During Mexican cuisine’s rise through the ranks of the world’s most popular, Unesco bestowed it with Intangible Cultural Heritage status. That’s largely thanks to the infusion of ancient flavors from the recipes of ancient Maya. As the capital of the historic Mayan region of Yucatán, it’s therefore no wonder that Mérida boasts a particularly rich gastronomic scene. Here, we’ve whittled down its many places to eat into this list of flavorsome favorites.
There are now two branches of this local favorite in Mérida – and both register as go-to restaurants for authentic Mexican food. Named after the spinach-like leaf used in many of the region’s traditional dishes, one is set in a huge, airy building on Calle 55, while its more modest and modern counterpart is nearby on Calle 57. Expect Yucatec favorites, from the famous cochinita pibil (slow-cooked pulled pork) to the less-known tikin xic (marinated seafood wrapped in banana leaf).
Considered one of the top restaurants in Mérida, multiple award-winning Kuuk takes traditional Yucatec cooking and wraps it in a high-end gastronomic experience. It’s all about the tasting menu here, where cutting-edge culinary techniques are employed in dishes such as soursop with sea snail, and pibil rabbit with mezcal. It’s a world away from Mexican street food, but with flavors that capture its essence. You’ll find the restaurant at the top of swanky Paseo de Montejo – a cab hop from the center.
Several outposts of this local street food chain can be found around the city, but the closest to the center is along Calle 59. It’s an indoor-outdoor set-up, with classic tacos and tortas, and chicken and pork guisados (stews). A choice of home-made salsa helps spice things up, and rock-bottom prices mean you can keep going until you’re full – with barely a dent in your wallet.
Taquería de la Unión offers the best of Mexican street food, but serves it in the reassuring surrounding of a bright and modern restaurant. Tacos and tortas provide the base for a pork-centric selection of toppings from around the region, though there are a couple of vegan options, too. While delicious, the tacos aren’t huge, but the prices make it easy to order just one more…
Opened in 1972, this Yucatec restaurant is about as traditional as they come – both in atmosphere and cuisine. There’s little in the way of fancy flourishes or contemporary twists, just expertly cooked regional dishes bursting with authentic flavors and quality ingredients. Their rich and delicately spiced relleno negro (black turkey stew) comes highly recommended, and they also feature one of the longest dessert menus you’ll find in town, so save room.
If you fancy somewhere a little out of town that’s surrounded by, say, peacocks and deer, this traditional Mexican hacienda fits the bill. The country estate dates back to 1682 and was rescued from ruin almost 50 years ago. Regional classics such as queso fundido (melted cheese with chorizo), sopa de lima (chicken lime soup) and cochinita pibil are exemplary here; some say the best you’ll find anywhere. After your meal, work it all off with a stroll around the picturesque grounds.
This article is an update of one originally by A.J. Samuels.
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