While living in the “white city” for an entire month, we got the chance to check out some of the best restaurants in Merida Mexico. Armed with a notepad of recommendations and an endless array of restaurants to try, we set out on a mission to explore Yucatecan cuisine. It was a fun challenge to discover the best restaurants in Merida, Mexico.
The following Merida restaurant reviews and recommendations are simply based on our personal opinions. We’re not chefs but have been eating our way around the world over the past two years. So we’d like to think that we know a good dish when we taste it. Yet we tend to put a heavy emphasis on the value. We love a good deal almost as much as good food, so you’ll see this is reflected in our reviews.
We tend to gravitate more towards the local cuisine rather than international restaurants. Hence most all of these restaurant recommendations in Merida reflect Yucatecan or other regional Mexican cuisine. We scoured the city in search of the best cochinita pibil in Merida rather than finding a great Thai restaurant or burger joint. Having been based in Merida Centro, most of our restaurant recommendations are within walking distance of the center of town.
There is an endless array of restaurants in Merida, possibly over a thousand. We were able to try roughly forty eateries while visiting the Yucatan’s capital city. We took recommendations from locals, expats living in Merida, notable chefs, guidebooks, food bloggers, and crowd-sourced review sites (e.g. Yelp, Tripadvisor). We attempted to try each and every one of the top recommendations so that we could develop our own opinions. We explored the city with a fork looking for the best restaurants in Merida.
So what are the best restaurants in Merida? It was difficult to whittle down a selection of our favorites. But here is our top picks!
Best Cheap Eats & Street Food in Merida:
Here’s a bold statement to kick this post off:
Wayan’e has THE best tacos in Merida.
This makes it one of our favorite places to eat in Merida. Go here for breakfast tacos or lunch but don’t go much later than Noon because all the best taco fillings get picked over. There are about 30-40 different varieties in addition to daily specials. During our many visits, we probably tried at least half the menu. Our favorite taco fillings at Wayan’e are the eggs with chaya (a local spinach-like vegetable), chicken in mustard sauce, chicken with poblano pepper & onions, pork belly, and something called the “chili bull” (which I’m still not sure what’s in that one but it’s damn good).
There are now supposedly four Wayan’e locations. We visited two. The Wayan’e location with closest walking distance to Merida Centro has a pleasant ambiance with tables in a courtyard setting. The original location, Northeast of the center of town, is a counter service joint on the street that retains a more rustic charm. Whichever location you go to, we hope you agree that this humble little establishment is one of the best restaurants in Merida.
Location: The closest Wayan’e location to Merida Centro is on the corner of Calle 59 & Ave 1o de Mayo (AKA Calle 46)
Prices: Around 10 pesos per taco
Turkey Tacos & Sopa de Lima in Parque Santiago
Around lunchtime in Parque Santiago, you’ll find many food stalls set up. You’ll notice many of them have big juicy roasted turkeys behind the counter. Order a few turkey tacos and they’ll carve the turkey fresh off the bird. It’s a cheap and delicious lunch with locals in a lovely setting away from Merida’s busier tourist hot spots.
Not in the mood for tacos? Put that fresh roasted turkey to use in other ways such as in traditional sopa de lima (lime soup), a staple to Yucatecan cooking. The tangy lime broth is loaded with turkey.
Location: Parque Santiago
Prices: 10-12 pesos per taco, mains 40-80 pesos.
Sunday in Plaza Grande
On Sundays during Merida en Domingo, little tented restaurant operations spring up along Calle 60. Pick one, sit at one of the plastic tables, and get ready to chow down on some delicious local street eats. Each booth offers a similar menu. Go ahead and play restaurant roulette to find your favorite Sunday stall.
Location: Plaza Grande on Calle 60
Prices: 40-60 pesos
Lucas de Galvez Market in Merida
You’ll find street eats of all kinds here, for both eating within the market and to takeaway. We always came hear to buy vegetables used for cooking back home. But why not grab a quick lunch while there? Try the ceviche! That and other lunch options are pretty good, but half the fun of eating lunch here is soaking in the beautifully chaotic atmosphere.
Location: Lucas de Galvez Market
Prices: Varies, starting at around 10 pesos for cheap snacks
Street Snacks in Merida
Be sure to try the street snacks of elotes (corn) and marquesitas. You can find them throughout the parks and plazas of Merida. Go to the Plaza Grande on Sunday for Merida en Domingo and there will be more marquisita stands than meets demand. But marquestitas are never to far away any day of the week.
Choose a stand and enjoy this unique sweet & savory snack of the Yucatan. When asked for toppings, we recommend the traditional combo of queso and cajeta (a sweet caramel-like syrup made from goat’s milk). What is a marquesita? This video below will explain further.
For a proper introduction to Merida’s thriving street food scene, we recommend taking this highly-rated Street Food walking tour. You’ll be guided around town to taste all of Merida’s most notable eats. We suggest trying to do this food tour on one of your first days in town in order to get your bearings and to know where all the best places to eat are. The guides are full of recommendations and helpful foodie advice. The tour is $44 USD including plentiful food and drinks, and begins 10:30 am Monday-Saturday. Check availability for your dates here.
Location: all over Merida
Prices: Standard price for a a marquisita in Merida is typically 20 pesos, but prices will range from 15-35.
Gorditas Doña Gorda
I’d be remiss not to mention this conveniently located gordita shop right in the heart of Merida. It’s nothing too notable but the tasty gorditas are good for a quick bite when wandering around Plaza Grande. We’re apparently not the only ones who think so, as Doña Gorda seems to always have a line. If this bare bones counter-service joint is packed, you can always get your gorditas to-go and enjoy in Plaza Grande.
Location: Corner of Calle 61 & 60
Prices: 9-12 pesos per gordita
This hole-on-the-wall on the outskirts of centro dishes up a few variations of seafood tacos and not much else. There’s only about three tables in the small outfit in which locals and expats give glowing reviews. We tried both the lobster tacos and fish tacos. In our opinion, these cold tacos were just okay, not quite living up to the hype. Yet we really enjoyed the no-frills atmosphere and the friendly owner/taco-maker/server, and hence makes the list. Go ahead and give it a try and if you have a sweat tooth, try their homemade confections for desert.
Location: New location moved from centro to Calle 21
Prices: no menu w/ prices, but six tacos and two sodas was under 100 pesos
Best Value Restaurants in Merida Mexico:
Las Vigas is one of the best value restaurants in Merida and one of our favorites period. Nearly every meal on the menu is in the 50 peso range ($2.75). Food quality is great and the cuisine leans a little towards tex-mex. Yet it still has a number of regional dishes on the menu. One standout is the ultra-tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs that are smothered in a mouthwatering sauce. It was hard to believe the $3 US price point. This is what had us returning to Las Vigas again and again.
Meanwhile the burritos at Las Vigas were another favorite. Generously stuffed then lightly grilled on the outside, they were the best burritos we found in Merida. The chicken in mole proved to be another winner.
Beer prices are just as inexpensive as the tasty food. If having a few cervezas, consider their bucket specials which offer even more value and come with snacks.
Although very close to the Plaza Grande, it’s a bit hidden. It’s mostly frequented (and packed) with locals. Get here earlier in the evening before all the tables are scooped up. Yet despite how busy it is, service was always extremely quick.
Las Vigas may not be the absolute best restaurant in Merida, but we hold firm that it delivers the best for value.
Location: You can find this hidden gem right by Plaza Grande on Calle 63, between 62 & 64. Just look for the stairwell leading above Los Arcos Hotel.
Prices: Most mains 40-60 pesos.
This is another solid restaurant near Plaza Grande in the city center. It’s not as good as Las Vigas or as inexpensive but still worth a visit. Skip the mediocre burritos and laughable pizza, and instead dive into their delicious cochinita pibil, which was the best pibil we had within that price range and reason alone to go here. El Trapiche also offers some great hearty breakfasts.
Location: Calle 62, between Calle 59 & 61
Prices: Mains range between 50-100 pesos
Come here to fill up on the free botanas (snacks) that come with the purchase of a beer. The food, itself, is nothing to write home about …but it’s free, plentiful, and decent enough. Order a single beer and an unfathomable six plates of complimentary food will also be whisked out to your table. It’s for these generous botanas, which eat like a meal, that put Eladios onto our list of best value restaurants in Merida. Come here, enjoy some live music, a few beers, and stuff your face on the huge assortment of complimentary botanas. It’s a great option to eat and drink in Merida on a budget.
Location: Multiple locations, closest to Centro is at the corner of 59 & 44
Prices: Don’t order off the menu and instead do as the locals do and go for the generous botanas that come complementary with the purchase of a beer.
Website: Eladio’s Bar (site is in spanish)
Best Mid-Range Restaurants in Merida Mexico
La Chaya Maya, Merida
It would be difficult not to list this perennial favorite on a list of best restaurants in Merida. La Chaya Maya is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike and seems to be highly recommended by nearly all sources we used to guide us around Merida’s food scene.
We would suggest Chaya Maya to be your first stop when exploring Yucatecan cuisine since it offers combination dinners for two so that you can sample several of the regional Yucatan cuisine in one meal. We highly recommend ordering Los Cuatro Yucas as your first dish. The 220-peso feast for two will give you a healthy sampling of four saucy traditional Yucatan dishes:
1) Cochinita Pibil – slow roasted pork marinated in sour orange juice, annatto, garlic, and other vibrant spices.
2) Pavo en Relleno Negro – slow cooked turkey in a black sauce starring burnt chiles.
3) Pavo end Sac-Col Indio – baked turkey served in a rich Thanksgiving-like gravy.
4) Pavo en Pipían – turkey cooked in a beautiful orange pumpkin seed sauce.
Dive in by grabbing a freshly made tortilla and lop on those neon pink pickled onions!
There are now two locations. Menu and prices are the same, but there are two key differences. The original Chaya Maya location tends to have no wait (or less wait than the new location). However, the newer location sports a more pleasant ambiance. We’d recommend the newer location if there’s little/no wait. Otherwise, walk just a few blocks down the street to the original locations, with less of a wait, if any.
Prices: Main courses average around 100 pesos. Combination dinner for two: 220 pesos.
Location: Original Chaya Maya: Corner of Calle 62 and Calle 57
New Chaya Maya (known as the Casona branch) is just around the corner: Calle 55, between 62 and 60
Website: La Chaya Maya
If you’re searching for traditional Yucatecan cuisine in Merida, this is a great place to look. The unassuming location across from Parque Santa Ana delivers beautifully presented Yucatan staples. All of the home cooked meals seem to come out of the kitchen with an delightful contemporary spin to them. The cochinita pibil was among our favorites in the Yucatan. It’s no wonder that notable chef and TV personality, Rick Baylis, cites it as one of the best restaurants in Merida Mexico. Go for lunch or an early dinner because Manjar Blanco closes at 6:00 pm each day.
Prices: Mains range 125-150 pesos
Location: Calle 47, between Calle 58 & 60
Update (July 2017): Botella Verde is currently closed. Expected to reopen September 2017. Check their site for any further updates.
This pleasant café is probably the most economical option within the semi-upscale Parque Santa Ana group of restaurants. Yet food quality, service, and ambiance are not sacrificed. Walk past popular Apoala and into the corner of the plaza where you’ll find Botella Verde (Green Bottle) quietly hiding.
Don’t come here too hungry as portions are on the lighter side. Yet we absolutely adored the avocado stuffed with a tangy lime & cilantro chicken salad, which also could make for a perfect option for anyone on a no/low-carb diet.
Tip: Come for an early dinner from 4-6 and you’ll also enjoy their happy hour of two-for-one beers, cocktails, and wine.
Prices: Most items on the small menu are 100 pesos, and runs up to 140.
Location: Parque Santa Lucia
If you’re in Merida for a while and tire of one pibil and poc-chuc after the next, you’ll be thankful to find an eclectic mix of international restaurants abound. There are actually several Italian restauarns throughout Merida but firmly planted as the best is Oliva Enoteca. It’s not just one of those places that’s “good for Mexico,” it’s truly a superb Italian restaurant, period. Set in a beautiful contemporary atmosphere with an open concept, Oliva excels on its prompt & friendly service as it does their delicious Italian recipes.
Don’t skip the tasty salads. And consider trying the traditional burrata, a soft fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. Although it’s the creative pasta dishes that reign supreme here. It all proves to be a welcomed distraction from another tortilla-based meal in Merida.
Location: Corner of Calle 47 & 54
Prices: Salads and appetizers range around 100 pesos, pasta mains are 100-300 pesos.
Website: Oliva Enoteca
Apola is constantly raved about as one of the best restaurants in Merida Mexico. It’s a nice location in parque Santa Lucia with lovely outdoor seating if the weather is nice. Apoala gives a contemporary spin on Mexican cuisine rather than traditional Yucatecan, and actually seems to lean more towards Oaxacan style cooking. Dishes are creative, as are the drinks.
There is no doubt that the quality of the food here is top notch but just be prepared to pay for it. We found prices to be about double that of other casual restaurants in Merida. If budget conscious, consider avoiding for dinner and instead come midday when there are lunch specials on offer.
Prices: Main courses begin in the 200-300 peso range and go upwards from there. Lunch: 100-200 pesos.
Location: Parque Santa Lucia
Website: Apoala (note: website was under construction at time of publishing this post)
Best Splurge Restaurant in Merida Mexico
Kuuk is the only restaurant on this post that we didn’t get a chance to visit firsthand. But anyone not including this gastronomic powerhouse in a list of best restaurants in Merida would be a crime of negligence. This high-end restaurant gives a Yucatan spin to the molecular gastronomy trend. The twelve-course tasting menu for 990 pesos ($55) may seem pricey by Mexico standards but is really an absolutely bargain. A comparable meal in Chicago or NYC would set you back nearly $300. Kuuk is worth the splurge and we look forward to trying it when returning to Merida.
Prices: Tasting menu for 990 pesos.
Location: Just off Paseo de Montejo between Calle 27a and Av Romulo Rozo
Best Restaurants in Merida?
Is this post about the best restaurants in Merida making you hungry? It is for us!
If you’re a foodie visiting Merida, why not consider taking a cooking tour? During this Merida Market Tour and Cooking Class a local chef will take you through the Lucas de Galvez Market to pick out ingredients that you’ll learn to cook back at their kitchen. What better souvenir than being able to recreate some of the best tastes of the Yucatan when you return back home.
If you liked this post, you may also be interested in our other two info-packed travel guides to Merida:
Do you have your own list of best restaurants in Merida? Let us know what we missed. We’d love to have an entire new list of restaurants in Merida to review the next time we return. And we will return. The food is too good not too! 😉
Ready to indulge in Merida’s best cuisine? Pin this to your travel Pinterest boards for future reference!