Simple, traditional and invariably delicious, the food in Valladolid centers around Yucatec classics served throughout the city’s restaurants.
Next to concrete Cancún, this part of the Yucatán peninsula’s steamy center oozes historic charm. Streets of Spanish colonial houses painted in blues and pinks run to palm-filled plazas, watched over by bell towers. Most visitors pop by on their way to or from neighboring Chichén Itzá, but it’s more than worth overnighting in a period hotel or hacienda, soaking up the atmosphere and sampling the wealth of simple, traditional Mayan restaurants.
The clue’s in the name at this small, family-owned restaurant near Candelaria church, which almost exclusively serves tamales. Low prices and big wooden tables characterize this spot, whose whitewash-and-distressed-concrete dining room leads onto an outdoor terrace. Many of the recipes are genuinely local – including the delicious chachacua tamales (with chicken, egg and annatto red sauce) and the refreshing, chaya-infused lemonade – with takeout options available.
Even budgeting backpackers don’t balk at the prices in this simple family dining room. Food is ultra-fresh and much of it regional – try the poc chuc (pork marinaded in a citrus reduction, served with refried black beans and pico de gallo salad) and local favorite longaniza de valladolid (smoked pork sausage with annatto, garlic and chili). The restaurant is a few blocks north of Parque Francisco Cantón Rosado, the main square.
This Valladolid favorite sits right across from the beautiful, semi-ruined Spanish convent of Saint Bernard of Siena, with tables set under the cloisters alongside a tranquil, leafy garden. The Yucatec food is as good as the atmosphere – with dishes such as panuchos de cochinita pibil (refried tortillas stuffed with shredded pork, beans and chili) and red chilaquiles (refried tortillas with egg in an annatto sauce) – while there are plenty of vegetarian options and international standards including burgers and lasagne.
El Mesón de Marqués exemplifies Valladolid’s charm, with tables scattered by the cloisters of an atrium garden in a stately townhouse hotel in the city center. The menu is a mix of Yucatec and pan-Mexican dishes – seek the chilaquiles and the chicken and cheese enchiladas – ready to be washed down with a local beer or a long, lemony margarita.
Sitting in the Muuch boutique hotel – a converted Spanish colonial townhouse just north of the main plaza, K’Uxub offers a menu of modern Yucatec food cooked with pizzazz. Yucatec chilaquiles come in a rich red sauce, stuffed with chicken, cheese and avocado. Breakfasts are huge, and the restaurant serves great cocktails and mocktails. Try ya’ax, a deliciously refreshing, non-alcoholic mix of pineapple, orange, chaya, coriander, mint and aloe vera – perfect in the sweltering heat of the day.
Valladolid’s best and most authentic Mayan restaurant is easy to miss – sitting a little outside the center in a modest converted house on the Tulum road – but it’s well worth a detour. Beautifully presented dishes, prepared entirely with ingredients grown on-site or sourced from local smallholders, are served in a terrace garden, where plants are labeled with their Mayan names. Signatures include boox kaax píibil (chicken breast in chili sauce), served on a thick Yucatec tortilla.
Set in a lush tropical garden, watched over by flitting birds and a giant facsimile Olmec head sculpture, Atrio offers a mixed menu of local and international food and long, refreshing juices and cocktails. Beef or pork cochinita pibil (with shredded meat, beans and chili) come with generously stuffed baskets of corn tortilla. There are also steaks and pasta for international tastes, and if you’re here early, breakfasts are big enough to keep you going for most of the day.
Full up? Explore Valladolid from a beautiful hotel with your loved one, bookable through Culture Trip. Branch out further into the peninsula of Yucatán by exploring other spectacular destinations such as the white beaches of Tulum, and sample delicious food while you’re there, with a punchy margarita in hand.
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