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Our Favorite Restaurants in Mérida

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During our 91 days in the Yucatán, we spent a lot of time on the road. So whenever we were in Mérida, we tried to cook healthy meals and eat at home. Too many Mexican restaurants turn Mike and Jürgen into pudgy boys. Despite our best efforts, though, we couldn’t resist visiting a good percentage of Mérida’s eating establishments. Here are some of our favorites; not necessarily the city’s “top-rated” restaurants, but for one reason or another, the ones we most enjoyed.

Restaurant Tips Merida
Chaya Maya

If you’re looking for a classy place to try some classic Yucatecan cuisine, look no further than the Chaya Maya. This restaurant is a Mérida institution, with waitresses dressed in huipiles and even a woman at the entrance hand-forming the tortillas that will soon be on your table. The prices are reasonable and the food is fantastic, especially the sopa de lima and poc-chuc. There are two branches of Chaya Maya near each other, but we preferred the one on C/ 55, near the Plaza de Santa Lucia. [Location]

El Tucho

A raucous restaurant found a block away from the Plaza Grande, our initial visit to El Tucho was quite a surprise. I don’t know what we had been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this crowded hall with a band wailing away on stage. It was initially overwhelming and we almost left immediately, but I’m glad we didn’t. The food was good and, with each beer, the music sounded better. Plus, our ebullient waiter just kept on bringing out free tapas. If you don’t mind noise, head here for a fun meal in an authentically Yucatecan setting. [Location]

Bio Restaurant Cura-Kit

Here’s a restaurant that I can almost guarantee won’t appear in your guidebook. We only decided to eat at the Bio-Restaurant Cura-Kit (on C/ 48 and 71, adjacent to El Arco Hotel) because it was so close to our house. As luck would have it, it turned out to be one of our very favorites. They have daily specials at great prices, just 50 pesos for a huge plate, with a drink included. We especially liked eating here on Mondays, when the special was brochetas (chicken shish-kabobs). [Location]

La Vida Catarina

Found on C/ 60 between the Plaza Grande and Santa Lucia, La Vida Catarina was the restaurant in Mérida which we visited more than any other. It was our default; if we couldn’t be bothered to think of anything else, we knew we’d be happy here, safe inside its charming courtyard, with its daily drink specials, unobtrusive waitstaff and quiet music. Yes, quiet music! In Mexico! We came here over and over, and never could figure out why it wasn’t more crowded. [Location]

Salamanca Grill

Friends had recommended an Argentine grill called La Rueda, but when we showed up on a Monday afternoon, it was closed. A woman passing by on the street saw our looks of despair and recommended we try the nearby Salamanca Grill. Ma’am, on the off chance that you’re reading this… we thank you from the bottom of our stomachs. Our meal here was one of the best we had in Mérida. A small, dark restaurant with huge, mouthwatering steaks at prices that almost made me feel guilty. Perhaps La Rueda would have been just as good, but I can’t imagine it being better. [Location]

Restaurante Mary’s

We had walked by Restaurante Mary’s at least a dozen times, and always this cheap and simple cantina on C/ 63 was packed full with locals. That’s a good sign, and though we kept promising ourselves to check it out, we never did. Finally, on our last week in Mérida, we remembered Mary’s, and it was just as good as we suspected it would be. We’d eaten a lot of cheap, quick meals around the nearby Mercado de San Benito which weren’t bad, but none could compare in value or quality to this one. [Location]

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Restaurant Tips Merida
Restaurant Tips Merida
Restaurant Tips Merida
Restaurant Tips Merida
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February 15, 2014 at 10:29 pm Comments (3)

A Quick Trip to Historic Maní

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After visiting the ruins of Mayapan, we made our way south to Maní. This tiny town is famous across the peninsula for its cuisine, but it was also the scene of one of the Yucatán’s darkest moments.

Mani Yucatan

If you’re about to tour the Yucatán by bus, make sure it’s not a Sunday. Or at least, not the Sunday before Christmas. Getting from Mérida to Mayapan wasn’t bad, but continuing to Maní was a nightmare. The 24-kilometer journey took more than two hours of waiting and transferring; the service was not just infrequent, but achingly slow.

Our eventual return to Mérida took three hours, since the bus looped into every tiny town and stopped for anyone who waved. There were people waiting for the bus on almost every corner. So we’d stop and pick up new passengers, and then ten seconds later, stop at the next corner. And then again, ten seconds after that. It was infuriating. Designated bus stops seem to be a concept absolutely unknown to the Yucatán. (Hey people, I’ve got a crazy idea that will save you so much time.)

When we finally arrived in Maní, we were starving, and made a beeline straight to El Principe Tutul-Xiu, a well-known and popular restaurant. On this Sunday afternoon, the crowd was considerable and we had to queue for quite a while before getting a seat. While we waited, the classically-attired waiters carried plate after plate of poc-chuc right under our noses, and I was driven to a state of almost violent hunger.

Mani Yucatan

Just as I had made up my mind to pounce, we were seated. Immediately, we ordered two portions of poc-chuc, sopa de lima and, allowing hunger to conquer judgement, an extra order of panuchos. Tutul-Xiu has been cranking out authentic Yucatecan food since 1973, and has expanded to Oxkutzcab and Mérida. The restaurant’s popularity is well-deserved; not only was it the best poc-chuc I’ve had, but the prices are unbelievable considering the size of the portions. And the festive atmosphere inside the beautiful palapa is unbeatable. Tutul-Xiu, by the way, was the name of the Maya kingdom which encompassed Maní, Mayapan and Uxmal, at the time of the Spanish conquest.

Ah yes, the Spaniards. The peninsula’s new rulers were never shy about committing atrocities against indigenous populations, but Maní was the scene of perhaps their most wanton. On July 12, 1562, Bishop Diego de Landa ordered an auto-da-fé here, burning every Maya book, idol, and codex that had been gathered from across the peninsula. With their strange and indecipherable symbols, he declared these works to be “of the devil”. Thanks to a single religious crusader’s closed-mindedness, practically the entirety of Maya literature was lost, irretrievably. Without de Landa’s interference, our understanding of the ancient culture would be incalculably greater.

So I was in a combative mood when we visited the Convento de San Miguel Arcangel, built in 1549, in the center of Maní. But as much as I was hating on everything Catholic, the convent was so lovely and peaceful, my rage soon dissipated. We were all alone in the cavernous structure, free to wander at will through the courtyards and out into the back gardens. They might have brought ruin upon the Maya but, boy, do those Catholics know how to build a convent.

Location of Maní on our Map

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January 19, 2014 at 11:39 pm Comments (4)
Our Favorite Restaurants in Mrida During our 91 days in the Yucatán, we spent a lot of time on the road. So whenever we were in Mérida, we tried to cook healthy meals and eat at home. Too many Mexican restaurants turn Mike and Jürgen into pudgy boys. Despite our best efforts, though, we couldn't resist visiting a good percentage of Mérida's eating establishments. Here are some of our favorites; not necessarily the city's "top-rated" restaurants, but for one reason or another, the ones we most enjoyed.
For 91 Days