Mérida (all of Yucatán, really) offers an ever-increasing number of places to try different food—some of them offering typical dishes from other places in the world, some of them offering new twists on what we already know. However, there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned classic restaurant in Mérida. Here’s a list of completely non-touristy places that old-school Meridanos love to visit.
Taquerías: Celes and Nuevo San Fernando
Everyone knows the best Cochinita Pibil and Lechón al Horno places near their own homes, but there are places that are just legendary. Two of those are Taquería Nuevo San Fernando (across the street from the Centro Internacional de Congresos) and, in the city’s east, Taquería Celes, on Circuito Colonias and Av. Fidel Velázquez. Which feels more traditional to each Yucateco might depend on where you live; for my parents, for as long as I can remember and to this day, there are no Saturdays without a Torta (read: sandwich) from San Fernando. The truth is that both offer guaranteed flavor, whether in Tortas (my personal preference), tacos (in handmade tortillas, by the way), or by the kilo to take home. Also appreciated is the friendly service that used to be a feature at most establishments in Mérida.
Av. Fidel Velázquez (Calle 59) x Circuito Colonias, Col. Esperanza
FB: Taqueria “Celes”
Av. Cupules 503-A x 60 y 62 (junto al Oxxo)
WhatsApp 999 393 5421 y 999 994 3419
FB: Nuevo San Fernando Taqueria
Don’t you love having seafood tacos for breakfast? If you answered anything but “yes,” you’ve surely never visited the Santiago market by morning. It’s time to remedy that and try the wide variety served at Taquería Tetiz. You can’t miss it—it’s become so popular, it now spans almost the entire hallway that leads into the market. Even so, there might be a few minutes’ wait for a table at the busiest times of the weekend. The menu is beyond wide: of course, there’s fried fish and shrimp tacos, as well as Pulpo en su Tinta (octopus cooked in ink), in addition to classics such as Asado (pork) and turkey. In my opinion, however, the ones you really shouldn’t miss are their shrimp vinaigrette and seafood-stuffed poblano tacos (or tortas, if that sounds more appetizing to you).
Calle 72 x 57 y 59, Centro
Tel. 999 309 5784
FB: Tetiz. Los Originales de Santiago
Mié. – lun. 7 am – 1:30 pm
Luigi’s, in Itzimná, is almost as legendary as the centuries-old ceiba that stands a few meters away from its entrance. If you ask around as to what makes it famous, you might get different answers, as each family of patrons has a preferred classic: it could be the pizza, the sandwiches, the (very inexpensive) lunch menu, the pies…Each of those has a traditional, characteristic touch. Me, personally, I’d mention the Luigi’s Especial Sandwich, which truly does its name justice: I have never tried a sandwich in Mérida that even resembles it. Be warned: service can be (very) slow, but I suppose that’s part of what makes it a good opportunity to have great conversations with whoever you’re with. Provided nobody keeps looking at their phone.
Calle 21 #102 Local B x 22 y 20, Col. Itzimná
Tel. 999 927 3120
Lun. – dom. 9 – 1 am
In a place as hot as the one we’re lucky enough to live in, it’s not surprising to find as many and as long-lasting options to enjoy traditional ice cream (or sorbets, actually) as we do. Deisy, Polito, Calín, La (and El) Principal, La Reina de Montejo, and Lugo are just some of the best-known. At each of them, you’ll find artisanally made frozen treats, with typical local flavors, such as Mantecado (a vanilla cream-style flavor), Crema Morisca (a traditional cream recipe that’s usually kept secret by families), or local fruits including soursop, mandarin orange, local plum, or mamey. Polito, for example, has been making delicious ice cream for over 110 years. It was Don Polito who, at some point when Heladez (the Yucatecan cold) was keeping people from buying ice cream, came up with the idea to serve a warm wafer stuffed with cheese instead: that’s how the famous Marquesitas were invented. You can try any of his creations at their store in Mercado de Santiago. Lugo, on the other hand, got his start back in 1935, with a cart at the gates of Escuela Modelo on Paseo de Montejo. Ice cream is still the Lugo family business, which they run from their home in García Ginerés, also offering delivery.
Calle 29 #252-A x 34 y 36, Col. García Ginerés
Tel. 999 128 4000
WhatsApp: 999 379 0837
FB: Helados lugo
How do you explain the concept of Colonos to someone who’s not familiar with it? Perhaps as an old-fashioned family restaurant; a place where Yucatecan (extended) families would go for lunch and a nice, long conversation: first over drinks and snacks, and then over traditional food and maybe a nice home-style dessert. It sounds similar to what’s known as a “Botanero” (a place where you order beer and get snacks), but, at Colonos, the atmosphere is much more about the food and the conversation than the drinks and snacks. Any day is good to visit, but Saturdays (and especially Sundays) are your best bet to witness a Yucatecan tradition that still gathers friends and family of all ages.
Calle 21 281-J x 24 y 26, Col. Miguel Alemán
Tel. 999 927 0834
FB: Restaurantes Colonos
Lun. – dom. 12 – 6 pm
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 use in Yucatán Today.
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