the same there. The atmosphere is sleek and contemporary, so different from the restaurants in the center. I found the staff very enthusiastic and friendly. A new server had lived in LA so he was able to describe the food in great detail. The chef Roberto Solis spent time at Noma restaurant in Denmark (ranked by many as the best in the world) and even at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s NYC outpost, and the Fat Duck, Britain’s home of molecular gastronomy. He takes time off from the restaurant in Merida to work in the kitchens of the world’s best restaurants. Just make sure the restaurant is open when you are there as he might be out improving his craft. I saw him working in the kitchen making sure that each plate was perfect. He is a true artist. The duck sopes were wonderful and full of flavor. I had a wonderful fish for my main course topped with oregano and pureed yuca and banana. Everything was really fresh. He takes traditional dishes from Yucatan and then then gives them his gourmet take. The coconut desert was also excellent. I highly recommend this restaurant and hope you will take a cab from the center and experience it for yourself.
Rosas & Xocolate, Paseo de Montejo 480 at 41st: This is a very attractive boutique design hotel and restaurant that is one of the best places to eat in Merida. I opted from eating in the more formal inside dining room and instead enjoyed a wonderful alfresco meal under a full moon. There is also an attractive roof top bar. I had a very good pear, goat cheese and arugula salad and an amazing duck dish that was recommended by the server. It had duck on a bed of corn and chorizo with a raisin sauce. The chocolate mousse was one of the best I have ever had anywhere so make sure you leave room. Stop by the gift shop and buy some chocolates by ki’Xocolatl which are organic and made in Mexico!!
La Chaya Maya: Located at Calles 57 and 62 at Calle 62 481, this is a really good restaurant featuring Yucatan specialties. I had dinner there and had the Tres Mosqueteros (3 Musketeers), thanks to the NY Times. It consisted of pureed bananas and three wonderful regional sauces served over turkey, including a relleno negro sauce made of burnt chilles and spices and a pipian, or pumpkin seed, sauce. I went back again for breakfast to have one of my favorite Yucatan dishes, huevos motulenos, which has fried eggs, served over tortillas and black beans with a tomato sauce, peas, ham, queso fresco and plantains or bananas. I also liked the horchata which I had tried while in Valencia in Spain.
La Pigua, Avenida Capules at Calle 62: This restaurant was recommended as having some of the best seafood in town. It is right off the Paseo de Montejo and perfect for lunch, after seeing the Museo Antropologia and the homes along Pasel de Montejo. The seafood salad including shrimp, octopus, squid and conch was really fresh and good. It is a bright, attractive space which was recently redone.
Dulcería y Sorbetería Colón, Calle 61 500 por 60 y 62, Centro: A wonderful spot for sorbet and sweets. You will find yourself going back more than once!!
La 68 Casa de Cultura on Calle 68, north of Calle 55: This is well worth a visit. There is a store with nice art and folk art pieces from local artists. There is an attractive restaurant in the garden serving local specialties including many types of quesadillas. There are also films and documentaries shown in an outdoor setting Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. On Saturdays there is an Ecobazaar featuring organic products.
Los Almendros: Two doors down from the Instituto de Cultura de Yucatan/Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan, at Calle 50 A No. 487. is the colorful Los Almendros. You might stop in for a snack or break and possibly hear some live Trova music like I did.
If you want to take a cooking class to learn to cook Yucatan specialties or take a market tour, Los Dos is the place to go.
Also, don’t miss the Sorbeteria Colon, on the north side of the Plaza, which has been there for almost 105 years. The sorbet is really outstanding, so I was there three times. I loved the coconut and the banana. Guanabana is also supposed to be good.