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The Yucatan usually has travelers dreaming about sun, sand and cervezas, but the colonial city of Merida actually has another draw: extraordinary local cuisine that will delight your clients’ taste buds. Within the local community, sharing a meal is important for relationships with family, friends and even business associates. The conversation is as meaningful as the meal. And from traditional to innovative, Merida’s top restaurants are giving Mexico City’s internationally known eateries a run for their money. Fresh home-grown ingredients, wine cellars with depth and unique local spices make Merida’s “it” spots pop.
Cafe CremeDiscover a selection of French cheeses and pastries at Cafe Creme. With its open-air courtyard filled with palm trees, Cafe Creme is an oasis in the middle of Centro (Merida’s downtown). Open until 5 p.m., it’s the perfect location for breakfast or an afternoon recharge. The delightful French owner is typically on-site and always smiling when serving coffee. Locals, expats and tourists enjoy this relaxed atmosphere.
What to Order: I’m an espresso fanatic — and the cappuccinos here are incredible. The chocolate croissants melted in my mouth. I also enjoyed the French cheese paired with local papaya.
Hacienda TayaInfluenced by Maya and Spanish heritage, authentic Yucatecan cuisine is a must in Merida. And what better way to experience it than by dining at a hacienda? Located approximately 20 minutes from downtown Merida, Hacienda Taya and its charming setting will seduce clients, and its traditional flavors will entice them. The hacienda also serves as a hotel, event center and church.
What to Order: Panuchos (pork tacos) are on every Yucatecan menu, including Hacienda Taya’s, and I also loved the longaniza (sausage). The Brazo de Reina (“the Queen’s Arm”) is a large tamale filled with hard-boiled eggs and served in generous slices. Clients may have to channel their inner Anthony Bourdain to try it, but it won’t disappoint.
Ku’ukLocated in a century-old old mansion near the Monument of Paseo de Montejo, Merida’s main avenue, Ku’uk has an inviting and intimate atmosphere, as well as an extensive wine list, with more than 780 labels in its cellar. The bar is located in the original “study parlor” of the home and is a perfect spot for a glass of wine or pre-dinner cocktail. Ku’uk is a celebration for the senses, and chef Pedro Evia has created an international menu selection that is over-the-top in taste and presentation.
What to Order: I give rave reviews to the chef’s tasting menu. While I was shocked at first by the grouper staring into my face, I loved its flaking-off-the-bone perfection. The pulpo (octopus) deserves a mention for its tenderness.
Rosas & XocolateWith an ambience as inviting as its menu, Merida’s well-known Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel & Spa is an example of classic elegance. With fresh roses adorning each table, as well as options to dine inside, in the open-air courtyard or in the rooftop lounge, clients will feel as though the experience was tailor-made for them and will fall in love with its magic. In 2014, Travel and Leisure nominated the restaurant for “Best Restaurant in Mexico.” The owner is well-versed in wine and has specifically chosen spectacular Mexican varieties as the house labels.
What to Order: For an appetizer, I suggest the chicharron de pulpo, and for the main course, there’s duck with Valladolid sausage or shrimp in lime sauce. My favorite dessert of all time is the chocolate souffle served here, which is dressed with edible, crystallized rose petals.
Rosa Sur 32°Merida’s newest restaurant, Rosa Sur 32°, opened in January and draws its culinary inspiration from celebrity chef Mario Espinosa. Chef Mario, as he is known, is responsible for the award-winning restaurant at Merida’s Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel & Spa, as well as the recently launched Besame Mucho in Milan. For Rosa Sur 32°, chef Mario has spared no detail. With menu concepts that blend Mexican roots and Mediterranean depth, it is a true culinary experience. The flavors, presentation and service here are exceptional.
What to Order: I absolutely loved the octopus and sausage dish. If your clients love mussels, Rosa Sur’s are fresh, and the sauce is divine. The Yucatecan hamburger was an unexpected delight, as well.