In this weather, no Yucateco can resist the craving for seafood. And though everyone knows that seafood tastes better at the beach, going to seaside restaurants like Crabster or Mobula isn’t always an option. But worry not, because Mérida has outstanding options all over. Here are a few of them.
Centro: Tetiz, los originales de Santiago
We’ve already mentioned Taquería Tetiz in the past, but when it comes to delicious seafood without breaking the bank, it’s a truly outstanding option. With an extensive menu of dishes featuring shrimp, octopus, conch, fish, and stingray, as well as ceviches, cocktails, and seafood soups, you’ll find everything you need to start your day off right. Yes, you read that correctly; at their original branch in the Santiago Market, they are open from 6 am until 1 pm.
Mercado de Santiago: Calle 72 x 57 y 59, Centro
Tel. 999 309 5784
Additional branches at Las Águilas: Calle 7 (Av. República de Corea) #364 x 6 y 10, Las Águilas
Tel. 999 503 4395
Zona Dorada: Calle 52 #236 x 19 y 21, Roma
Tel. 999 309 5787
FB: Tetiz. Los Originales de Santiago
Hotel area: Crabster Paseo 60
Yes, going to Crabster Progreso isn’t always an option, but luckily, they also have a restaurant in the city. If you’ve been around for some time, you might know that Crabster changed the way Yucatecos thought of seafood at the beach, as they were the first restaurant to offer signature cuisine on the Malecón, so it’s no surprise their dishes have also found a home in Paseo 60.
When it comes to extensive menus, Crabster is a serious contender. From a shrimp guacamole to their Lobster Thermidor, and some of my favorites like the Crabster Tuna Carnitas or the Pulpo Frito con Castacán (fried octopus with pork belly), it’s practically impossible not to face a dilemma when choosing. Are you in the mood to try something surprisingly fresh and tasty? Their Aguachile Maya, which is also a recommendation from their award-winning chef, Christian Bravo, is made with shrimp and conch, and served with black Recado (made with smoked chilies), radish, pineapple, and jicama; you’ll feel like you’re at the beach after just one bite.
Hotel area: La Pigua Mérida
In case you didn’t know, “piguas” are river shrimp, very popular in the Gulf region between Tabasco and Campeche, which is precisely where the La Pigua restaurant originates. La Pigua Mérida is one of the most traditional seafood specialty restaurants in the city, famous for delicious dishes such as the outstanding Sir Francis Drake salad, their variety of rice dishes, the wide range of preparations using the freshest seafood, and, of course, the “piguas”. Their availability may vary, but do ask your waiter because they are worth trying. Finally, their extensive menu will make this no easy task, but under no circumstances should you skip dessert: La Pigua Mérida serves very traditional desserts that taste like home; in fact, they’re said to be made from family recipes passed down through generations. They’re perfect for a pleasant post-meal conversation accompanied by a coffee or digestive.
Zona Fiesta: El Sazón de Calín
If you happen to be on Av. José Díaz Bolio (the one that takes you to Plaza Fiesta) on any given weekend, don’t be surprised to see people of all ages lining up in front of a restaurant painted in bright colors. That’s El Sazón de Clarín, a seafood restaurant that quickly became a local favorite. The reason could very well be the extensive menu, ranging from tacos, Tortas (sandwiches), and seafood cocktails to specialties such as Cazuelas, skewers, Tiraditos, Aguachiles…all prepared with freshness, flavor, and quality. Calín’s popularity is such that they now have two restaurants in Mérida, and yet, especially on Sundays, you might find yourself waiting in line to try it.
Av. José Díaz Bolio #202 x 16, México Oriente
Tel. 999 927 7766
Calle 33 x 46-A, Gonzalo Guerrero
Tel. 999 285 6126
FB: El sazón de Calin
North of Mérida: Almar Marisquería
For Pacific-style seafood and preparations, Almar Marisquería is a new Mérida staple. With options ranging from tacos to grilled octopus, a wide variety of appetizers, and original guacamoles, it’s another way to experience the freshness of the sea in the northern part of the city without going as far as Progreso. The standout dishes from our visit were the “Taco Diablito” and the Volcán de Camarón (shrimp volcano). A tip: seating is quite limited, and on weekends there may be a long waitlist. Plan ahead and beat the rush.
East of Mérida: Las Pescadillas (Los Héroes)
Another place to enjoy good (and fresh) no-frills seafood is Las Pescadillas, located on the avenue that leads to the Los Héroes residential area. Their menu is not extensive, but it doesn’t need to be. Its name refers to their fish (Pescado) quesadillas, which are a delicious snack. They also offer ceviches, cocktails, tacos, Tostadas, and Aguachiles, as well as a selection of beers and cocktails (including flavored micheladas) that will cool you down on the hottest day.
Plaza 149: Calle 149 x 39, Fracc. Los Héroes
Tel. 999 906 8559
West of Mérida: La Fondita de Celestún
The first time someone mentioned this place to me and I said I didn’t know it, the response was disbelief. This “hidden” gem is an institution in the western part of the city, and the reason becomes clear once you taste their fried octopus ceviche, Poc Chuc-style octopus, or their signature Haranchac, a garlic sauce ceviche. La Fondita de Celestún is an excellent place to try traditional preparations such as fried fish, ceviches, and cocktails that Yucatecans have enjoyed for years. But if those don’t appeal to you, don’t worry: La Fondita de Celestún has over 150 options on their very long menu. Just keep in mind that the restaurant doesn’t have air conditioning, so expect it to be hot enough to crave a nice cold drink.
Calle 43-B #395 x 134 y 136, El Porvenir
Tel. 999 371 5501
FB: La Fondita De Celestun
Poniente de Mérida: Kraken Alta Cocina del Mar
You know what Kraken refers to (a fearsome sea monster); Alta Cocina del Mar translates roughly into high-end sea kitchen. While you may be tempted to think of an overly gourmet place with small portions and high prices, as it turns out, Kraken is more about the quality of their products and the love with which they’re turned into something new. It turns out that two of the restaurant’s partners, Chef Eduardo Estrella and his brother Edwin, come from a long fishing tradition in Isla Arena, Campeche. They know the hardships that fishermen and their families go through, and above all, they know that the quality of the seafood is what makes cuisine great.
That’s why the menu at Kraken groups the products by origin, whether it’s local catch of the day (including options like snook, horse-eye jack, or trout, but never grouper—while its fishing is only banned two months a year, it is definitely a threatened species) or internationally sourced high-quality products such as tuna or salmon. Both the Isleño-style Octopus Tacos and the Smoked Fish Machaca Enchiladas have everything they need to win your love, but the award-winning Pulpo Kraken (grilled octopus served with guacamole and corn Esquites) and the Three-Cheese Mac and Cheese (with crab meat and a parmesan cheese crust) will surprise you and make you want to come back again and again.
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 Tetiz, Crabster, La Pigua, El Sazón de Calín, Alicia Navarrete, and Yucatán Today for use in Yucatán Today.
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