Merida, Mexico has some amazing food! When I first visited it was for just two weeks, and I tried tons of the “top ranked” places I had researched. Now, six months after living here, I’ve gone a bit deeper and tried out places that blog mentioned, locals told me about, places around my house in Norte, and of course some chain restaurants that you see all over the place. I’m going to share my thoughts on the best restaurants in Merida.
Best Food in Merida, Mexico
This is a big city with tons of different neighborhoods and I’m sure like any list, there will be places I have missed. I, myself, still have a huge list of places I want to try. To organize this list, I’m going to put divide it into cafes, markets, restaurants with Yucatan/Mexican food, restaurants of other cuisines, bars, and dessert places. Within each category, I’ll list places I loved, places I just “liked” but others seem to love, and a list of the places I haven’t yet visited in case you are curious. As time goes on, I’m going to keep this blog post updated and add more places I try from that list.
There are specifically a lot of Yucatan places I haven’t tried because there are simply SO many good ones around (50+ worth checking out). Most are located in Centro and are open only until 2 PM. As I live in Norte, it has been hard to go to them all, but I’m working on it.
What is food like in Merida, Mexico?
Food in the Yucatan is not the same as food all over Mexico, as it really varies here state by state. As it’s not a huge tourist destination in comparison to something like Cancun, you can expect less quesadillas and more panuchos and salbutes thanks to the Mayan influence. Turkey is a popular meet here, as is pastor (pork on a spit like shawarma). You can expect corn tortillas, not flour as the norm. The cheese here is usually edam. Don’t expect salsa at table or taco sauce, it’s more haberno sauce (so spicy) or a green tomato sauce and maybe some pico de gallo. When it comes to seafood, it’s all about the ceviche! You’ll try pib, chicharron, poc chuc, cochinita pibil, castacan, and queso relleno for sure while you’re here! A lot of the meat and cheese here has a smoky flavor – so keep that in mind when you order something like sausage (from Valladolid) which is not really my jam.
Meal times are a little different here than in the USA. Small stalls for lunch close up by 2 PM, sit-down lunch restaurants don’t get started for lunch until 2 PM, and dinner places often don’t open until 7 PM. Cantinas (small bars) close up by 10 PM and then you go to the more “clubby bars”. That means if you go for live music at a cantina you’ll want to go out early, like 5 or 6 PM on the weekend.
The best thing about going to a cantina in the early evening is botanas! What are they? Free snacks! When you order a drink, you’ll get snacks brought out. The more you order, the more/better the snacks get. You’ll have bean dip, tortillas, little hot dogs, popcorn, and sometimes even tacos and ceviche.
Best Cafes in Merida
This is a cute cafe in Santiago that has very simple wooden, calming decor and WiFi so would be a great place to work or to meet friends for a coffee.
Bengala Kaffeehaus has a couple of locations I believe, but I have been just to the one near Santa Lucia square a few times. It’s cute but has high bar stools so for me isn’t comfortable to work. It’s quite a small space but does serve good coffee. This is a local fave and I actually met some cool people here and just chatted with them about moving here on my first visit (before I lived here).
Latte Quattro Sette
This is to me the most aesthetically pleasing coffee shop. I love how it’s decorated. It’s next door to the popular Lecanda Boutique Hotel and this cafe has the same owner as the hotel and I believe Oliva Enoteca (a good Italian restaurant). Great coffee, a good place to work, and a fun place to meet friends. There is quite a lot of seating. They have basic breakfast items too like yogurt and granola or avocado on toast. This is near Santa Ana.
I don’t have a photo from here, but this is a big cafe on Paseo Montejo and is a good place for a simple brunch/late lunch and to people watch. You can then stroll alone this big main road to shop and have a sunny stroll!
This is actually a boutique that sells luxury perfume, homewares, and clothing. It’s a boutique hotel as well (one room on top) and has a sister boutique hotel in Valladolid with several rooms. But, in the back is a tea room and chocolate tasting room. You can head back there for a nice afternoon tea and snacks. Very chic!
This is a little cafe on Paseo Montejo. Food is good and affordable, coffee is strong, and the juice is fresh. It’s a great spot to meet friends and have a casual breakfast or brunch.
Cafe’s I Haven’t Tried Yet But Want To:
Toesto Cafe, Petit Delice, La Barrita, Cafe Orgánico, Midtown Cafe, Escargot Rústico
Best Food Markets in Merida
La Lupita at Santiago Park
Parque de Santiago has a covered market that has many little eateries inside. The most popular is La Lupita, which has been featured recently on Salt Acid Fat Heat on Netflix. Everything I’ve ever had there is tasty. Keep in mind basically all these types of places close by 2 PM so you need to go early. I have tried most of what’s on the menu and you can’t really go wrong – but make sure to get an empanada, too! Another popular stall in this market is Le Reina de Itzalana, which is open in the evenings, and has very good food & sopa de lima!
Saturday Slow Food Market
The Slow Food Market is every Saturday morning until about 1-2 PM but some vendors leave early once they sell out so best to go in the morning. As a tourist you might not want to come here but for those who live here, it’s great. You can get delicious fresh bread, hummus, and even meat from local farms like pork chops and ribs.
Taco Asada at Grande Plaza Market
On Sunday’s if you come into Centro, you’ll want to go to the Grande Plaza Market, which is from early morning until the afternoon. They have shops with local vendors, food stalls, and performances (the main one is at noon). We had tacos at one called “Taco Asada” which was really tasty so keep going back to it – however, just go anywhere here. You can just see where the locals are eating and eat there. Pictured above are tacos, a torta, and the bottom photo is a kibi.
Lucas de Galvez Market
This is the big main market, and one of the only places in Merida that reminds me for a second of being back in India. I haven’t really had time to explore this properly to tell you where to eat – but again, just go to a place that locals are eating at and eat there. You can shop here, get your fruit and veggies, and get a real feel of the “real local” Merida that tourists don’t really go to. The most famous stall here for a pastor is “Javis al Pastor”. This is also called the San Benito market.
Mercado 60 is just near St. Lucia square. This is an evening market with a mix of Yucatan and International food. I’ve tried BBQ ribs, buffalo wings, tacos with mole (didn’t love them), and also gone just for the drinks and live music. There is usually a very cool vibe here and it’s somewhere we usually go with friends who come to Merida to visit us.
This is kinda of like Mercado 60 but fancier. They have a popular wine bar called Taninos Para Todos. I didn’t remember to take a photo here, sorry! But, there is a variety of food and I ordered the burrito. Here, they will come to take your drink order and it’s more of an older crowd while Mercado 60 is a young crowd. Outside is a valet and fancy cars – it definitely is more upscale.
Parque de Santa Ana
There is a strip of restaurants (food stalls) next to the park which have the standard Yucatan fair. There are also coffee shops along here and it’s a cool place to hang out in the evenings with a few bars. There is a place called Marias (or Marys, I can’t remember) that is really good!
Markets in Merida I Haven’t Tried Yet But Want To:
El Mercado Miguel Alemán (local), El Mercado San Sebastián (local), Nacion Gourmet (sister to Mercado 60, in the Norte, but has very mixed reviews), Mercado Garcia Rejon (local)
Best Yucatan/Mexican Restaurants in Merida
I eat Pastor Suizo at least once a week. This is a chain restaurant, no frills, just good pastor. If you aren’t familiar with pastor, you soon will be – it’s like a gyro or kebab (the layered meat on the spit). I like to get a pastor gringo which means it is on a “harina tortilla” which is a flour one (corn is more popular here) with cheese and pineapple. I also get beef tacos here. Cover everything with all their sauces!
It’s always a toss up when you ask locals which they prefer: Pastor Suizo or Taquitos PM? Both are pastor chains you’ll see all over, even in shopping malls. Taquitos PM is definitely bigger and more commercial. Ben likes Taquitos PM better while I like Pastor Suizo! You’ll have to try both and see.
Chillakillers is a must! Chilaquiles are a popular breakfast food in Mexico which is kind of like breakfast nachos. You put a green or red salsa on the tortillas and it gets nice and soggy – add some guac, onions, cilantro and such. You can add egg, chicken, or whatever they have on offer. Chillakillers serves chilaquiles on steroids (get the steak ones) and amazing tortas. I love it!
El Pez Gordo
El Pez Gordo is a chain restaurant in Norte with tex-mex style seafood: think fried shrimp tacos, cornflake covered fried shrimp, and you can order it with a flour tortilla. Their guac is the best and has mango on top. This is a chain restaurant and you might think it’s not “real Mexican” but regardless, it’s tasty.
El Fabuloso Pez
Literally, right across the street is this spot which some others had told us tastes better than El Pez Gordo. Ben agreed, but I personally still like El Pez Gordo better! They are very, very similar and have pretty identical menus. It’s kind of weird!
This is actually on the beach in Progresso and has really nice seafood. The chef is “famous” I’m told. I’m not so down with the cheesey seafood tacos, but everything else was so good! This is where we took our family for Christmas lunch. There is seating inside and on the beach with the cabanas.
You’ll notice this chain around town, and it’s always popping at lunchtime. You can get a takeaway rotisserie chicken with lots of different sauces and build your own taco. After seeing this so many times, we finally tried it and it’s become a staple for a quick meal.
Oh, Hermana Republica, how I love you! This is one of the first “nice” Yucatan style dining places we went to and there are two locations (they are building a third). One is in Centro and the other in Norte. As you can see from the photos, it’s delicious and you can’t really go wrong with anything you order. They have their own craft beer and it’s a very cool spot to go have a chilled out meal and drinks or just go for snacks and have some beer.
Catrins is a cute little taco place and has a nice a nice boutique at the entrance as well if you’re into a little shopping. I got a very cool basket/backpack here that I love! I found my tacos very bland if I’m being totally honest but Ben’s were good. The guac was decent – I feel like often at these places unless you add a ton of haberno, you aren’t going to get a lot of flavor. This place is quite popular though!
Mi Viejo Mohino
Great for breakfast, okay for lunch. I like coming here for coffee and a breakfast burrito type dish. Lunch/dinner is kind of like a diner style with so many things – you could order crappy American food or you could order a pretty tasty quesadilla. If you stick with Mexican/Yucatan food then it’s pretty good. It’s very cheap which is why a lot of people love it.
La Chaya Maya
La Chaya Maya is the most popular place for tourists to come try Yucatan food. There is always a local Mayan lady in the traditional clothing making corn tortillas in the front of the restaurant which draws in the crowds. Many people will say it’s touristy and crap and don’t go – but honestly, it was fine! You’ll start to notice that all panuchos and salbutes and sopa de lima tastes the same, so if you want to come here and feel the Mayan vibes, go for it.
Los Trompos is another place that some will say is just a tourist trap – but it’s clear that locals love this place. It’s a chain and it’s always busy. The one in centro has chairs out into the street. There is live music, it’s very cheap, and I love the tacos. I’m not a fan of the pizza, although it seems like everyone else is.
Azul Angeles, San Crisanto
When Ben and I go to the beach we sort of eat at the same places. We’ve tried new ones a little bit and been disappointed. In Progresso, we often eat at Eladios for shrimp tacos. When we go up toward San Crisanto we stop at a little place on the street called Azul Angeles or Blue Angel. I don’t think it’s on the map, but you’ll see it on your right before you reach the town.
K’u’uk & Apoala
Alright now for two popular places that just didn’t do it for me, Ku’uk and Apoala. Ku’uk is fine-dining Yucatan style and is in a big mansion. I thought it was over-priced. I didn’t get how their Sopa de Lima was better than any other food stall. Ben and I both thought our mains were bad and didn’t bother with dessert. On the plus side, alcohol was strangely cheap. Apoala is in St Lucia square and serves fine-dining Oaxacan-fusion food. We thought it was mediocre and over-priced. Both of these are top-ranked restaurants in Merida but neither are ones we would go back to.
El Barrio is just off a backstreet behind Paseo Montejo. I loved the tamal aztec style – it was full of poblano peppers and cheese. Yum! The chilaquiles were good as well. I didn’t try anything else here but based on peaking at other people’s plates, it all looks soooo good.
Yucatan/Mexican Places I Haven’t Tried Yet But Want To:
Rosas & Xocolate (the gorgeous pink hotel you see on Instagram – the menu didn’t appeal to us to be honest so we didn’t eat here when we stopped in, but has a dessert place too, Ek Chuah), Maiz de lo Alto, Manjar Blanco (very recommended), Wayan’e (everyone says best tacos, four locations), La Prospe del Xtup, Cacique, Nectar (fancy Yucatan), La Tradición, Los Almendros, La Terraza Amarilla de San Fernando, Amaro, Bistro Cultural, La Pigua (seafood), El Marlin Azul (seafood), El Apapacho, Cocina Economica La Lupita (like a cafeteria), Maiz, Canela y Cilantro, Miguelito’s (hole-in-the-wall), Taqueria Ivan (hole-in-the-wall for conchinita), El Cangrejito (shrimp tacos)
Best Restaurants in Merida That Aren’t Yucatan/Mexican
I love this little Canadian-owned cafe in Centro. Our first Airbnb was by here, and I loved walking up to it for a big breakfast. You can’t go wrong with anything you order. They are known for their perogies. I’ve had a couple sandwiches as well which were so good, as was the soup and salad!
Amore Y Gusto
Located in Norte, in Benito Juarez is this little Italian place you would never think to go into – but it’s so tasty. I love the burrata, the shrimp starter, and the lasagna is SO good. I’ve had a couple of pastas I love and some I didn’t – so that can be hit or miss. This is a very good spot though that I highly recommend.
La Tratto is an Italian chain restaurant. They have really good thin wood-fired pizzas, great Ceasar salad, and I am obsessed with this 3-cheese dip that they do.
All kinds of Japanese yumminess in this adorable restaurant! When you walk in, it’s like you’re walking into the kitchen. Grab a glass of wine and have a late lunch of pork gyoza or ramen. They have a ton of vegetarian options, too.
Lianas is a great place for Chinese. I’ve actually only ordered takeaway from here, but we’ve tried so many things on the menu and like it all. The Thai food isn’t great Thai, buuut this is a Chinese place in general, so that makes sense. The Mongolian beef is a favorite, but pricey at 200 MXN and I love the orange chicken and fried rice. Sorry for the terrible photo! I was just about to eat then remembered I should have taken a picture, and had put like 7 different things in my dish so it’s pretty messy lol.
If you want the fanciest International meal you can have in Merida, it’s probably 130 degrees steakhouse. The steak are PRICEY but you can order it by size. I found the guac to be bland, and the cheese sausage dip is probably amazing but I don’t like smokey flavors – so didn’t love it. The mac and cheese was so good and I would go back just for that and a steak! We left here pretty darn drunk because their bar is STOCKED, ha!
Oliva is the top-ranked Italian restaurant in Merida, and although I love the vibe, I really thought it was just okay. My shrimp in my pasta didn’t seem that fresh. My started of the pork belly was very good, though! I’d go back for sure and try it again – some others have also said it’s been pretty hit and miss for them, too.
Rosa Sur 32°
On my birthday, we went to Rosa Sur 32 degrees in Santa Lucia square. It was the BEST meal ever. We raved about it. We loved the hidden little space in the courtyard and the dish I had was fantastic. We had pork belly, pork chops, and Ben had some steak with mole and the oysters. For dessert, we had a guava ice cream treat that was heavenly. This is a restaurant by Chef Mario Espinosa from Rosas & Xocolate. However, we went back recently and the menu had changed and we didn’t like anything we ordered. I’m not sure what happened there but with a meal of $100 with drinks, I’m not sure we’ll be rushing back.
This Vietnamese place is popular with expats here, even those from Portland and Seattle who say it’s comparable. I often eat at “Pan Asian” restaurants that have some Vietnamese on the menu but also went for basics like spring rolls and chicken wings. They have those here and they were good. I tried the beef pho and it was also good. Everything was okay but heavy on the anise star flavor – maybe I’m just not that into Vietnamese food? Not sure that I’ll go back (I prefer ramen I guess) but again, people love this place so definitely one to go try.
You guys know this place, haha! You can’t go wrong with P.F. Changs for a bite of Asian food! It’s in the Altabrisa mall next to iHop and Fuddruckers – yes, that’s right, there are TONS of USA restaurants here. This list is for my favorite places to eat, and really the truth is there are some American chain places I like to go to and you might want to know they are here.
Again, one I have to mention. When I crave Texas chili, rolls, or a simple salad with ranch dressing, this is where we head. It’s new this year and on the weekends in the evening,s it can be a waiting list. They even do line dancing.
I’m kind of getting to the places that aren’t topping the list here, but I’m mentioned because some people rave about this healthy place. I think it’s best for vegans/veggies but it’s above a big Lifestyle Fitness and people go there after they work out. I thought my turkey sandwich was a little weird but the other girls I was with ordered healthy things and loved theirs.
Illuminati pizza is a favorite with folks in Merida, but Ben and I weren’t that into it. The cheese pizza had some local cheese on it I didn’t love (manchego I think) and Ben’s BBQ pizza was pretty much falling apart.
La Recova is a popular steakhouse in Santa Lucia square that is always packed. While it’s a great environment with live music and a lively vibe, we thought it was just okay. My shrimp alfredo was good but Ben’s steak was pretty basic. I think people go mostly just for the vibe.
I don’t have a photo, but when we order takeaway there is a Boston’s down the street and we get pizza from them. Sometimes we order Pizza Hut or Little Ceasars, but Bostons is the go-to. They do all kinds of American snacks. I’m pretty sure this is a Canadian chain restaurant.
This is a seafood and steak restaurant. We pass it when we walk down to Pastor Suizo and it’s always packed with very fancy people having their Mercedes valeted. We finally tried it and $75 (for two people, no alcohol), we decided it was good but nothing crazy special. I think the vibe here is “over the top fancy, make you feel SO special” which some people are down for – but several waiters kind of stood over us the whole time, they have you pick out your steak knife from a selection of unique one-of-a-kind knives, and bring a trolley drink cart over to make your cocktails. It’s cool in a way, and really $75 isn’t bad for two appetizers that were huge, a shrimp and a steak main, and a dessert. So, it’s kind of a toss-up. Portions are huge and we definitely didn’t need starters. I’d probably go back to try more like the seafood pastas and risottos but we weren’t “wowed”.
I’m going to mention a few places that we didn’t love…
Hennessy’s is an Irish place but we didn’t like anything we ordered and were pretty bummed, especially since it’s the style of food Ben misses from home, Angry Angus has burgers, BBT has American food like wings, potato skins, buffalo strips in alfredo pasta, and it’s okay – it’s something we order when we just want snacky Netflix food, then there is Lapalapa which is the same food basically but is not as good; I won’t order it again. Bryan’s is also one people rave about that we thought was just okay.
Obviously, you have all the mall food too: Burger King, McDonald’s, mall-style Chinese food, Alabama Mama, and then more chains like Chilis and TGIF. We like TGIF here but Chilis was terrible – maybe we got unlucky though.
Non-Yucatan/Mexican Places I Haven’t Tried Yet But Want To:
Lo Que Hay (vegan/veggie), Numen (vegan), Eureka (Italian), Wokies Monchis (burgers), La Rueda Steak House (steak and wood-fired pizzas), Mr. Pampas (Brazilian all-you-can-eat, La Terrazza (Lebanese), La Cubanita (Cuban), La Bierhaus (German), Sonora Grill (meant to have the best steak), Pita (Mediterranean), Pizza e Core (Italian, pizzas look like Franco Manco and I’m dying to have this!), Monique’s Brunch (Mediterranean, veggie), Dang Ren (Chinese), Eskondida pizza, Billy O’s Burgers, Patio 57 (Lebanese), Ave Del Paraiso (Thai)
Best Bars in Merida
Eladios is a good stand-by for a bar to go to. The big one in centro is kind of hit or miss with the music, and the one on the beach is great. It’s a chain. This place gives the best/most botanas (free snacks!).
La Negrita Cantina
This is the most popular pub I think and it’s popping up in guidebooks so a lot of travelers come here (hostels send them here as well). I love seeing the locals dance, love the bands, and the outdoor patio. It’s a favorite!
If you want a party party experience, then go to Mayan Pub and wander into the back patio. You can go here later at night after the cantinas close.
This is a great little cantina that has a big courtyard, a very friendly owner, and is one that we love to go to with friends.
They do live music here on the weekends and we’ve seen a couple of great bands here. Come early to get a good seat – it’s a small place. Also, in the hot months here, these cantinas that are inside-only can be very hot!
This is a speak-easy behind Santa Lucia square. If you want to go somewhere later at night, this is a cool spot and something a little different. You can ask at Apoala where the entrance is.
This cantina is a really lively place that often has live music. While many cantinas close at 10, this bar does not open until 8 pm and stays open late. It gets packed so if you want a table come early. Their food is actually pretty good if you want a drunk snack. Four people drinking many buckets of beer for 5 hours and having food was just 500 pesos.
Bars I Haven’t Tried Yet But Want To:
Esvedra (fancy place, has pizza), El Porvenir, Beso de la Flaca (open late, dancing), Casa Negra (open late), Pipiripau (open late, hipster), Casa Chica (chilled, tropical vibes), La Pura at Santa Ana Park, Delorean (live music), Bela Chela (gastropub), La Linda Cerveceria (micropub, craft beers), La Valentina
Best Desserts in Merida
This is a very cute ice cream shop (very instagrammable) but I gotta say, I didn’t think it was very good gelato, and I must be the only person in Merida who has said that.
A famous ice cream and sorbet spot.
A cafe and place for coffee and also nice french pastries.
Marquesitas on the street
This is the most popular street food and you’ll see the common combi is Edam cheese and nutella. I’m not a fan but everyone else is! It’s basically a crepe and you can get all kinds of flavors, minus the cheese if you want.
This is a big list it seems like, but I still feel like I’ve barely scraped the surface!
Merida has so many good restaurants and I cannot wait to try more. I added in to each sections places that people rave about which I haven’t been able to try yet so that you can go try those, too. Most good Yucatan food is in Centro and closes by 2 PM so I rarely get there since I live in work from home in the North of the city, but eventually, I’ll get to them all and update as I do!
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