One of the main reasons for visiting Merida and indeed throughout the state of Yucatan is the food. There are endless great restaurants in Merida, so finding the best ones can be difficult (and believe me, some are not worth the hype!). After several trips to this beautiful city and plenty of time to enjoy the food on offer, I think this is a nice, comprehensive list of the best restaurants in Merida, Mexico!
Read: The best activities in Merida – a guide to the white city
What to eat in Merida
First, let's talk about food in this region of the country. There are dishes that you will not find anywhere else in Mexico. Yucatan has a long tradition of food dating back to Mayan culture, and many of these foods can still be enjoyed in markets throughout the state today. Here is what you should look for.
Cochinita Pibil is slow-roasted pork, seasoned with ancho chili and often different spices like cloves and cinnamon. However, no Cochinita Pibil is the same, so you want to try as much as possible. Cochinita Pibil is usually served for breakfast or early luncheon, and many places will go out around 1pm, so you should arrive early.
Salbutes are a type of tortilla that has been fried to burst open. It's not crispy like a tostadada. It's actually still pretty soft and tough and it's the perfect vessel for Cochinita Pibil (or turkey or Lechon or any other meat in that matter). They are pretty greasy, especially if you have them at a market stall. Order only one or two pieces at a time.
Panuchos are another type of tortilla. Once made on the comal, the tortilla is then split and filled with roasted beans. The Panucho then goes into a pan full of oil and is fried until it is almost crispy. You can prove this with any of the offered meats, but I found it particularly good with turkey.
Kibis are a unique cultural combination. They are originally Lebanese, but if you have them in Yucatan, they are uniquely Mexican. They have the shape of mini footballs and are made of coarsely ground wheat, so the texture is thick and grainy. They are fried, which makes the outside nice and crispy. You can order it sencillowhich means they are simply served with a side cabbage or salsa, or you can order them relleno, That comes with different meats or cheeses depending on the restaurant.
Although the name suggests that something is stuffed, I was surprised to find that this is basically a turkey dish covered in a dark black sauce. The English name for it seems to be black turkey stewwhich, in my opinion, may give a better idea of what that is. The color comes from the dried chilies that are added to the sauce. The dish is served with tortillas on the side to make tacos and usually some hard-boiled eggs.
This is a must breakfast dish that is both yummy and a bit strange. I've never seen it on a menu outside of Merida, but I like it every time I take a trip to the White City. Motulenos are made by placing two lightly fried tortillas on the bottom of the plate. Each tortilla is then topped with chilled beans, a fried egg and a tomato sauce made from tomatoes, onions, ham and peas. It is usually served with fried plantains.
Okay, turkey is not really unique in Merida, but it is eaten a lot. A friend told me that there is only one other city in the world that eats more turkey than Merida. I think so, because there is a turkey all over this city and I enjoyed it a lot more than ever before on Thanksgiving! You can eat turkey in soup, on a hot sandwich (tortilla), on a taco, on a salubute or panucho or with your Relleno Negro. You can not spend a week in Merida and not enjoy the turkey of the city.
Sopa de Lima
This is a soup you will find throughout the city for lunch and dinner. When I got it on markets, it was usually made with chicken or turkey, but I've seen it on other pork menus. The broth is light but deep in flavor and full of lime, hence the name. It is usually topped with tortilla strips and served with a bowl of spicy onions to top it off.
Poc Chuc is a popular dish that can be found in a variety of restaurants around Merida. The dish is made of pork, marinated in various citrus fruits and then cooked on the grill for a nice crunchy crust and juicy interior. It is usually served with rice, pickled onions, roasted beans and sometimes avocado. Of course you always get one side of tortillas to prepare tacos with all these ingredients.
That was strange for me. I've seen it on various menus throughout Merida, and when I returned to Mexico City and told my friends that I had been in Merida, they first asked if we would try Queso Relleno. It's exactly as the name suggests, stuffed cheese. It is made with a small ball of Edam cheese. The inside of the ball has been hollowed out and filled with minced pork or beef, raisins, nuts and hard-boiled eggs (chopped). The whole dish is then pounded under a grill for the cheese to melt. It is served with tortillas and a spoon to wipe up.
Papadzules are like a kind of enchilada dish. The tortillas are stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and topped with a sauce of pepita or pumpkin seeds. Sometimes there is cream over it and elsewhere I have layered it with a tomato sauce over the green pepitas sauce. It's a simple dish that you'll find in many markets around Merida and you'll probably sample it as you visit Eladio's popular Cantina chain.
At marquesitas there is much to love. They are made with a sweet dough that once cooked resembles a waffle cone. It is made by pouring the dough on a flat hotplate. As soon as it is almost cooked, the desired topping is added and rolled up to make it easy to eat. You have it while it's hot and I love it. I usually have them with banana and Nutella, but you can have many different combinations. The most popular way to eat them is curiously cheese and cajeta (like caramel) or cheese with nutella. I did not try this combo, but you will not find it anywhere else.
Salsas in the Yucatan
Beware of all salsas in Yucatan. The harmless-looking guacamole is interspersed with chillies and the pickled red onions with habaneros peppers. Habanero is the chili of choice in this region of the world and they pile it up hard.
I think because many of the dishes are fried, the spicy salsa goes very well with a dish, but remember to taste a little before adding just a small amount of salsa at a time. You can add more and more, but you can never take this chilli oil away once it's in your taco!
Best Restaurants in Merida Mexico
Opening hours: Daily from 7am to 11pm
No list of the best restaurants in Merida would be complete without Chaya Maya. It's not my favorite restaurant in Merida, but if you're just in town for a few days and you want to sample lots of Yucatan dishes in one place, there's no better place to do it. I was also told by my vegan friend that she had the best vegan yucatecan food in all of Merida here.
It is best to make a reservation, especially when traveling at peak times such as weekends or holidays. It can be very busy. You can reserve a table on your website, by phone or by e-mail. Most of the staff speak English very well.
Calle 47 463B
Opening hours: Sunday to Wednesday 13-12 o'clock, Thursday to Saturday 13-1 o'clock
This is such a cool restaurant and the food is one of the best we had on our last trip to Merida. I definitely recommend to drink a cocktail here at least in the evening. Sit on the terrace after dark and enjoy a very cool light show. The food is a combination of local ingredients and popular Yucatecan flavors like Pibil with more modern techniques that you can find in upscale restaurants. Nevertheless, the price is very reasonable with Catrin.
My favorite food on the menu was definitely the nopal appetizer. It was a grilled piece of cactus (Nopal) doused with homemade cheese and popped under the grill. It was served with tortilla chips and a few different salsas and it tasted incredibly good. The seafood rice is also a winner!
La Lupita at the Mercado Santiago
Calle 57 between 70 and 72
Hours: Every day 5-13 clock
Although I recommend going to the Mercado Santiago and tasting some of the various restaurants, La Lupita is truly unmissable. There is no better place to have Cochinita Pibil in Merida than in La Lupita. The only problem is that you have to be there by 12:30, otherwise you will miss it. The market stall is within the market (as opposed to one of the stalls out of the market) and the various meats on the menu are all delicious. We had the Lechon and the Cochinita Pibil and both were absolutely delicious.
Mercado Santa Ana
Parque Santa Ana
This was one of my late nights on my last trip to Merida. I was thrilled to have dinner here, and most stalls open until at least midnight and a little later on Friday and Saturday evenings. There are several different stalls and most serve the same food. For breakfast and lunch there is Cochinita Pibil, Lechon and soups. For lunch and dinner there are turkey, salbute, panuchos and even papadzules.
The stands I loved the most were Loncheria Rany, El Castillo and El Negrito Gil.
Calle 57 # 501
Opening hours: Daily from 7am to 11.30pm, Sundays from 8pm
For a classic Mexican breakfast, the cafeteria pop was my favorite option. It's right downtown, which in my opinion would mean it's overpriced, but it was incredibly affordable. This was my favorite spot for the aforementioned Huevos Motuleños, a popular breakfast dish here in Merida. However, they also make a super infulent plate of chilaquiles with more cheese than I've ever seen on a plate. You have healthier egg options as well as anything you can drink strong coffee. Luke and I ate here for less than 150 pesos (about 6.50 USD).
Calle 58 434
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 8am to 10pm, closed on Mondays
This is both a great bar and a fantastic place to eat. Tobala is a kind of Mezcal. So you can be sure that you will get a good selection of mezcals and cocktails here. According to their website, the restaurant is classified as a ceviche bar. I did not notice it before we ate there, but I really enjoyed the different ceviche Tostadas that they had. Luke and I were around 6pm and it had a great mood. We only had a few drinks and shared some of the tacos and tostadas and we absolutely loved it. If I had found it earlier on our trip, I would definitely have taken the time to have a full dinner there.
Loncheria La Ponderosa
Hours: Daily from 5pm to midnight
If you are looking for the best turkey sandwich in Merida, you are in the right place. Although you may not know you want a turkey bread, trust me, you want this turkey bread. They have different types of bread and various toppings that match the turkey. It's not just a sandwich ham, but also a fully roasted turkey that is juicy boiled and cut into thick slices to put on a fresh baguette. This was one of our favorite places after a few drinks in the nearby cantinas.
Calle 64 # 472
Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday 13.00 to 23.00, Thursday to Saturday 13.00 to 13.00, Sunday 13.00 to 18.00
For craft beer and good food, be sure to come to Hermana Republica. This was my favorite bar spot and the menu is extensive (and maybe a little expensive). It's certainly not the cheapest option on this list, but the food is cooked with care and fun. However, if you only want to drink beer, be sure to check out the back terrace. It's perfect on a warm evening and the draft beers are really tasty. It's also worth noting that they have a happy hour with 2-4-1 drinks every night until 8:00 pm every night.
Mercado San Benito
Calle 69 between 56 and 54
Opening hours: Every day from 3 to 22 o'clock
This is the largest market in the city and full of different restaurants. There are a number of taco stalls, stalls selling Sopa del Lima and Relleno Negro, and you can sample freshly pressed ceviche near the fish market. It's a bit overwhelming if you've never been to a market in Mexico. However, if you find that the market is overcrowded and chaotic, you will enjoy the hustle and bustle. All stands are only available for cash. So bring enough for all the samples you want to make.
This is also one of the best markets if you want to buy self-catering products. I thought the grocery stores in Merida were not the best, especially in the city center. Instead, buy fresh fruit and vegetables and meat from here and bring it back to your Airbnb or your car rental company to cook!
Taqueria La Gloria
Calle 69 between 68 and 70
This little hole-in-the-wall taco spot will blow you away. It is located directly opposite the second-class bus station. Here I had the very best Lechon Tacos as well as delicious Cochinita Pibil and great turkey salbutes. It is very small and you would probably only pass this place, but not. Even if you do not plan to go anywhere by bus, it is recommended for these tacos to walk a few blocks south of the Zocalo, especially at lunchtime.
Calle 62 # 354
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10 am to 10 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 10 pm, closed on Tuesdays
This was my favorite breakfast throughout Merida. The restaurant itself is incredibly cute with all tables outside on the patio. The walls are painted with beautiful murals. The staff are very helpful and nice and most speak both spanish and english. The best and the reason why this would be my favorite place for a Sunday brunch, if I live in Merida, is the food.
Luke and I both had really great fresh ginger and lemon juice, their coffee is delicious and strong (and they have almond milk!). There is a nice, extensive menu with healthy food, but we chose the Chilaquiles Torta. Basically a fresh bread filled with tortilla chips, salsa of your choice and either meat or eggs. I chose eggs that were absolutely perfect. Luke had his chicken and we both did not talk to each other the whole time. It was a really delicious breakfast.
The corner of Calle 58 and 45
Opening hours: Daily 8:30 – 14:30
This is a great place for a healthy breakfast or lunch and a really good cup of coffee. I only had coffee and sweet bread here, but the breakfast looked delicious. I like the style of the restaurant. It's also a shop where you can buy artesian products like salsas, honey and fresh bread so you can sit between the different things in the business. You can also have everything on the menu, what you need, if you are in a hurry or want to enjoy your breakfast outdoors somewhere nearby.
Calle 59 # 538
Opening hours: Daily from 8am to 9pm, Saturdays until 8pm, closed on Sundays
As a serious coffee snob, I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that this is the best coffee I've drunk in Merida. They might make the best cold brew I've ever had. Usually I like the taste of cold brew, but the starch can be bitter or cause stomach ache. The cold brew in the manifesto is soft and not too strong, but still has a fantastic taste. You can even mix it with Tonic Water, which was not clear to me at first, but it tastes like a refreshing coffee cocktail. Merida is a hot place, so finding a good iced coffee is a true lifesaver.
They roast their own beans. If you love coffee as much as I do, you can buy one or two bags to take home, or as I am doing, and order them from their website,
They also have a selection of brie and cakes, as well as a small menu of savory items such as sandwiches and salads. Everything on the menu, including coffee, can be ordered to take away.
Calle 60 # 53
Opening hours: Daily from 7am to 11pm
This is another great option for a coffee and a quick lunch at the Centro Historico. They make panini sandwiches that look ok, but I only drank coffee (let's be honest, if you want a sandwich on the above markets for delicious turkey tortas instead!). They make a delicious cold brew, but I prefer their espresso drinks.
Calle 51 # 492C
Opening hours: Daily 8-15, closed on Mondays
I feel like I'm always on the lookout for great bread in Mexico and when I find it, I have to tell everyone. YOU FIND HERE AMAZING BREAD. Although there is a full menu with various options for breakfast and lunch (sandwiches, eggs with toast and sweet bread like mussels with coffee), I could not help but buy whole loaves of bread from this place. I have never seen such a sourdough Mexico and just thinking about it makes my mouth water. If you live in Mérida or are in town for a while and want some tasty bread, then you have to bring yourself here.
Plaza Grande Sunday Market
Corners of Calle 62 and 63
Sundays from about 8-14 clock
I can only recommend to visit this street market in the Zocalo, not only because of the great food, but also because of the souvenirs and the lively music. The main square is where you can be on Sundays. Here you can enjoy everything from Kibis and Cochinita Pibil to roast turkey and Sopa de Lima. This particular market is a fantastic place to sample all the different traditional Yucatecan dishes in one place. It is very affordable, but be sure to bring cash as no credit cards are accepted at any of the stands.
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