I am celebrating my twentieth year in Merida this fall. Recently I have started to venture out to outdoor dining with vaccinated guests or friends and so far I only go to Miyabi for sushi because that is what I missed the most in 2020. In 2014 I helped host and coordinate the Cook it Raw events here in and around Merida. For my annual Hanal Pixan party I cooked Pizza´s with JP McMahon of Aniar in Galway and an Indian wedding cabbage curry with Albert Adrià of El Bulli fame. Giocanda Scott of Trasierra made my birthday cake that summer. Jeremiah Tower help host the first of 3 events and you can see the video here on Munchies along with Eric Werner of Hartwood in Tulum. Roberto Solis of Nectar used to close his restaurant every summer and he did internships in places like Fat Duck and Noma. It was Roberto Rene Redzepi discovered the Yucatan and now spends a few weeks a year in the Yucatan. Roberto has been hosting chefs for special evenings at Nectar so you should keep your eye on his facebook page to see who´s coming if you are in town. In 2019 Jorge Pardo designed a new restaurant with a menu by Solis called Huniik. In 2020 Jose Garcia, Mariano Rocha and Lalo Najera opened a gallery, bar, restaurant and cinema called Salon Gallos. All at once the art art and food scenes have collided. This year Massimo Bottura opened Refettorio Merida a cultural space with food.
When guests come to Merida I send them to either Apoala for their first meal or to Picheta to see the sunset over the zocalo. Apoala is my favorite restaurant for the cocktails of Arni Murillo and for the Oaxacan fare of Sara……. The setting is very festive in the beautiful colonial colonnade in parque Santa Lucia. Picheta has a roof terrace overlooking the San Isidoro Cathedral and the bar is nice before the sun goes down and the volume goes up. Then you can move downstairs to the formal dining room. The menu has a dish designed by different chefs famous for Yucatan cuisine. I burned out on Yucatan cuisine in my first ten years in town when there were no, zero, zilch decent restaurants in town. Back then it was cocina economica for lunch and market stall for dinner. There were restaurants for tourists then with international fare and it was indeed only fair and their were steak houses and seafood places in the north of the city. Now there are many options for the local cuisine you can try Museo de Gastronomia de Yucateca in a nice old Casona which is better than Chaya Maya or the Hacienda Teya at Mercado 60. Rick Bayless recommends Manjar Blanco but there is nothing much on the menu for a vegetarian or pescaterian such as I.
If you have been in the Yucatan for a while you might be ready for a great Italian meal in which case I’d send you to Oliva Enoteca. There are plenty of good Italian places all over town but Oliva is the best by far and for Pizza go to Rafaelo and ignore the fact that he is known to be less than cordial. Merci in Mercado 60 is worth going to for breakfast and if you like it come back for lunch. Expats love Bistro Cultural which now has two locations and is also French owned and open for breakfast and lunch in Santiago and Santa Ana.
You are not going to find Tex-Mex in Merida. But you can find the next best thing at three very casual places Apapacho and Pancho Maiz and Platos Rotos. For a more upscale restaurant with Mexican fare and a bar try Catrin.
If you want Seafood the traditional competitors for Merida society would be La Pigua and Muelle Ocho a short uber away from centro. But I prefer the dive in the wall called Marlin Azul a couple of blocks from the main square. Transplanted Chilangos like Mar y Lena but such enthusiastic service makes me loose my appetite before the over sauced fish arrives at the table.
If you don’t know what the hell you want to eat or you have a big group with kids and teens and the grandparents I would head straight to Mercado 60 where there are many restaurants like Merci, Crabster, Hacienda Teya and there are food court with a little Oliva, Miyabi, Siqueff, Bryan’s Burger Bar with communal seating inside or outside.