One of the biggest reasons to visit Merida, and indeed the entire state of the Yucatan, is for the food. There is an endless number of amazing restaurants in Merida, so it can be hard to figure out which are best (and trust me, some are not worth the hype!). After several trips to this beautiful city and lots of time spent enjoying the food on offer, I think this is a nice comprehensive list of the best restaurants in Merida Mexico!
What to Eat in Merida
First, let’s talk about the food in this region of the country. There are dishes here that you won’t find anywhere else in Mexico. The Yucatan has a long tradition of foods that date back to the Maya culture and many of those foods can still be enjoyed are markets around the state now. Here’s what you should keep an eye out for.
Cochinita pibil is slow-roasted pork that is seasoned with ancho chilis and often different spices like cloves and cinnamon. However, no cochinita pibil is the same, so you’ll want to try as much as you can. Cochinita pibil tends to be served for breakfast or early lunch and many places will run out by around 1pm, so be sure to get in early.
Salbutes are a type of tortilla that has been deep fried so that it puffs up. It’s not crispy like a tostada. It’s actually still quite soft and chewy and it is the perfect vessel for cochinita pibil (or turkey or lechon or any other meats for that matter). They’re pretty greasy, especially if you have them at a market stall, so stick to ordering only one or two at a time.
Panuchos are another type of tortilla. Once it has been made on the comal, the tortilla is then split open and filled with refried beans. The panucho then heads into a pan full of oil and is fried until it is almost crispy. You can order these topped with any of the different meats on offer, but I particularly loved it with turkey.
Kibis are a unique cultural combination. They are originally Lebanese, but when you have them in the Yucatan, they are uniquely Mexican. They are shaped like mini footballs and made with a roughly ground wheat, so the texture is thick and grainy. They are fried, which then makes the outside nice and crispy. You can order them sencillo, which will mean they are just served plain with a side of cabbage or salsa, or you can order them relleno, which comes stuffed with different meats or cheeses depending on the restaurant.
Although the name suggests that something is stuffed, I was surprised to discover that this is basically a turkey dish covered in a dark black sauce. The English name for this seems to be black turkey stew, which I think perhaps offers a better idea of what this is. The color comes from the dried chilis which are added to make the sauce. The dish is served with tortillas on the side so that you can make tacos and usually some hard-boiled eggs to go with it.
This is a must-try breakfast dish that is both delicious and a little bit strange. I have never seen it on a menu outside of Merida, but I like to have it every time I make a trip to the White City.
Motulenos are made by putting two tortillas, slightly fried, on the bottom of the plate. Each tortilla is then topped with refried beans, a fried egg, and a tomato sauce that is made with chunks of tomato, onions, ham, and peas. It’s usually served with fried plantains on the side.
Okay, turkey is not exactly unique to Merida, but it is eaten a lot. A friend told me that there’s only one other city in the world that eats more turkey than Merida. I believe it, because there is truly turkey everywhere in this city and I enjoyed it way more than I ever have at Thanksgiving!
You can have turkey in soup, on a hot sandwich (torta), on a taco, on a salubute or panucho, or with your relleno negro. You can’t spend a week in Merida and not enjoy some of the city’s turkey.
Sopa de Lima
This is a soup you’ll see everywhere at lunch and dinner spots around the city. When I had it at markets, it was usually made with chicken or turkey, but I’ve seen it on other menus made with pork. The broth is light in color but deep in flavor and is filled with lots of limes, hence the name. It’s usually topped with tortilla strips and served with a bowl of spicy onions to top it off with.
Poc Chuc is a popular dish that you’ll find in a ton of restaurants around Merida. The dish is made with pork that has been marinated in different citrus fruits and then usually cooked on a grill to give it a nice crispy crust and a juicy interior. It’s usually served with rice, pickled onions, refried beans, and sometimes avocado. Of course, you always get a side of tortillas to make some tacos with all of these ingredients.
This was a strange one for me. I saw it on different menus all over Merida and when I got back to Mexico City and told friends that I’d been in Merida, the first thing they asked was if we tried queso relleno. It’s exactly as the name suggests, stuffed cheese.
It’s made with a small ball of Edam cheese. The inside of the ball has been hollowed out and filled with either minced pork or beef, raisins, nuts, hardboiled eggs (chopped up). The whole dish is then popped under a grill so that the cheese melts. It’s served with tortillas and a spoon to mop it all up with.
Papadzules are like a type of enchilada dish. The tortillas are stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and topped with a sauce made from pepitas, or pumpkin seeds.
Sometimes there is cream dolloped on top and in other places I’ve had it with a tomato sauce layered across the green pepitas sauce. It’s a simple dish that you’ll find in lots of markets around Merida and will likely have if you visit the popular cantina chain Eladio’s.
There’s a lot to love about marquesitas. They are made with a sweet batter that once cooked resembles a waffle cone. It’s made by pouring the batter onto a flat hot plate.
Once it’s almost cooked, they add the topping of your choice and roll it up so it’s easy to eat. You have it while it’s piping hot and I love them. I usually have them with banana and nutella, but you can have lots of different combinations.
The most popular way to have them is strangely with cheese and cajeta (like a caramel) or cheese with nutella. I didn’t try this combo, but it’s certainly something you won’t find elsewhere.
Salsas in the Yucatan
Beware of all salsas in the Yucatan. That harmless-looking guacamole is laced with chilis and those pickled red onions are riddled with habaneros peppers. Habanero is the chili of choice in this region of the world and they pile it on hard.
I think because many of the dishes are fried, the spicy salsa really compliments a dish, but just remember to taste a little beforehand and always add only a small amount of salsa at a time. You can always add more, but you can never take away that chili oil once its all over your taco!
The Best Restaurants in Merida Mexico
Calle 57 x 62
Hours: Daily 7am-11pm
No list of best restaurants in Merida would be complete without Chaya Maya. It’s not exactly my favorite restaurant in Merida, but if you are only in the city for a few days and you want to sample a lot of Yucatan dishes in one place, there is no better place to do it. I’ve also been told by my vegan friend that it’s where she had some of the best vegan Yucatecan food in all of Merida.
It’s best to make a reservation, especially if you are traveling during peak times like weekends or holidays. It can get very busy. You can book a table on their website, by calling or by emailing. Most of the staff speak very good English.
Calle 47 463B
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday 1pm-12am, Thursday to Saturday 1pm-1am
This is such a cool restaurant and the food is some of the best we had on our most recent trip to Merida. I definitely recommend at least coming here for a cocktail in the evening. Sit outside after dark in their patio area and you’ll get to 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 might find in more fine-dining restaurants. That being said, the price point at Catrin is very reasonable.
My favorite thing on the menu was definitely the nopal starter. It was a grilled piece of cactus (nopal) topped with house-made cheese and popped under the grill. It was served with tortilla chips and a few different salsas and it tasted utterly amazing. The seafood rice is also a winner!
La Lupita at Mercado Santiago
Calle 57 between 70 and 72
Hours: Daily 5am-1pm
Although I recommend going to Mercado Santiago and trying several of the different restaurants, La Lupita truly cannot be missed. There is no better place to have cochinita pibil in Merida than at La Lupita. The only trouble being that you have to get there by 12:30 or you’ll miss out.
The market stall is inside the market (as opposed to being one of the stalls that line the outside of the market) and the different 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 night spots on my most recent trip to Merida. I absolutely loved coming here for dinner and most of the stalls are open until at least midnight and slightly later on Friday and Saturday nights. There are several different stalls and most serve up the same food.
For breakfast and lunch you’ll find cochinita pibil, lechon, and soups. For lunch and dinner you’ll get turkey, salbutes, panuchos and even some places doing papadzules.
The stalls that I loved most were Loncheria Rany, El Castillo, and El Negrito Gil.
Calle 57 #501
Hours: Daily 7am-11:30pm, opens at 8pm on Sundays
For a classic Mexican-style breakfast spot, Cafeteria Pop was my favorite option. It’s right in the downtown area, which I thought would mean it was overpriced, but it was incredibly afforable. This was my favorite place for the above-mentioned huevos motuleños, a popular breakfast dish here in Merida.
However, they also make a super infulgent plate of chilaquiles with more cheese than I’ve ever seen on a plate. They have healthier egg options as well as all you can drink strong coffee. Luke and I both ate here for less than 150 Pesos (about $6.50 USD).
Calle 58 434
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 8am-10pm, closed Mondays
This is both a great bar and a fantastic place to eat. Tobala is a type of mezcal, so you can be sure that you’ll have a nice selection of mezcals as well as cocktails on offer here.
According to they’re website, they class the restaurant as a ceviche bar. I didn’t realize that before we ate there, but I did really enjoy the different ceviche tostadas they had. Luke and I went here around 6pm and it had a great vibe.
We just had a few drinks and shared some of the tacos and tostadas and we absolutely loved it. If I had found it earlier in our trip I would definitely have made time to go there for a full dinner.
Loncheria La Ponderosa
Hours: Daily 5pm to midnight
If you’re looking for the best turkey sandwich in Merida, this is the place. While you may not realize that you want a turkey sandwich, trust me, you want this turkey sandwich. They have different types of bread and different toppings to go with the turkey.
It’s not just sandwich ham either, this is whole roasted turkey cooked to juicy perfection and sliced thickly to put on a fresh baguette. This was one of our favorite places to head after a few drinks at the nearby cantinas.
Calle 64 #472
Hours: Monday to Wednesday 1pm-11pm, Thursday to Saturday 1pm-1am, Sundays 1pm-6pm
For craft beer AND good food definitely get yourself to Hermana Republica. This was my favorite little bar spot and their menu is extensive (and perhaps a bit expensive). It’s certainly not the cheapest option on this list, but the food is made with care and is a fun take on Yucatecan food.
However, if you just want to go for beers, definitely check out the patio area in the back. It’s perfect on a warm evening and their draft beers are seriously delicious. It’s also worth noting that every night of the week they have happy hour 2-4-1 drinks until 8pm.
Mercado San Benito
Calle 69 between 56 and 54
Hours: Daily 3am-10pm
This is the city’s largest market and full of different places to eat. There are rows of taco stands, stalls inside selling sopa del lima and relleno negro, and near the fish market you can sample some seriously fresh ceviche.
It’s a little bit overwhelming if you’ve never been to a market in Mexico before, but if you go knowning it’s crowded and chaotic, then you’ll enjoy the buzz of it all. All stalls are cash only, so be sure to bring enough for all of the sampling you want to do.
This is also one of the best markets to come to if you want to purchase produce to self-cater. I found that the grocery stores in Merida weren’t the best, especially in the inner city. So instead, purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and meats from here and bring them back to your Airbnb or rental to cook!
Taqueria La Gloria
Calle 69 between 68 and 70
This little hole-in-the-wall taco spot will blow you away. It’s located right across the street from the second class bus terminal. It’s where I had the absolute best lechon tacos as well as seriously delicious cochinita pibil and great turkey salbutes.
It’s seriously small and you’d likely just walk past this place, but don’t. Even if you don’t plan on taking the bus anywhere, it’s worth walking a few blocks south from the zocalo for these tacos, especially at lunch time.
Calle 62 #354
Hours: Monday to Friday 10am-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-10pm, closed Tuesdays
This was my favorite breakfast in all of Merida. The restaurant itself is incredibly cute with all of the tables outside in the patio area. The walls all have stunning murals painted on them. The staff are very helpful and nice and most speak both Spanish and English.
The best thing and the reason that this would be my favorite place for Sunday brunch if I lived in Merida, is because of the food.
Luke and I both had a 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 options, but we went for the chilaquiles torta.
Basically a fresh bread roll filled with tortilla chips, salsa of your choice, and either meat or eggs. I opted for eggs which was utter perfection. Luke had his with chicken and we both didn’t speak to each other for the entire time we were eating. It was a truly delectable breakfast.
The corner of Calle 58 and 45
Hours: Daily 8:30am-2:30pm
This is a great place for a healthy breakfast or lunch and a really great cup of coffee. I only had a coffee and a sweet bread here, but the breakfast food looked delicious. I like the style of the restaurant.
It’s also a shop where you can buy artesan products like salsas, honey, fresh bread so you sit amongst the different things in the store. You can also get anything on the menu to go if you’re in a rush or want to go enjoy your breakfast al fresco somewhere nearby.
Calle 59 #538
Hours: Daily 8am-9pm, until 8pm on Saturdays, closed Sundays
As a serious coffee snob, I am not being over the top when I tell you this is the best coffee I had in Merida. They made perhaps the best cold brew that I’ve ever had. Usually, I love the taste of cold brew, but the strength of it can become bitter or give me a stomach ache.
The cold brew at Manifesto is smooth and not too strong, but it still has a fantastic flavor. You can even have it mixed with tonic water, which I wasn’t sure about at first, but it tastes like a refreshing coffee cocktail. Merida is a hot place, so finding a good iced coffee spot is a true lifesaver.
They roast their own beans, so if you love the coffee as much as I do, you can buy a bag or two to take home or do as I’m doing now and order it from their website.
They also have a selection of sweetbreads and cakes as well as a small menu with savory items like sandwiches and salads. Everything on the menu, including the coffees, are available for take-out.
Calle 60 #53
Hours: Daily 7am-11pm
This is another great option for coffee and a quick lunch in the Centro Historico. They make panini sandwiches which look okay, but I only went for the coffee (because let’s be honest, if you want a sandwich head to the above markets for delicious turkey tortas instead!). They make a tasty cold brew, but I preferred their espresso-style drinks.
Calle 51 #492C
Hours: Daily 8am-3pm, closed Mondays
I feel like I am on a constant search for great bread in Mexico and when I find it I need to tell everyone. YOU WILL FIND AMAZING BREAD HERE. While they have a full menu with different breakfast and lunch options (sandwiches, eggs with toast, and sweet breads like conches with coffee, I truly couldn’t look past buying entire loaves from this place.
I’ve never seen sourdough like this in Mexico and just thinking about it now is making my mouth water. If you live in Merida or you are in the city for a while and want delicious bread then you need to get yourself here.
Plaza Grande Sunday Market
Corners of Calle 62 and 63
Sundays from around 8am-2pm
I highly recommend checking out this street market in the zocalo not just for really great food, but for souvenirs and lively music, too. The main square is the place to be on a Sunday and you’ll be able to have everything from kibis and cochinita pibil to turkey salbutes and sopa de lima.
This particular market is a fantastic place to try all of the different traditional Yucatecan dishes in one place. It’s very affordable, but be sure to bring cash since none of the stalls accept card.
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