There’s nothing like traditional flavors and preparations. However (and despite the fact that there is endless variety within very specific dishes), there comes a time when travelers, visitors, and locals alike feel like trying something completely different, while still making the most of the wonderful food variety we have in Yucatán. Our flavors, ingredients, and preparations are so unique and special that they’re an endless source of inspiration for local, national, and international chefs, which use them in new, creative ways to come up with new classics of Yucatecan cuisine. Of course, it would be impossible (both for one’s waistline and wallet) to try them all, but here are a few I’ve tried and fallen in love with.
I’m not at all an authority concerning the history of modern Yucatecan cuisine, so I do want to highlight that I’m speaking from experience alone. The first time I personally came across non-traditional dishes featuring local ingredients was at Trotter’s: specifically, their Pollo Xcatic, chicken served over a creamy sauce made with the very local Xcatic pepper. A good menu never stops evolving, but there are classics that are irreplaceable. That’s the case with the Pollo Xcatic at Trotter’s, which, after many years, is still served along with a wide variety of dishes made with local ingredients and inspiration.
Circuito Colonias (Calle 31) #134 x 34 y 36, Buenavista, Mérida
Don Diablo Rooftop Bar and Oriundo (Valladolid)
Valladolid is very, very quickly becoming a world-class tourist destination. It’s not at all surprising, then, that the restaurant scene has suddenly exploded, and that there’s such a wide range of unique food options here; truly so wide that it’s hard to pick just one. Terraza Don Diablo, on the rooftop of the Mesón del Marqués hotel, just across from Valladolid’s main square, for example, offers not only a great view of the park and the San Servacio church, but also a signature cuisine menu by chef Elio Xicum, who was in the Saint Pellegrino Young Chef finals, in the Fine Dining Lovers category. Originally from Chumayel, Elio is very proud of his roots; his creations, which you can taste both at Don Diablo and at Oriundo, can vouch for that. At Don Diablo, for example, he offers a pork burger with Longaniza and fire-roasted Habanero pepper mayo, as well as a chilled garden melon soup. At Oriundo, the menu is completely inspired by Yucatán, with dishes that evoke Guayaberas, Maya blue, the Celestún Ría…As he puts it, they’re destinations turned into dishes.
Don Diablo Terraza Bar
Calle 39 x 40 y 42, Centro, Valladolid
Carr. Libre Mérida – Valladolid km. 3.5, entronque a, Dzitnup, Valladolid
Since 1995, Hacienda Teya has undoubtedly been a landmark in traditional cuisine. However, in 2019, the family behind this Yucatecan institution decided to bring their flavors to Mérida, and use the occasion to give them a more contemporary twist. At Teya Viva, in Paseo 60, they have two special menus: “Homenaje a Yucatán (Homage to Yucatán)” and “Teya de Noche (Teya at Night)”. They both feature a list of very local, yet incredibly novel, and definitely delicious dishes. They will all pleasantly surprise you, but, to me, what no visit should go without is an appetizer: the Dip de Carme Ahumada (smoked pork dip). A selection of these dishes is also available at Restaurante Teya Santa Lucía, their most recently opened location.
Paseo 60, calle 60 x 35, Centro, Mérida
IG & FB: TEYA Gastronomía Yucateca Viva
Restaurante Hacienda Teya
Calle 60 x 53 y 55, Centro, Mérida
IG & FB: Restaurante Hacienda Teya
Catrín offers a concept that can be very surprising if you come in unknowingly. You could think of it as a modern cantina, but, while their signature drinks are outstanding (my personal favorite: Malix), their dishes are out of this world. The menu is mostly inspired by traditional Mexican cuisine, but many of them incorporate local ingredients and spice mixes (like their spectacular Lechón pork with Recado Negro, or their Papas Criollas—potato wedges with Longaniza de Valladolid sausage), in a very nice, original atmosphere.
Calle 47 x 52 y 54, Centro, Mérida
Maya de Asia
To me, this might be the crown jewel of culinary innovation in Yucatán. I won’t lie: the first time I went, I didn’t really know what to expect. To me, the concept was, simply put, weird. The first bite was enough to understand it all, however. Our everyday flavors (including Yucatecan and Arabic), combined with more “exotic” flavors and spices from the East, come together to create something much bigger than the sum of its parts. Roasted cauliflower with Recado Rojo and Labneh, a Poc Chuc shawarma, Pad Thai with Longaniza de Valladolid, Mexican rice pudding with cardamom…The menu is, by itself, a journey you can go on, one sitting at a time.
Maya de Asia
Plaza The Harbor, Prolongación Montejo, Mérida
IG & FB: Maya de Asia
Idilio Folklore Cervecero (Valladolid)
In Spanish, Idilio is another word for romance, and it’s truly a great name for a restaurant you can fall in love with the second you set foot in it. If you’re a beer aficionado, this is as far as you’ll need to read, as their local and artisanal beer menu is so extensive it dwarfs similar menus in Mérida (in addition to them having their own label). If you’re not, trust me: that’s not going to be an issue. Let’s say you’re not into great cocktails either (though, if you are, theirs are really great). The food is amazing. While not exactly a regional restaurant, with several options that seem more inspired by Mexico and the world, most of their creations are influenced by our flavors and ingredients, and everything is simply delicious. Add in the magic atmosphere of their lovely terrace and, boom, an instant classic.
Idilio Folklore Cervecero
Calz. de Los Frailes #230-A, Sisal, Valladolid
IG & FB: Idilio Folklore Cervecero
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 Olivia Camarena Cervera, Maya de Asia, Restaurante Hacienda Teya, Catrín, Elio Xicum Cobá, and Trotter’s for use in Yucatán Today.
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