Last week I flew to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state in Mexico, with Tropic Air. An hour and a half flight from Belize City and I was totally digging the culture, the history, the art, the architecture, the shopping, the buzz…just being in a large city.
I ate often in Merida and I ate really really good food. Let me run down QUICKLY (I promise) my favorite places .
La Chaya Maya: Real Yucatecan food with a bit of Yucatecan kitch. The original restaurant is gorgeous in an old building with a courtyard.
There is a second outpost just a few blocks away that has a more diner like feel.
The menu is short but not simple to someone unfamiliar with Maya/Yucatan food. Some items were familiar to me from living in Belize like pibil (meat smoked underground until super tender) and escabeche but I needed lots of explanation.
The first thing you are going to want to order is the Jugo Chaya. Chaya is a sort of local green, almost like a spinach and this place makes it in a gorgeous sweetened juice. Excellent to enjoy with your corn chips and sauces.
The Sopa De Lima was simple and tasty.
The pork pibil delicious. They do not warn you but DO NOT BE TEMPTED to take a bit of the habanero. MISTAKE.
Do be tempted to load up on the sweet pickled red onions (pickled in lime)…
That was my neighbor’s dish that I coveted. I had a relleno that was a bland hunk of cheese stuffed with bland meat and covered in pasty cream sauce. Not a favorite.
I had room for dessert but the menu was…confusing to me.
We ordered a few combination plates and my favorite BY FAR was the Caballero Pobre (or “Poor Gentleman”).
Bread soaked in honey and lots of cinnamon until it was custard like inside. Delicious.
Hmmm…made with French bread, I’m guessing that this ISN’T exactly a Mayan classic. But it’s tasty.
For a taste of the local cuisine and a beautiful setting, I’d definitely recommend La Chaya. They’ve got a website if you’d like to check that out: La Chaya Maya Restaurante.
ESCARGOT: This is the spot that I frequented the most. A small small French bakery filled with inexpensive croissants both plain and flavored. Heaven.
All ran between $1US and $1.50 US.
This place is no joke. Buttery flaky, really REALLY good croissants made by a baker whose original shop is in San Cristobal in Chiapas, Mexico. The French influence is all over Merida…in the architecture and in the food. It’s a geographically separated and independent city that often had closer tie to France than to the capital of Mexico. And for that…I thank them.
No this is not the bakery…just an old house on the Paseo de Montejo.
Here’s the small bakery. Don your beret, buy your pastry in a small brown paper bag and eat it while you are walking. My favorite was the strawberry and cream cheese croissant. I ate lots just to make sure.
Mexican cuisine with a very modern twist. It’s a gorgeous spot to sit outside and watch the world go by and a very hot ticket on Thursday nights when there is live music and dancing in the park at 9pm.
I like the toasted tortillas served before the meal with the DELICIOUS fire roasted tomato salsa.
I LOVED the salad with beets, goat cheese, pesto and marshmallow. A surprisingly DELICIOUS combo.
And the squash blossoms stuffed with Oaxaca cheese.
Big fan of this spot.
More on the quirky, interesting side is CASA DE FRIDA. I’d go back, if just for the beautiful inside/outside dining and for the mascot, Coco the Rabbit.
The place opens at 6pm officially. I knocked on the locked door at 6:10…the owner/waiter/rabbit trainer looked annoyed and waited for me to speak. Are you open? He sighed dramatically, shrugged and opened the door. Ha.
He’s going to make me work for it. This place MUST be good!
Coco also unblinkingly stared at me as I entered and stepped over her to get to the inside garden.
Does she bite? Again…the guy shrugged. This restaurant must be excellent!
I ordered the goat cheese salad. All the elements are there…I guess. But quite bland.
And then I tried the special dish. The Chile En Nogada. Interesting and delicious. A sweet creamy spiced cashew sauce over a chile stuff with meat and apple and pear. Almost Moroccan in spice and flavor. This dish is SWEET but that is right up my alley.
Merida is a large metropolitan city and I found that they have amazing Italian food. I ate at two…maybe three places and my favorite was OLIVA. Another place that makes you work for it.
Oliva is a tiny, TINY spot (I think I counted 16 seats at a handful of tables) that opens at 7pm and is packed at 7:01. I was placed at the bar…where I was basically eating in the kitchen and my bar-mate, the cash register. No worries. The food was gorgeous.
The menu is small, the place is small…
I had an amazing spinach salad with bacon and avocado and some flat bread with olive oil and…god it was good.
More people came in while I was eating and sat, basically, on my lap. But who cares…the fresh pasta Carbonara LOADED with cheese was amazing too. Another very dark picture…
And so there it is. In Merida, I ate and drank amazingly well. In GORGEOUS spots.
And these pictures are just breakfast.
For all my information on Merida, Mexico, check the blog posts below. AND if you want much MORE frequent updates, pictures, questions and answers on life in Belize, make sure to LIKE my facebook page SanPedroScoop.com.
I think it’s worth joining facebook for…but then…I am SLIGHTLY biased.