Most people associate Merida in the Yucatán Peninsula with ancient Mayan civilization and cenotes. This is not surprising given that Merida is the capital of the Yucatan state. In addition, this is the perfect jump-off point to explore the ancient ruins and cenotes that it is best known for. However, there is more to Merida Mexico than these tourist attractions.
In fact, this city also has one of the best gastronomies in Mexico. Aside from being diverse, the food here ranges from traditional Yucatecan cuisine to a more modern flair. From local kitchens to internationally renowned chefs, the choices can be a bit overwhelming. A delicious challenge if I may say so.
Many are unaware that can easily compete with other food destinations in Mexico like Mexico City, Oaxaca, and even Guadalajara. In fact, restaurants abound in the city where you will find authentic Yucatecan food being served. It is true that tourists often visit Merida to see the famous Chichen Itza. However, they bring home more than just this experience after trying the local cuisine.
If you are visiting Merida for the first time, I recommend that you spend time exploring the food scene here. Trust me, you will not regret it at all.
Getting to Know Yucatan Food
It is understandable that most people think that Mexican food is mostly burritos and tacos. But they only play a small part in Merida’s food scene. Truth be told, the local food here is quite different from what you have in mind. It’s because of the tropical climate.
This means that there are more fruits and vegetables compared to other parts of the country. In fact, you will come across food that you haven’t even heard of. Here are a few examples of the local cuisine in Merida.
This is the most famous dish in Merida with good reason. Cochinita pibil is basically a suckling pig that is marinated in sour orange juice and achiote. It is then wrapped in banana leaves before being cooked underground.
Another option to consider is the Poc Chuc. This is marinated, grilled pork filet that is full of flavors. No wonder it is one of Merida’s specialties.
Meanwhile, Relleno negro is basically turkey and black chili stew.
Salbutes are fried, puffy tortillas that are used to make tacos.
Sopa de Lima
If you are looking for something light, then this dish is for you. This light lime soup comes with chicken or turkey. It is also full of flavors which is a plus.
Another dish that you can try is the panuchos. These are tortillas stuffed with refried beans. It can also be used in tacos.
If you are looking for something healthy or if you are a vegetarian, then try papadzules. These are egg enchiladas in pepita sauce as well as tomato sauce.
Meanwhile, queso relleno is a stuffed ball of cheese that is also stuffed with meat. They cook it until the cheese melts a bit.
You can find this dish among the street vendors around the city. These are the famous crepes that you can buy after sundown.
Another snack that you can purchase from the street vendors here is Kibis. This is a bulgar wheat snack that is a must-try in Merida.
Exploring the Best Restaurants in Merida
One of the best things about visiting Merida is that there are tons to do here. As mentioned before, this city is home to several ancient ruins, cenotes, as well as other attractions. But with all the walking and exploring to do here, you are bound to get hungry too.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of dining options here. In fact, here are the best Merida restaurants that you should visit in the city.
You have probably watched the Taco Chronicles on Netflix. If you have then Manjar Blanco should be familiar. That’s right! It was the Merida restaurant that was featured there. When you take a look at their menu, you will find that most of them are traditional dishes.
However, the reason why this restaurant is popular is because of its cochinita pibil. If you have tried some in places like Valladolid as well as in Mexico City, you will probably say that the one served here is much better. As mentioned before, cochinita pibil is one of the best dishes to try while you are in Merida. This is a suckling pig that has been marinated in sour orange juice and achiote paste. They wrap it with banana leaves before cooking underground.
The cooking time will take up to 16 hours at least. Basically, it is a type of pulled pork recipe but in the Yucatan way. Once they have achieved the fall-off-the-bone type of meat, then they can add it to their tacos with all the trimmings you expect.
Manjar Blanco is under Chef Miriam Pereza. To achieve the authenticity of the dishes, she hired local “abuelas” or grandmothers to help prepare traditional dishes by hand. Needless to say, they have achieved their goal. If you are wondering where to begin your food journey in Merida, then I suggest that you start here.
Here you will get to experience what the regional cuisine of Yucatan is all about. You will find Manjar Blanco at Calle 47 #496, Zona Paseo de Montejo, Centro Merida.
La Chaya Maya
When talking about great restaurants in Merida, La Chaya Maya will definitely be on the list. In fact, it is already an institution in the city. The restaurant serves a wide array of local food that will make your mouth water.
In fact, among the dishes that you will find here are cochinita pibil, relleno negro, as well as huevos motulenos. They do have an extensive menu so you will not run out of options here. Both the locals and tourists often drop by this restaurant because of the food choices here.
Of course, if this is your first time visiting La Chaya Maya, you might be wondering what food to get. Well, why not try any of this Yucetacan food? Among these are sopa de lima, papadzules, cochinita pibil, and poc chuc. They also serve mole with tortilla chips which are a must-try in my book. These dishes are not common with street vendors so you can try them out yourself.
In fact, even if you are not a vegetarian, I highly recommend their papules. They do hit the right spot in your stomach. Take note, however, that La Chaya Maya is quite popular. This means that there might be a line of diners waiting outside their store.
On a good note, there are two branches of La Chaya Maya and they are just a block apart. If one of the stores is full, you can simply walk to their next outlet. It is definitely worth the wait once you taste their meals. You will find this restaurant at Parque Santa Lucia.
La Prospe del Xtup
Meanwhile, La Prospe del Xtup is another option to consider. Here you will find an interesting selection of local dishes that you need to try. In fact, there is one dish here that you will not find in other restaurants which is the relleno blanco. I have already mentioned relleno negro before which is a dish with turkey or meat that is then covered in a thick dark sauce. This is one of the more common dishes in Merida.
However, relleno blanco is a bit rare. Yes, it is similar to that of relleno negro but it uses a different sauce. Instead of using the dark roasted chile ancho sauce, this one uses tomato sauce and k’ool. The latter is a white sauce that has been thickened using turkey broth. This dish is worth trying here if you want to know the difference between the two.
Aside from that, you should also try their dessert. I suggest that you order their dulce de papaya. This is a simple dessert in the Yucatan made from unsweetened ripe papaya. It is then served with shreds of Edam cheese.
By day, you might not think much of the open-air patio of the restaurant. But I am pretty sure that it is a whole different story at night. The next time you visit Merida and are looking for a place to eat, be sure to check La Prospe. You will find it at Parque Santiago.
Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca (MUGY)
If you want to experience fine dining at Merida, then make your way to Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca, or MUGY, as it is more commonly known. It’s a beautiful restaurant that serves the best Mexican cuisine in the area.
Aside from that, don’t be surprised to find that they also serve dishes that you often find at fondas. Think panuchos and salbutes. If I were you, I’d skip them and stick to meals that you can only purchase at restaurants. In fact, you should start with poc chuc which is a signature dish in the city. This dish consists of pork filet that has been marinated in sour orange juice and then roasted slowly. Although this dish is common in many restaurants in Merida, this one is extra delicious and worth trying out.
If you take a closer look at this dish, you will find achiote, slow-roasted pork, habanero chili peppers, and sour oranges making up this dish.
Aside from that, chaya is another staple in many Yucatecan dishes. It is often used in dishes like tamales, empanadas, and even huevos con chaya. Some enjoy it as part of their drinks like in the case of chaya with pineapple or with lemon. Both are worth trying out if you ask me.
Aside from the great dishes and the fine dining vibe, the prices at MUGY are not as expensive as you think. I know, it surprised me too! Yes, they do have indoor spaces to dine in, but dining outside is still the best. The best part is that there is a museum here too where you can learn more about the local culture. Check this restaurant out at Centro in Merida and its gift shop as well.
Cheen Cocina Yucateca
Meanwhile, Cheen Cocina lies just outside of Merida, but it is within walking distance of the town. I added it to this list because it is one of the best places to have dishes that resemble home-cooked meals. I am fond of restaurants that give off this vibe because it gives comfort to those who are far away from home.
Unlike the other restaurants on this list, Cheen gives off the feeling that it is a family-run business. One reason behind this is that the restaurant is in a converted home 1.2 miles east of Plaza Grande or the main square. Locals and tourists alike flock here because the dishes served here are authentic Yucetacan meals. Even the locals agree that they feel like their “abuelas” are feeding them when they come here for a bite to eat.
Aside from that, Cheen Cocina’s menu is more focused. But you will find some of the most important dishes here such as cochinita pibil, papules, and relleno negro. If you want to know what the best seller is here, you might want to ask your waiter. I tried the queso relleno at my waiter’s suggestion and I enjoyed it.
The queso relleno is basically a Mexican-Dutch fusion dish composed of stuffed cheese. In addition, this dish consists of nuts, minced meat, raisins, and other local ingredients. Tomato sauce and K’ool are then poured over them before serving. Take note that this is a heavy dish so you might not be able to eat anything after.
Cheen has definitely nailed the cozy vibe here thanks to its location. If you want to visit this hidden gem, you will find it at C. 61 x 34, Centro.
Now if you are looking forward to having a familiar Mexican cuisine like tacos, then Wayan’e is your best bet. Their take on street tacos is one of the best by far in this area. Which is why I added it to this list. In fact, you will find that their tacos are topped with castacan (crispy pork belly), lomitos, poc chuc, and others. Aside from that, they also use higadilla (liver and organ meats) as toppings!
This one is uncommon in Merida which is why you need to try it yourself. In fact, this is the only restaurant in the city that serves the best tacos with organ meats on top! If you are feeling adventurous! Then this is a good option to try.
Aside from that, they also have huevos con chaya, chilibull, and pollo hulk. The names of the last two caught my eye so I had to try them out. Chilibull is some type of stew made from chili. Pollo hulk, on the other hand, comes with chicken pieces tinged with green. They are made from green salsa or chaya,
I think. I enjoyed sampling their tacos because they are quite delicious. Honestly, I think you will not find some of their tacos even in Mexico City. With local ingredients adding more flavor to their tacos, they are definitely a must-try in Merida. And since Wayan’e is a popular spot for tacos, it now has multiple outlets. I suggest that you make your way to the closest to the main plaza. You will have to wait in line though since it is a popular spot with the locals.
Taqueria La Lupita
There are two restaurants in Merida that were featured in Netflix’s Taco Chronicles. The first one is Manjar Blanco and the other is Taqueria La Lupita. It is one of the best food stalls that you will find in Mercado Santiago. In fact, they offer Yucatan food like cochinita pibil, relleno negro, and lechon al horno to name a few. You can have them in various ways such as tortas, tacos, salbutes, as well as polcanes.
Although their cochinita pibil is not as great as that of Manjar’s, it is still delicious. In fact, it deserves to be featured in the Taco Chronicles. Aside from that, they top their salbut with lechon al horno. Take note that not all restaurants do this so you might want to try this at La Lupita. Adding bits of lechon al horno does the trick with their salbut and panoches. I highly recommend them.
You can also have panucho topped with relleno negro. As stated before, relleno negro is an old Yucatan dish made from either ground pork or turkey meat. It is then bathed in a dark sauce that is made from roasted ancho peppers. It is typically served with slices of hard-boiled eggs and on its own.
However, it is possible to have it as a topping for salbutes, tacos, and panuchos. Although salbutes and panuchos look identical at first glance, they do have some differences. For example, the fried corn tortillas used in salbutes tend to be softer and puffier.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for something that you are familiar with, this Italian restaurant is a must-try. This restaurant lies in an old house right in the Historic Center of Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula. What I love about this restaurant is that it brings traditional Italian dishes to the table.
Using fresh ingredients and imported ones that are locally sourced, you are sure to have a great experience here. In fact, they combine ingredients from different regions to deliver a unique culinary experience to their guests.
In addition, they do have an extensive wine list containing 200 wine labels. Each one is handpicked by the Chef to pair with their meals. Not only that, but their tasting menu often changes so it is not possible to get bored with their offerings. In fact, their seasonal dishes are among those that you should try. When you come and visit. You will definitely get the freshest ingredients.
Aside from its food, Oliva Enoteca has a chic environment that adds to its overall appeal. Step inside the restaurant and you will be transported to Italy easily. It is not surprising that this is also a favorite place among locals and tourists alike. In fact, I suggest that you head to the bar where you can order their signature cocktail while enjoying the view of the kitchen.
Now if you are looking for Yucatan specialties, then you should visit Los Almendros. This is one of Merida’s well-established restaurants that you must check out. In fact, it has been in the business for more than five decades already. This restaurant was created in order to preserve traditional Yucatan food that will satisfy all kinds of palates.
According to Los Almendros, they created dishes like poc chuc, turkey in caper sauce, and even cheese soup. This may be a point of contention for other restaurants, but you will not be disappointed once you try them. Aside from that, they also serve traditional Yucatan stews. Which is perfect for those who want to try local food.
Their first store opened in Ticul, Yucatan back in 1962. Fast forward to today and they have branched out to Merida. And just like with their first store, locals and tourists alike found their way to their restaurant. Aside from their diverse tasting menu, they also take pride in their great service. In fact, most of their patrons enjoyed their time here because of the high quality of their food and service.
With years of experience backing them up, Los Almendros has established itself as the leader of ancient Yucatan dishes. After all, their different menus are recognized not just in Mexico, but internationally as well. That is why I suggest that you make your way to their restaurant to try different things in one sitting.
If you are looking for a great place to hang out where good food is served, then this is it. The Haciendas Teya in Yucatan is among the main attractions here. And Hacienda Teya is one of them. Before, these haciendas housed the owners of henequen processing factories.
Today, many of them were restored to work as lodgings, events places, and as restaurants. The same goes true with Hacienda Teya which was once focused on livestock and agriculture. In 1974, the hacienda was acquired by Don Jorge Cardenas. The place was renovated with two new rooms added to function as an events place where special occasions are held.
Aside from that, this hacienda has its own restaurant too. They serve various dishes that are sure to tickle your taste buds. In fact, among the dishes that they serve here are Poc Chuc, Papadzules, and Panucho. What better way to enjoy local dishes than in a hacienda? If you are looking for authenticity then dining at Hacienda Teya is one way to experience it.
In fact, you should try their panuchos which is a local favorite. Panuchos are these soft-fried hand-made tortillas usually filled with beans. Aside from that, they are topped with cochinita, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and onion. I have to say that their panuchos are a win because of the fresh ingredients used.
In addition, their papadzules are amazing too. This dish can be heavy at times, but here they serve it in the right proportion. The best part? This restaurant is just a short ride from the city center!
More Restaurants in Merida
As I mentioned before, Merida is the perfect place to indulge in a gastronomical adventure. In fact, there are more restaurants for you to try here aside from the ones mentioned above. Are you ready to add more to your list? Let’s go!
The good news is that there is no shortage of fine dining spots in Merida. Take, for example, Kuuk Merida which is one of the top favorites of the locals. It is under two renowned chefs namely Chef Pedro Evia and Chef Roberto Solis. Solis also runs Nectar which is another restaurant to consider. If you consider yourself a foodie then you definitely need to eat here. After all, it has received numerous accolades both locally and internationally.
I suggest that you try their 10-course Chef’s Tasting to make the most out of your dining experience here. Here you will get to sample the best of Chef Evia’s modern Yucatan cuisine. A good example here is the soursop, sea snail, habanero, and coconut with spirulina, sea grape, and others that will definitely tickle your taste buds.
No doubt that you will fall in love with the dishes served here. After all, Chef Evia is one of the best Mexican chefs. Step inside their restaurant inside an old mansion with high ceilings and you will feel transported back in time.
Of course, I will mention Nectar here because of Chef Solis. He is best known for his Nuevo Cocina Yucatea or New Yucatan cuisine. At Nectar, you will get to sample more of his unique dishes in a posh setting. In fact, I suggest that you bring your partner here for a date.
Once you get to dine here, you will find yourself coming back for more. Trust me, I know the feeling! That said, Chef Solis has certainly made a name for himself in the culinary world in Mexico.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for a nice place to wine and dine, then head to La Bottega. In fact, this is a good choice for wine, craft beer, as well as decadent desserts. You will find this restaurant beside the Monumento a la Patria. I suggest that you go here to capture an amazing sunset. Afterward, make your way to La Bottega.
Enjoy a classy but casual dinner composed of salads, pizzas, and even charcuterie boards. You will find this restaurant at Zona Paseo Montejo.
Mexico City is known for having the best tacos al pastor. However, the tacos al pastor at Los Trompos can easily compete with them. For those who are not familiar with this dish, tacos al pastor is the most famous tacos in Mexico. It is basically pork meat that has been marinated in different spices and then cooked on a vertical spit.
In fact, this is a Lebanese-Mexican fusion hence cooking it on a vertical spit. This Middle Eastern style of cooking has certainly caught on in Mexico. If you are looking for more taco spots, I also recommend Maiz de lo Alto. Their tacos are more gourmet than street food which is a good reason to try them out.
Rosas y Xocolate
Rosas y Xocolate is not only one of the best hotels in Merida, but it is also a great spot to have brunch. In fact, you should come here for their Jazz brunch on Sunday mornings to understand what I mean.
Here you can enjoy great food with live music to accompany you. Don’t worry, their brunch is as good as any day of the week. I just like the extra touch for their Sunday brunch.
Manifesto Casa Tostadora Calabrese
Meanwhile, coffee shops are also abundant in Merida. After all, who doesn’t want to have a good cup of coffee to perk them up? Well, you are in luck because Manifesto is one of those coffee shops that you will want to try. For starters, they serve freshly roasted beans from different regions in Mexico. You can try Mexican coffees from Chiapas, Oaxaca, and even Veracruz. The latter is the best Mexican state for coffee.
However, this shop focuses on coffee more with some snacks on the side. This means that if you want to have something to eat, you will need to look for it somewhere else. On a good note, if you want to bring home some coffee beans, you can bag one at the Manifesto Cafe Merida.
This small restaurant is not a bad place to enjoy a good meal in Merida. It has a back patio where you can enjoy your meal surrounded by nature. Not only does this restaurant serve popular Mexican food, but your heart, soul, and mind will be satiated too. After all, they have an art gallery, a bookstore, and a French bakery too.
Aside from that, this is one of those restaurants that cater to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers. This is quite rare in Merida so be sure to check this one out. Since all meals are prepared as you order, you will have to wait for a bit. Don’t worry, you will not be disappointed. Not only do they have good service but you will also get good value for your money. I recommend that you try their mole de la casa and their enchiladas with chicken.
Taqueria de La Union
Still can’t get enough of street tacos? Come and visit Taqueria de La Union. It’s a small restaurant where you can dine on various Yucatean types of meat. Among these are lechon al horno, cochinita, and longaniza de valladolid. They can be served in panuchos, tacos, or tortas. Aside from that, they also serve it in polcanes. Polcanes are basically deep-fried masa and white beans or ibes patties that come with different ingredients.
If you want to have your favorite dishes in a cleaner environment, I suggest that you visit this taqueria. Its central location makes it a favorite spot for those who can’t resist having a good taco.
Dulceria y Sorbeteria Colon
For those who have a sweet tooth, make your way to this quaint dessert shop in Merida. In fact, this is a popular ice cream and dessert shop that you should visit. You will find a wide variety of treats here from sweets, ice creams, and pastries to name a few. But many travels here for its champola.
Champola is basically a kind of milkshake typically made with pureed fruit like mango, lemon, and mamey. They even have one made from coconut which is actually quite refreshing, especially on a hot day. The good news is that Dulceria has multiple shops. Aside from the one at Paseo de Montejo, there is another nearer the zocalo.
Best Seafood Restaurants in Merida
Indulging in tacos and other meaty dishes like carne asada in Merida is something that you will not get bored of for sure. However, if you want to take a break from all that meat, you are in luck! There are seafood restaurants here that serve only the freshest fish and other seafood as their main course. Want to know which ones to visit? Check them out below.
- El Marlin Azul
Another local favorite is El Marlin Azul or The Blue Marlin. What sets it apart from the others is that it is a no-frills type of restaurant. In fact, there are only five tables here so expect to wait before being seated. I guarantee that it is worth the wait, especially since the fish they serve here is always fresh. In addition, they serve one of the most unique seafood specialties in Merida which is the ceviche de pulpo frito.
This is basically fried octopus ceviche which has all the trimmings as that of a regular ceviche. This means that they use diced vegetables and lime juice to create it. The addition of the cooked octopus adds heat to this dish which is a plus.
- La Pigua Merida
Meanwhile, La Pigua Merida is already an institution in Merida with good reason. It has been in the business for more than two decades now. In fact, locals love to flock here for its seafood dishes.
Thanks to its location near the Yucatan coast, fresh seafood is delivered here on a daily basis. Think fish tacos, fish, as well as shellfish and seafood dishes. You can’t beat having fresh seafood served to you.
Best Markets in Merida
While you are in Merida or White City, I suggest that you also check their markets. This will give you a chance to see more local vendors selling their handmade products. In fact, you should check these ones out.
- Saturday Slow Food Market
This is the best market that you can experience while you are in Merida. Here you will find tons of items to purchase like organic and artisanal products. Among these are local cheese, Mayan honey, and others. Vendors are more than happy to talk about their wares and, if you are lucky, you can get discounts from them too. The market runs from 9 am to 1 pm. After you have done your shopping, you can head to the nearby restaurant to grab a bite to eat.
- Mercado Lucas de Galvez
Meanwhile, Mercado Lucas de Galvez is the biggest market that you will find in the city. Locals flock here to do their shopping so expect the place to be quite busy. On a good note, you will find plenty of cheap products and food here like shrimp tacos and tacos al pastor to name a few.
Since this market is huge, it will be tough to decide where to eat. I would still recommend that you look for El Rey del Trompo or Taqueria El Amanecer. Their tacos are definitely worth sampling here. Don’t worry since there are plenty of food choices here that you will not go hungry.
- Mercado Santa Ana
Another local market that you can visit in Merida is Mercado Santa Ana. It sits right beside the Parque Santa Ana which is the local park. Aside from that, it is also near the stunning Parroquia Santa Ana colonial church. This is a good spot to do your shopping for souvenirs. It’s because there are plenty of handicrafts and artisanal products here.
Aside from that, Mercado Santa Ana is also known for its food. You can actually try everything here from cochinita pibil cooked in a banana leaf and even salbutes. Wash everything down with an agua fresca and you’re good to go.
Merida is one of the best spots to visit in Latin America with good reason. It is home to several tourist attractions like the cenotes and ancient Mayan ruins. But there is more to this town than these tourist hotspots. In fact, the food scene here is one that you should check out as well. Yes, they do serve tacos and burritos but you will be surprised at how diverse Yucatecan food is.
In fact, you should try dishes like pok chuk, salbutes, sopa de lima, and panuches to name a few. Some are even prepared by “abuelas” or grandmas that add that authentic touch. What’s interesting about the food here in Merida is that some are ancient recipes. I love that the locals try their best to preserve their culture through food. You will find restaurants that have been around for decades and are already considered institutions in the city.
Aside from the restaurants mentioned here, the food offered by street vendors is worth sampling too. Most of them do sell different kinds of tacos such as al pastor, cochinita pibil, and carne asada to name a few. Some even offer fish and shrimp tacos for those who prefer something light but flavorful. No matter where you go, there is always a place for you to eat.
Of course, as a tourist, you will want to bring home some souvenirs to your loved ones. Aside from the usual shopping areas, do check out the markets. For example, the slow food market is a great spot to get food products for cheap. On the other hand, Mercado Lucas de Galvez is where you can do some serious shopping for souvenirs as they are all priced affordable.
Join our mailing list and get the latest right in your inbox!