Not all travelers to Mexico realize the vast differences between the cuisine of the Yucatán and the rest of the country. Yucatecan cuisine is rooted heavily in European flavors – mainly because early settlers had a hard time getting to the peninsula from the rest of Mexico and so relied instead on the goods that were imported from Europe. This isolation resulted in a uniquely Yucatecan flavor in the cuisine, with a touch of Dutch, French, Spanish and Caribbean traditions.
Today, gourmet-minded Yucatán travelers will find spicy, fragrant dishes incorporating achiote, habanero pepper and the sour orange, as well as corn, tomatoes and chilies. These latter ingredients stem from the Mayan culture, and also include chocolate, honey, venison, squash, cucumbers, wild turkey and more.
For a true immersion into the best traditional cuisine on the Yucatán peninsula, we turned to the experts at Catherwood Travels. Here are their recommendations – we can’t wait to check them out.
Located south of the city of Mérida, within the exclusive Chablé Resort & Spa in the town of Chocholá, Ixi’im is home to the largest tequila collection in the world. The menu was designed by Jorge Vallejo, one of the best chefs in Mexico, and calls upon both modern practices and sustainable ancestral techniques for its succulent dishes, always honoring Mexican organic products from local farmers. The restaurant is a masterpiece, ideal for romantic dinners and small groups.
Open: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 PM to 11 PM. Thursday to Sunday, 1 PM to 4 PM and 7 PM to 11 PM.
Address: At Chablé Resort in Chocholá, Yucatán.
This new and vibrant establishment offering Mexican food, fish and seafood, is located in the historic center of Mérida. This is an eatery oozing with charm and emotion, where food is lovingly prepared and served. Gather with close friends or family for an incredible lunch or dinner, then follow it up with a treat from the artisan ice-cream shop, Casa Pipi Cucu, just down the street.
Micaela Mar y Leña: Open Monday to Saturday, 1 PM to 12 AM. Sundays, 12 PM to 6 PM.
Casa Pipi Cucu: Open Monday to Friday, 4 PM to 12 AM. Saturday and Sunday, 12 PM to 11 PM.
Address: 47 Street between 52 and 54 Streets, Historic Center, Mérida
This small and beautiful restaurant, located in the north zone of the city, was founded by the famous meridense Roberto Solís and was the first haute cuisine restaurant to open its doors in the city of Mérida. Expect an evolutionary menu, as it changes over time in conjunction with the ideas and inspirations of the work team. The mixture of ingredients honors local flavors, seeking to preserve the culinary traditions of the region. A wonderful choice for couples and small groups.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 1:30 PM to 12 AM. Sundays, 2 PM to 6 PM
Address: Avenue Andrés García Lavín inside Plaza Jardín, Mérida
Located in an old house within the historic center of Mérida, Oliva Enoteca offers a menu of high-end Italian cuisine in a chic industrial environment. The menu is constantly reinventing itself to offer new incredible flavors to the palate. It is commonly frequented by both foreigners and locals thanks to its incredibly central location. Perfect for visiting with close friends, family or celebrations. Dining elsewhere? Stop into the bar here first, an ideal spot to enjoy a signature cocktail while overlooking the open kitchen.
Open: Monday to Saturday, 1 PM to 5 PM and 7 PM to 12 AM
Address: 47 Street, with the corner of 54 Street, Centro
Apoala is the dream come true of the brothers Sara María and Carlos Arnaud Gómez, who, in August of 2013, decided to open the doors of their Mexican restaurant and rescue family recipes. The food honors several flavors of the ancient recipes of their grandmother and of Oaxaca, their native land, incorporating modern standards and a strong passion for cooking. Visitors and locals alike delight in the dishes and enjoy pleasant evenings with mezcal and craft beers. Apoala is located within the beautiful and historic Santa Lucía Park inside the historic center of Mérida. Ideal for couples and family dinners.
Open: Monday to Saturday, 1 PM to 12 AM. Sunday, 2 PM to 11 PM
Address: Between 60 and 55 Streets, Centro. Inside Santa Lucía Park.
Also known as MUGY, this restaurant promotes the cultural and gastronomic richness of the state of Yucatán. It is located inside a colonial house in the heart of the historic center of Mérida and is decorated with woods and local natural fibers, such as henequen. Although it opened its doors only in December 2018, it has been widely well received. Perfect for family and large groups of friends as it has beautiful outdoor tables. There is also an interior patio where Jarana nights are organized, a typical dance of the region, every Thursday at 7 PM. Similarly, in the back of the restaurant is a replica of a Mayan house, in which the chef explains and demonstrates the “pib,” a traditional Mayan technique that consists of cooking with the heat of the earth.
Open: Sunday to Thursday, 12 PM to 11 PM. Friday to Saturday, 12 PM to 1 AM.
Address: 62 Street, between 55 and 57 Streets, Centro
Hungry for more? Please be in touch and we’ll connect you with Catherwood Travels.