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The Best 10 Restaurants For Mexican Food In Merida

© Larisa Blinova / shutterstock
© Larisa Blinova / shutterstock
The capital of the state of Yucatán, a jungle-swathed region of Mexico scattered with pristine beaches, hidden cenotes, or swim-holes, and crumbling Mayan archaeology, Mérida has plenty to offer visitors in search of ancient history and culture. But it’s a food-lover’s city too, with bastions of haute cuisine and a plethora of street stalls, markets and traditional dining rooms using regional produce and age old Yucatecan recipes, to choose from. Here are ten of the best.

La Chaya Maya

Ask almost any Mérida resident for a list of their favorite restaurants and La Chaya Maya is certain to be in the mix. Named after the spinach-like leaf used in many of the region’s traditional dishes, the restaurant serves some of the best and most authentic Yucatan cuisine in Mérida. Housed in a colonial house in the city’s historic center, the newest of the restaurant’s two branches is the most atmospheric. It’s the place to try regional classics like cochinita pibil, pork marinated in ground achiote seeds and bitter orange juice, baked in banana leaves until meltingly tender.

Fish Tacos ©Jeffreyw/Flickr

Restaurante Amaro

This neighborhood restaurant and bar is set in and around a courtyard in the house where, in 1787, Andrés Quintana Roo, the politician responsible for drafting Mexico’s post-war Declaration of Independence, was born. The menu is extensive and includes pastas, pizzas and vegetarian dishes such as curried eggplants, but the traditional Yucatecan cuisine is the highlight. Among Amaro’s signature dishes are cochinita pibil and sopa de lima, a refreshing soup of shredded chicken, tomato, sweet green pepper, onion and lime juice. In the evenings, you can catch trova acts performing beneath the flowering trees in the courtyard, testament to the musical influence of nearby Cuba on the Yucatán peninsula.

Freshly Baked Pizza ©Diekatrin/Flickr

Wayan’e

Food Kiosk, Mexican, $$$
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Street Tacos
Street Tacos | © Stuart_spivack/Flickr
Mexico’s street food culture is rightly renowned and street stalls and kiosks are still among the best places to eat traditional Mexican cuisine. Don’t assume that ‘proper’ restaurants are always the way to go. A brightly painted kiosk that doles out Yucatán-style tortas (hefty filled sandwiches), tacos topped with shredded chicken in poblano chlli sauce, scrambled eggs with chaya, and aguas frescas (ice-cold fruit juices), Wayan’e is a long standing Mérida favorite. Go early if you want the full menu to choose from and nab a seat at the counter squeezed in amongst locals anointing their tacos with eye-watering amounts of habanero chili salsa. Service stops whenever the food runs out, usually about 2 pm. Wayan’e,Felipe Carrillo Puerto 11A No. 57C, at Calle 4, Col. Itzimna, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, +52 999 927 4160
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Mon:
7:00 am - 2:30 pm
Tue:
7:00 am - 2:30 pm
Wed:
7:00 am - 2:30 pm
Thu:
7:00 am - 2:30 pm
Fri:
7:00 am - 2:30 pm
Sat:
7:00 am - 2:30 pm

Los Almendros

Known for serving faithful renditions of Yucatecan classics, Los Almendros is popular and provides an excellent introduction to the cuisine of the region. The setting is relaxed and informal, while the prices are reasonable. Among the standout dishes on the menu are poc-chuc, grilled pork marinated in citrus, served with jewel-bright slivers of pickled pink onion, and scrambled eggs with longaniza sausage. Los Almendros also offers daily specials, including pork and black beans on Mondays and pavo en salsa de alcaparras (turkey with caper sauce) on Wednesdays.

Quesadilla/ ©Pixabay

Lo Que Hay Cafe

Restaurant, Vegan, $$$
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Though things have improved dramatically in recent years, it can still be tricky being a vegetarian in Mexico. Perhaps that explains the appeal of Lo Que Hay Cafe, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Mérida’s historic center that serves inventive, international dishes without a hint of the worthiness that so often comes with the ‘whole food’ name tag. Themed evenings (Lo Que Hay is closed at lunchtime) celebrating world cuisine, from Italian to Thai, are among the restaurant’s fortes, with the setting, a leafy courtyard in Hotel Medio Mundo complete with mango tree and pool, a further draw. Lo Que Hay Cafe, Hotel MedioMundo, Calle 55 533, Centro, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, +52 999 924 5472
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K’u’uk

The best of Mérida’s high end options, K’u’uk sets out to celebrate the gastronomic history of the Yucatán peninsula with weird and wonderful creations, drawing on cutting edge culinary techniques in the process. Currently on the 13 course tasting menu is a dessert involving a stingless meliponin-bee honey biscuit with passion fruit and pollen cream and Balcheé (a ceremonial Mayan drink made with fermented honey and pineapple), a main course of creole suckling pig, and a ‘fake fossil’ made with ginkgo leaf, pollen, nopal cactus, seaweed and a dehydrated fish. A culinary reference to the Yucatán meteorite strike thought to have put an end to the dinosaurs, all of the ingredients used in the latter are known to have existed in the cretaceous period. It even arrives atop a genuine iron meteorite just so you know they’re serious.

Tibetian mandala inspired fruit powder and puree

A photo posted by World Geologic (@worldlygeologic) on

Rosas and Xocolate Hotel Restaurant

Rosas and Xocolate is a boutique hotel with a smart modern restaurant to match. The water garden and outdoor tequila bar are ideal if you’re looking to escape the heat while the roof terrace hosts live jazz in the evenings. In the restaurant, cleverly designed twists on Mexican classics are the order of the day, a philosophy that’s even applied to the aguas frescas with flavors like chaya, cucumber and lime, and kiwi with peppery hoja santa. Order the Menú Degustación, a six course tasting menu that ends with the restaurant’s signature chocolate tart, and you can try a little bit of everything.

Mexican Enchilada © Adoproducciones/Pixabay

La Casa de Frida

Reviews of La Casa de Frida invariably mention the restaurant’s house rabbit Coco (which allegedly translates as ‘baldy’ in Mayan as well as ‘coconut’ in Spanish) but the brightly painted dining room (inspired by the house of Frida Kahlo) and the traditional Mexican food is worth talking about too. Among the restaurant’s specialities are mole poblano, a rich sauce made with ground chilies, spices and cacao widely regarded as Mexico’s national dish, and chiles en nogada, poblano chilies stuffed with minced meat, spices and fruit, garnished with pomegranate seeds and served with a walnut and cream sauce.

Mexican Enchilada © Adoproducciones/ Pixabay

Apoala

Restaurant, Mexican
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Beef Short Ribs
Beef Short Ribs | ©Stuart_spivack/Flickr
Apoala serves traditional Mexican cuisine but with as many nods towards the state of Oaxaca as to the Yucatán. Start with a pre-dinner margarita or mezcal cocktail before choosing from the wide-ranging menu. Zucchini flowers stuffed with Oaxacan cheese and served with mole amarillo (a mild salsa made with ground guajillo chiles) is among the best of the main courses, with prickly pear sorbet for dessert a further highlight. The restaurant borders the Parque de Santa Lucía, one of the city’s most historic plazas, with tables set out under the surrounding arches. Public concerts are regularly held there in the evenings making Apoala’s terrace a coveted al fresco dining spot.
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Sun:
2:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Mon:
1:00 pm - 12:00 am
Tue:
1:00 pm - 12:00 am
Wed:
1:00 pm - 12:00 am
Thu:
1:00 pm - 12:00 am
Fri:
1:00 pm - 12:00 am
Sat:
1:00 pm - 12:00 am

La Negrita Cantina

Bar, Mexican, $$$
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Meatballs in a Smokey Chipotle Sauce
Meatballs in a Smokey Chipotle Sauce | ©Stuart_spivack/Flickr
This recently renovated cantina has quickly established itself as one of the hippest hang-outs in the city. Invariably rammed full of locals, it offers a wide selection of artisan beers along with cocktails, wines and organic mezcals from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Food consists of bar snacks and small tapas-style plates with a Yucatecan fusion slant, including tacos, sticky chicken wings, meatballs in smoky chipotle chili sauce and tortas filled with daring amounts of cochinita pibil. Though always lively, the atmosphere is best at weekends when La Negrita hosts some of the city’s top Cuban bands. La Negrita Cantina, Calle 62 x 49, Centro, Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico, +52 999 187 7615
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Meatballs in a Smokey Chipotle Sauce ©Stuart_spivack/Flickr