As a traditional refuge of Mayan culture, the elegant colonial city of Mérida in Yucatán state is one of the top cities for Mexican eating. The regional cuisine is noted for its heavy use of cumin, cinnamon and the orange-red condiment, achiote – as well as for baking dishes in banana leaves, a technique that imparts a delicious and unique flavor. The good news is you don’t need to spend a fortune dining in Mexico to enjoy the local cuisine. Here are some of the best places to eat out on the cheap in the foodie paradise of Mérida.
One of the most popular eateries in the city, Wayan’e is famous for its delicious breakfast tacos. The menu is expansive and includes original varieties of taco such as chicken in mustard sauce and eggs with chili. There are plenty of options for vegetarians but for meat-eaters the castakan (crispy pork belly) is highly recommended. All of the fillings are also offered in tortas, or bread rolls. Founded in 1991, Wayan’e currently has four restaurants in Mérida, with the original location found northeast of the town center, on Calle 15.
This homely eatery specializes in healthy vegetarian food, although it has meat options as well. As is the custom in a “comida corrida,” or set lunch establishment, the menu changes daily. However, the food is invariably delicious and compares with some of the more expensive restaurants in the city. The ingredients used are fresh, aromatic and delicious, and the service is fast and friendly. We would also highly recommend sampling their espressos, which are some of the best in Mérida, if not in the entire Yucatán Peninsula.
Just off the main plaza, but surprisingly hard to find, Las Vigas is the stuff of legend in Mérida. The beloved eatery offers delicious food and large portions at incredibly inexpensive prices. The menu ranges from sports bar fare and Tex-Mex to more traditional options. The French fries and succulent, tender ribs are delicious. Many locals come to the venue to drink beer and watch sports matches, so we would recommend trying to eat early so you can avoid the crowds. There are no blaring signs outside of Las Vigas – to reach it you need to walk up a staircase inside of Los Arcos Hotel.
Located in the bustling Mercado Lucas de Gálvez, La Socorrito is a tiny family-run operation that has been serving delicious cochito horneado – a marinated pork dish – for more than six decades. Traditionally associated with the city of Chiapa de Corzo in the southern state of Chiapas, the preparation of the dish begins a day before it is served, and the meat is slow-cooked in underground pits. A true hidden gem.
This authentic and inexpensive restaurant offers tasty traditional Yucatán cuisine. Named after the iconic tree spinach that is often employed in the region’s dishes, there are currently two branches of the restaurant in Mérida. We would recommend opting for the new location, which is situated in an elegant colonial building just off the Parque Santa Lucía. The cochinita pibil – a traditional dish consisting of pork marinated in orange juice and ground achiote seeds – is simply delicious.
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