We’ve landed in Merida Mexico where we will be living and working from for a few months. And if there’s any indicator from our past Mexican travels one of our favorite things about Mexico is the FOOD! So we didn’t waste any time when arriving at this Yucatan city to find what to eat in Merida. Lucky for us we didn’t have to do much research ourselves because we already had blogger friends, who happen to be travel and food bloggers, who had been living in Merida Mexico from a few months to over a year.
Within the first few days, we were already well acquainted with local Yucatecan dishes and food experiences that make eating our way through Merida one of our favorite parts of this trip.
Because eating was truly one of the best parts of being in Merida we decided to team up with our food expert friends Megsy and Tommo of Food Fun Travel and Nathan of Foodie Flashpacker to show us what to eat in Merida and 5 local food experiences you can’t miss on your trip.
Don’t be a fool – follow this guide for what to eat in Merida during your trip!
Literally translating to “snacks” in English, botanas is what to eat in Merida if you’re looking for the ultimate local experience. We can’t deny that getting botanas has also become one of our favorite Yucatecan food experiences! So what’s magical about botanas is that you don’t actually have to order any food to eat!
You actually order a round of drinks and free food comes out! FREE! Typically the drinks are just a smidge more expensive than if you were to go to a non-botanas joint but honestly, it’s still pretty cheap considering you’re going to be leaving with a full stomach.
As you order more rounds of drinks more dishes come out and they usually are upgraded as you go up – think of it as leveling up like in a video game. A game we love playing since it involves food and beer!
Tommo & Megsy’s favorite botanas dish that comes out is niños envueltos which actually translates to “wrapped children.” While no actual children are in the dish it is delicious! This savory snack is made with beef mixed with rice, wrapped up in cabbage, and covered with a tomato sauce and packed full of flavor.
Their insider tip was if you know a dish that you want, that your botanas spot has, make sure you ask for it because sometimes they don’t always bring out everything they have!
Where to find Botanas in Merida
We featured Eladios as where to eat in Merida if you’re looking for botanas. Eladios is a fan favorite with the locals, so popular that they actually have opened up a few locations. Enjoy the buzzing and lively atmosphere with live music and dancing. This is more of a noisy place so don’t come here on a first date trying to have a meaningful conversation.
Calle 59 425, Centro, 97000 Mérida closes at 9 pm
Our next food experience and pick for what to eat in Merida is the popular Yucatecan dish panuchos. Panuchos have also become one of our favorite staples here for food in the Yucatan. A panucho is made with a corn tortilla that has been stuffed with refried black beans and fried giving the tortilla a soft, greasy, crunch with the savory bean filling.
Megsy and Tommo favorite panuchos and top pick for what to eat in Merida are lechon panuchos. Topped with lechon (slow roasted pork), cueritos (leathery pig skin), and chicharrón (fried pork belly that has a consistency of pork rinds). This dish is a bit greasy thanks to the deep fried tortilla and mouthwatering slow roasted pork, and fried pork skin and belly – but an absolutely to die for Yucatecan food.
Megsy says this isn’t a first date food, but if Scott took me here on a first date I’d propose right then and there. These lechon panuchos are DELICIOUS. This is one of those meals that you eat on your cheat day though, don’t bother trying to count calories on panucho day.
Insider tip: Tommo and Megsy had us break up our cueritos, the leathery pork skin, into smaller pieces on our panucho. This was a good call because it’s very chewy and having it all in one bite would have been hard to chew. Plus you had a little bit of this tasty goodness in each bite if you break it up!
Where to find Panuchos in Merida
Megsy & Tommo’s pick for panuchos is Taqueria La Lupita at Santiago Mercado and Parque Santiago in centro Merida. This is more of a heavy breakfast or lunch spot since the market closes at 2 pm. There are many stalls in the market, be sure to look for the blue and white signs for La Lupita.
Calle 57 4, Barrio de Santiago, Centro, 97000 Mérida open from 8 am – 2 pm daily
3. Seafood on the beach
Our next food experience for what to eat in Merida is actually about a 30-minute drive to the beach in Progreso. Progresso is the local beach town that everyone flocks to for an easy accessible beach day and where some of the best seafood in Merida can be found.
What’s awesome about this food experience is you’re actually on the beach. Get seated at a table overlooking the beach with its own pool with swim-up bar.
The seafood in the Yucatan has been some of the best we’ve ever had. Being on a peninsula surrounded by water you can imagine that there are a ton of seafood restaurants to choose from.
Megsy and Tommo’s favorite dishes are the buttery shrimp and octopus served with bone marrow in the actual bone. This dish sounded a bit crazy to us but when we saw it come out we couldn’t resist trying. We easily tasted why they loved this starter.
Another great starter is the creamy guacamole served with shrimp and mango! We loved the fresh mango in our bites as it added a unique flavor and texture to the guacamole we’ve never had before. Plus throw in a shrimp in your bite for the ultimate mouth party.
Also, the crunchy Baja style fish tacos were divine and the perfect beer and beach food. The fish tacos are crusted with a deep fried cornflakes and served with flour tortillas with cabbage. Add salsa, lime, and your toppings of choice for each delectable bite.
Another amazing dish that isn’t mentioned or shown in the video is the ceviche! Scott and I are obsessed with ordering fresh ceviche and is probably one of our favorite foods in the Yucatan.
Where to find the best seafood near Merida
Our video features one of Tommo & Megsy’s favorite seafood restaurants in Progreso called El Ha-guay. This spot is right on the beach with its very own swim up bar! You can easily hang out here all day. It’s easy to get to Progreso, it’s about a $12-$15 USD Uber drive or you can take the local bus for under $2/person.
Calle 60 x 21 #130, Parador Turístico, 97320 Progreso closes at 8 pm
4. Giant Pastor
Our next food experience not to be missed in Merida is actually not an original Yucatecan dish. As a matter of fact this cooking technique is not from Mexico at all but from Lebanon. Pastor is extremely popular and easy to find in Mexico City, but you can still find it all over the country including here and is one of Nathan’s top picks for what to eat in Merida because not for the food itself, but the experience is really fun.
His pick takes you weaving through the San Benito market until you find the half indoor half outdoor pastor stands where you’ll find the biggest pastor you’ve ever seen in your life cooking on the vertical rotating skewer waiting to be sliced onto tacos.
This method of cooking pastor was brought over by Lebanese immigrants who came to Mexico in the early 1900s. This is how they cook shawarma and it was adapted to cook the chili marinated pork.
The pastor man will shave a fresh layer of cooked and partially crispy pork onto tortillas and top with sliced pineapple, cilantro, and onion for flavor. When the pastor comes to your table you can add lime and salsa to your liking. This has become another one of our favorite dishes and meats in Mexico.
Want to switch it up? You can also order nachos and other dishes with pastor! You’re not just limited to tacos!
Where to find pastor in Merida
El Rey de Trompo in Mercado San Benito is Nathan’s pick for an unmissable food experience in Merida. Walking through the local market and getting lost a few times trying to find your way to the pastor is all a part of the experience. You’ll get to experience the smells, the food, and the merchants who make this bustling market come to life.
Calle 54 s/n, Centro, 97000 Mérida – can’t find El Rey de Trompo? Ask a local in the market, they are friendly and will point you in the right direction even if you just show them the name of the spot.
5. One Stop Shop for All Yucatecan Dishes
Our last pick for where to eat in Merida brought to you by Nathan is Manjar Blanco. This restaurant serves up great quality Yucatecan dishes. This is your one-stop shop to taste your way around the Yucatan peninsula without having to shop around from market to market or street vendor to street vendor if you’re short on time or would just like to have it all in one spot.
Before your meal comes the servers bring out frijoles colados served with tortilla chips, or as Nathan likes to call them “crack beans.” After eating around in Merida restaurants we have noticed this is a common complimentary dish that comes out with your round of drinks while you wait on the rest of your dishes.
Next up is Nathan’s favorite Yucatecan dish, Lomitos de Valladolid. This savory pork dish is served with cubes of pork in a tomato based sauce with diced eggs, garlic, and white bean sauce. You can eat this dish on its own or throw it in a tortilla for a DIY taco.
Another favorite dish that like the pastor has an international influence is the queso relleno. We love anything with cheese and this dish didn’t disappoint. This dish is made up of stuffed Edam cheese from Holland with minced ground meat blended with local herbs and topped with a creamy white sauce and tomato sauce for one flavorful gooey bite after another. The flavors in this dish sort of reminded us of the flavors you’d have in lasagna. It wasn’t a flavor we’d expect in Mexico, but it sure was tasty.
Nathan’s last featured Yucatecan dish has also become of favorite meat to order for tacos or anything for that matter. Cochinita Pibil is a must try food in Merida. This shredded pork is marinated in spices with an orange colored juice that is then wrapped in a banana leaf and buried underground where it is slow cooked with coals.
This cooking technique was taken from the Mayans, however, many places today don’t actually bury the meat and cook it underground anymore. Eat it by itself, throw it in a tortilla and make a taco, or eat with a side of those crack beans, either way this dish is mouthwatering and has got us drooling again just thinking about it.
One last dish that isn’t mentioned or shown is another Yucatan special, salbutes. Like panuchos, sabultes are prepared by deep frying a tortilla until its soft and a bit puffy and topped with a meat of your choice. We recommend ordering a round of salbutes as well as they are another great pick for what to eat in Merida.
Where to find all Yucatan dishes in one spot in Merida
Manjar Blanco is our foodie friend’s favorite spot to get great Yucatecan dishes all in one spot. Located in a convenient location overlooking Parque Santa Ana this spot is another not to miss place for where to eat in Merida.
Calle 47 496, Centro, 97000 Centro closes at 6 pm
A special thanks to Tommo, Megsy, and Nathan for their expert opinions for where to eat in Merida and food experiences not to be missed! They did a fantastic job eating their way around Merida for the past 6 months to over a year combined sampling just about every restaurant, food stand, and market in the city to prepare for our visit (or so we like to think).
Be sure to check out their channels!
Nathan is also eating his way across the globe and doing exciting things like judging food competitions! Be sure to check out his website and coverage of Mexico including the best restaurants in Tulum!
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