Spanning 3,200 km from end to end, it’s no surprise that Mexico is such a diverse country. Need some perspective? The distance between London and Moscow is 2,500 km; 3,200 km separate Lisbon from Kiev. Unlike Europeans, though, Mexicans are united by one language (although, to be fair, a Yucatecan accent is very different from a Campeche or Tabasco one), one flag, and one national identity. As such, Mexican food (one of the first to be recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage treasure) also shares a label, despite comprising a seemingly infinite diversity of ingredients, styles, and preparations.
In the past, options were much more limited. However, Mérida’s constant growth and the influx of new residents have expanded the available offer of authentic dishes from elsewhere in México. Would you like to try some? Here are some of our followers on Instagram recommended:
The north of the country is famous for its love of grilling and for the quality of the meat that is available there, especially beef and kid. The food is not necessarily spicy, but you better believe the salsas are. Another distinctive element of Norteña Mexican food is the predominance of flour tortillas over corn.
Two places were widely recommended here. First, for street beef Barbacoa, there’s Barbacoa de Res Estilo Monterrey Don Melchor Garza (that’s how you’ll find them on Facebook). They have three stands (Francisco de Montejo, Hospital Faro del Mayab, and Altabrisa), and the flavor, experts say, is exactly what it should be, except that Barbacoa should be served with cabbage and cilantro instead of onion and cilantro.
Another option is Barrio Regio (IG: barrioregiomx), one of the few places in Mérida where you can try the typical roasted Cabrito (the aforementioned kid or baby goat), authentic Menudo Norteño, and traditional sides such as Frijoles Con Veneno, Machitos or Jugo de Carne. They also have a boutique where you can buy these and other delicacies to eat at home.
Jalisco – Nayarit – Sinaloa
Let me explain myself before you boo me for covering three states here: Mexico has 32, and I have room for five. I promise it’ll make sense in the end.
They say that Jalisco is the most Mexican state: that’s where Charros, Mariachis, and tequila come from. When it comes to food, it’s best known for Tortas Ahogadas, Carne en Su Jugo, and Pozole Tapatío; note that these are all pretty spicy dishes. This is especially true of Tortas Ahogadas. In México, a Torta is another name for a sandwich. Tortas Ahogadas are sandwiches soaked in tomato and Chile de Árbol salsas. If you want to try them, they say there’s a food truck in the Altabrisa/Montebello area that makes them with authentic Birotes (sourdough bread from Guadalajara), and that they also make Carne en Su Jugo upon request (FB: Tortas Ahogadas MID).
Another option that comes highly recommended is CHARRO Zarandiao (FB: CHARRO Zarandiao). Despite specializing in Jalisco food (including Tequila Cazuelas and Cantaritos), they also serve Nayarit-style grilled seafood and Sinaloa-style Aguachiles (See? Three in one!). Come for the food, stay for the wonderful mariachi show on weekends, featuring the very talented Mariachi Estrella Juvenil.
The offer of typical Michoacán dishes in Yucatan is quite limited if we don’t consider popsicles. What you can easily find here are the Carnitas: they’re made of pork (the whole thing) cooked in (usually) the largest copper saucepan you’ll ever see until they are golden brown. Then they’re served in corn-tortilla tacos or Gorditas with onion, cilantro, and salsas. The Carnitas themselves are not spicy, but the accompanying sauces usually are. There are endless options, but those at El Cazito de Michoacán (FB: El Cazito de Michoacán de la 60), next to the Tecnológico de Mérida, are among the most recommended.
Another Michoacán delicacy that is becoming more widespread in Mérida is Birria: a spicy broth made from beef, lamb, or goat. At Mr. Carnero (FB: Mr Carnero Birria MID) they make lamb Birria, and also use it to prepare Quesabirrias and Costras (“tacos” made with crunchy cheese instead of tortillas).
México City is a melting pot of cultures by itself, so it would be impossible to cover all its dishes in this space. The Tacos Sudados or De Canasta, for example, are typical of the capital. However, what Chilangos living in Yucatan recommended was a place for México-City-style Tortas. Tortas Estilo México are made with a sandwich roll called Telera, and usually include more ingredients than I have space to list. Interested? Try them at Tortas Chonchas (FB: Tortas Chonchas), which has the true Chilango flavor, our readers say.
Another place that delights former México City denizens is Taquerías El Ñero (FB: Taquerias “EL ÑERO” Merida), which offers beef head, Suadero, Pastor, and Tripa tacos, among others.
What Oaxacan and Yucatecan food have in common is how different they are from the rest of Mexico, and how much work they take to prepare. All the varieties of mole (and guaranteed that there are more than you know) are from Oaxaca, as is string cheese (Quesillo, known here as Oaxaca cheese), mezcal, Tlayudas, Chapulines, and Cecina.
Tlayudas, which we could describe as giant, crunchy quesadillas in a corn tortilla, can be found in small family-run businesses and food trucks (FB: La Tehuanita). To try more elaborate dishes, such as Mole, and with special ingredients, such as Chapulines (grasshoppers), you’ll probably have better luck at restaurants such as El Apapacho, Tatemar, or Matilda Salón Mexicano.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Feel free to tell us, we love to discover!
By Alicia Navarrete
Communicologist born circumstantially in México City, but who says “uay” since 1985. Life has allowed me to see the world, which in turn has allowed me to discover how much I love the place where I live.
Photography by Alicia Navarrete and the restaurants for its use in Yucatán Today.
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