Top Restaurants in Mérida and Yucatán
Looking for cuisine that reflects its surroundings? At the beach bars serving this morning’s catch in a bright, citrusy ceviche all the way to dining rooms where recipes on the menu go back generations, meals on the Yucatán peninsula will reveal find fresh ingredients and careful attention to age-old techniques.
Calle 19 #150-DK por 78 y 80, Av. Malecón., Centro, Boulevard Turístico Malecón, 97320 Progreso, Yuc., Mexico
Set right on a stretch of sand, Eladio’s is a superb choice for a cool drink and a bite to eat while exploring the port town of Progreso. Dine in the large restaurant under palapa roofs or sit directly on the beach. Eladio’s has been a Yucatán favorite for over 60 years; the first outpost opened in Mérida in 1952. The coconut shrimp and fish in avocado sauce are great options for daytime dining, and the margaritas are refreshing in Progreso’s heat. Look for live music, day and night, which brings in the crowds.
Calle 27 299, Centro, 97540 Izamal, Yuc., Mexico
Set behind a thick yellow facade with climbing green plants, Kinich offers mostly alfresco dining, with tables beneath palapa-style roofs. This popular restaurant has a fresh, elegant, not-too-touristy feel, and gets its share of locals. Yucatecan favorites make up the menu; the food is homemade, flavorful, and high-quality. Women in traditional dress grill tortillas as diners look on. The poc chuc (citrus-marinated pork) is delicious, especially when accompanied by a beverage made from a local plant, chaya, considered a superfood.
Established in 1917, this cantina keeps tradition alive while not shying away from new, trendy touches. Swing through saloon doors to find live music, drinks served in mason jars, and lots of free regional nibbles in a lively barroom that extends to a large open-air patio. On weekends the space fills up with twenty- and thirtysomethings swinging to salsa beats and sipping cocktails or some ice-cold, locally brewed Montejo beer. The limonada eléctrica, a drink in the namesake shade of blue that’s charged with a powdered-chili rim, is a real crowd-pleaser.
x 47, Calle 56 A, Zona Paseo Montejo, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
This ice-cream-and-sorbet parlor has been a favorite among locals for over a hundred years. It’s a great place to try sweet and refreshing frozen treats made from various stars of the Yucatán’s exotic-produce bonanza, such as sapote, mamey, and tamarind. At night, families fill the tables. Champolas—beverages crafted from milk and ice cream or sorbet—are also a favorite. A signature version includes sorbet made from soursop (guanábana), a fruit that abounds in the Yucatán.
Located at the far end of picturesque Calzada de los Frailes on a quaint little square next to San Bernardino Convent, the Taberna de los Frailes is a great option for Valladolid dining. Choose to sit inside, out in the garden, or under a thatched-roof palapa. The menu is packed with regional favorites, including local seafood and meat options, plus several interesting vegetarian dishes. The wine list is fairly extensive and some unusual cocktails share menu space with classics. The pavo en relleno negro (turkey stuffed with a hard-boiled egg in a thick black sauce) is especially good, but a heavy hitter—definitely come hungry.
Calle 57 & Calle 62, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Alongside an upbeat atmosphere and lots of local color, La Chaya Maya boasts an extensive menu that includes all of the Yucatán’s favorites. The restaurant has two outposts but the central venue, in a large colonial house, sets the perfect scene for sampling the region’s traditional delicacies. Pollo mukbil—chicken stuffed with baked corn dough and wrapped in a banana leaf—is definitely worth a try. Usually eaten only during Hanal Pixan (the Maya’s Day of the Dead), it’s on the menu all year round at La Chaya Maya. Anytime you go, you’ll see women in regional dress cooking corn tortillas fresh on the comal, or griddle; it could seem touristy, but here it merely adds to the restaurant’s vibrant feel.
Calle Paseo de Montejo 480 x 41, Centro, Mérida, Yucatán
With a name like that, it’s no wonder this boutique hotel is a prime spot for romantic getaways in the Yucatan’s capital city. The two pink-hued colonial mansions are as charming as they are camera-friendly, bedecked in vibrant modern art and picturesque patios and outdoor corners that mix lush greenery and sleek furnishings. Life here feels like its perpetually viewed through rose-colored glasses, and it’s not just the walls: the spa offers an enticing menu of xocolatherapies; the tequila bar has over 250 varieties to sample; the oasis-like swimming pool is a palm-shaded spot for afternoon dips; and there’s even a chocolate shop on-site. Guests can dine on gourmet fusion fare in the restaurant, or head up to the rooftop lounge for cocktails with a side of live jazz. As for the guest rooms, they’re no less indulgent with their rose and cocoa palettes and patterned-tile floors; minimalist bathrooms have sumptuous open-air stone tubs, large walk-in rainfall showers, and handmade chocolate soaps.
488 Avenida Rómulo Rozo
For contemporary, high-end Yucatecan cuisine, look no further than K’u’uk. Chef Pedro Evia has taken the spirit of regional food and given it a modern twist. He presents common Yucatecan recipes like suckling pig, then uses ingredients like star fruit and sapote to showcase subtler flavors than those found in traditional cochinita pibil. All the essences of Yucatecan delicacies can be found here, but in ways that are almost unrecognizable, such as in the atole ceviche or the dessert of Yucatán honeycomb with pollen and passion fruit. Located amid the grandeur of a colonial mansion close to the Monumento a la Patria in Mérida, K’u’uk has high ceilings, original-tile floors, and large chandeliers that set the scene for an exclusive dining experience. Guests opt for a recommended nine-course tasting menu or order from an à la carte bill of fare that changes periodically.
Calle 60 461, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
One of Mexico’s most interesting and varied gastronomic markets, Mercado 60 is home to eighteen culinary options that serve up everything from homemade pasta and sandwiches to Lebanese specialties and, of course, Mexican cantina fare. Get ready to hobnob with locals and travelers alike. The events calendar is packed too, with concerts, dance lessons, performing arts, and even dog adoption days. You’ll find yourself returning time and again to grab a bite or learn to salsa.
Calle Igualdad, 77310 Holbox, Q.R., México
Chef Roberto Solís’ menu showcases the area’s fresh ingredients including fish, lobster, cooked in the flavors and spices that have driven Maya Caribbean for centuries. Located inside the Hotel Casasandra, the restaurant’s setting is as warm as the service. Pair dishes with some locally-produced wines or a mezcal margarita. Thanks to his colorful ingredients and artful plating, Chef Solís’s dishes tend to be as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate.
Chef/owner Roberto Solís is widely considered one of Mexico’s best chefs—and Néctar deserves its reputation as one of the area’s top restaurants. The kitchen serves up traditional dishes from the area, all featuring local and seasonal ingredients so the menu changes depending on what’s being harvested around the Yucatán. But several local favorites are always available, including cochinita pibil(roast pork); relleno negro-stuffed turkey; and tikin xic (fish marinated in Achiote and sweet chile.
Calle 59 538, Barrio de Santiago, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Manifiesto Café is known for its wide-ranging menu of coffees and careful brewing methods. Order a cup with beans grown in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, or a handful of varieties from Europe. No matter which coffee you choose, it will be freshly-roasted. Manifiesto doesn’t serve coffee that was roasted more than 48 hours earlier. But that’s not the owners’ only rules for the coffee they serve. They also prefer beans harvested at plantations that are about 4200 feet above sea level. If you’re looking for a quick cup of coffee, go elsewhere. Manifiesto takes its coffee very seriously and uses a variety extraction methods. The payoff? Quite easily the best cup of coffee you’ve had in a good long time.
Calle 56 465, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Regulars call it “la Mezca” and, within a few minutes, you’ll understand why it’s so popular. The Yucatán’s first mezcalería (i.e., mezcal bar), La Fundación serves more than fifty Mexican mezcals and, to keep hunger at bay, Oaxaca-style bites. Don’t miss the mole tacos. The bar is decorated with drawings of one of the most famous skeletons in art, la Catrina, as well as vintage photos, and works by emerging regional artists. Regularly scheduled DJ nights serve up sounds from around the world. But Wednesdays are, easily, the best night to drink at La Fundacion. The salsa musicians and dance classes start at 9 p.m. And an extra glass of mezcal will take the sting out of showcasing your moves.
After exploring Chichén Itzá, hop in a taxi at the site’s main entrance and head to lunch at Hacienda Chichén Itzá. The restaurant offers two different menus, one focusing on indigenous dishes and the other featuring fusion plates. Consider ordering some from each and sharing with your tablemates. One of the standouts is the pollo pibil, featuring chicken instead of the region’s more traditional pulled pork. But if suckling pig appeals, don’t leave without trying the house specialty of cochinita pibil.Marinated in annatto paste and citrus juices, the pig is is wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked underground. Seating options range from antique tables and chairs inside elegant dining rooms to the more casual tables on the terrace overlooking the gardens where much of the restaurant’s produce is grown.