In the historic center of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula, I found four great things to do in the evenings. Merida is a charming city, but the days are hot and walking around the city in the blazing heat can be quite a sweaty experience. When the sun goes down and the temperatures drop to a more comfortable level, Merida comes alive and the people come out.
There is a constant string of press about problems in Mexico, Merida is not one of the places experiencing these problems. I felt perfectly safe walking around at night. I was assured by cabbies, an expat couple that lived there and the folks in my hotel, that the Historic District of Merida was very safe for couples and singles to stroll freely at any hour of the day or night. No place in the world is 100% safe for tourists, but the Yucatan and Chiapas in Mexico’s south are very close to it.
My first recommendation is really something you can do at any time of day. My favorite restaurant in Merida, perhaps all of the Yucatan, is La Chaya Yucatecan Restaurant at Calle 62 x 57. I loved it so much I ate there three times in three days. The first time I was there I had a breakfast of Huevos Moltulenos, a delicious plate filled with a base of fresh corn tortillas, refried beans, fried eggs, diced ham, peas, local cheese and a savory tomato based sauce. It came with a chai drink that was chilled and very tasty. They also had giant glasses of fresh orange juice, I had both the chai and the OJ.
For both a dinner and a lunch I had the Pork Cochinita. It was a plate filled with a citrus marinated, slow roasted, very large piece of pork meat in a yummy red sauce and frijoles. It came with delicious fresh hand made corn tortillas.
There is no better tortilla in the world than a fresh, hand made, corn tortilla. When I lived in Guatemala I became spoiled by these ever present tortillas, the thin machine made flour tortillas all over Mexico barely deserve to be called tortillas next to them. I guess it’s just that I love the Mayan tortillas over all others.
My second recommendation for both food and pure Mexican fun ambiance is El Nuevo Tucho at 482 Calle 60. I heard music coming from a parking lot across the street from my hotel Luz En Yucatan. From the parking lot I entered the restaurant. It’s a sort of night club, cantina, Yucatecan restaurant. There was no air conditioning, but the many ceiling fans were doing their job. The crowd all appeared to be working class Mexicans. I was the only gringo in sight that night. The waiter told me they don’t get many foreign tourists, but they do get quite a few Mexican tourists and locals.
The place has a stage with different musical and musical comedy acts throughout the night. This is the kind of place that might intimidate some tourists, which is a shame. Everyone was very friendly, the waiters were attentive and the food was delicious. The musical acts I saw that night were both great fun and very talented. One of the things I love about live bands in Mexico is that they are almost always performers as well as musicians. These people sang, danced and goofed around with each other in a playful, fun and sexy way. I felt like I was in a Mexican movie. It may sound strange, but after living in Mexico for over a year, this was the most Mexican place I had ever been.
The food here was also top notch. I ordered the Chicken Pibil. Pibil of any kind is one of my very favorite foods. Pibil’s spicy tangy sauce is the key to the amazing flavor. It is basically achiote paste with a citrus juice and other seasonings, savory wonderfulness! The chicken came wrapped in three large bundles of banana leaves, along with rice and onions. As always in any real Mexican or Guatemalan restaurant, it included a large basket of my other favorite thing, fresh corn tortillas. El Nuevo Tucho’s icy cold beers, along with a shot of tequila the folks at the next table shared with me, made the evening a perfect slice of Mexico. The Corona girls that practically demanded a photo with me might have added a bit of fun to the evening as well 😉
My third recommendation for an evening in Merida is the regularly scheduled live music in the parks. Each night a different park or square around the city center has live music. The music can be anything from very traditional Yucatecan music to modern Latin Jazz. The evening I went to the music they were playing folklorico music. The park was filled with locals and tourists alike. The performances start at 9 pm and I recommend you get there a good twenty minutes early for a seat. When you get to Merida, you should ask at your hotel where the live music in the park is that night and make a plan to attend.
My final suggestion is that you just go down to the Central Plaza, find a bench, sit and watch the world go by. Merida offers a wealth of fun and cultural activities. There are also elegant theaters and many other things for you to discover on your own when you go.