The best restaurants and bars in Merida, Mexico – Yucatan’s veritable foodie paradise – from casual eats and fine-dining destinations to rooftops, cantinas and cocktail dens.
Last updated: October 2023 / Feature image: La Chaya Maya by Under the Palm
To say the culinary scene in Merida, Mexico is having a moment would be an understatement. It’s downright scintillating. Dining concepts run the gamut, crossing haute origin cuisine to informal taco hotspots to legendary Yucatecan comfort fare. A recent boom of stylish drinking dens has risen alongside, where one can just as easily duck into a sophisticated cocktail bar, sling back a cerveza at a reimagined cantina, or ascend to a buzzing rooftop for sundowners with-a-view.
Because there’s no better way to explore Yucatan’s capital city than by eating (and drinking) your way through it, we give you the best restaurants and bars in Merida to indulge in now.
Where to Eat & Drink in Merida / Best Coffee Shops
Best Coffee Shops in Merida: Paseo de Montejo
As a growing boom of caffeine dens continues to thread throughout Merida, it’s safe to say the coffee scene here is – for lack of a better word – buzzing. Leisurely strolls along grand Paseo de Montejo (however shaded by rows of overarching greenery) inevitably call for a reprieve from the Yucatán heat. When such a time beckons, duck into lively Márago Coffee or one block off the stretch, refined Pan & Køf.feé. Both offer blissful A/C and an impressive selection of brews – hot or ice’d – alongside smoothies, frappes and café fare savory to sweet. Plus, ample seating space (indoors and out) where you’re welcome to linger with or without your laptop.
Best Coffee Shops in Merida: Calle 47
Located along Calle 47 – Merida’s burgeoning restaurant row – you’ll feel as though you’ve just stepped into a European café at Latte Quatro Sette. Freshly brewed Italian coffee, delicious pastries and a chic setting made this place my go-to while staying nearby on a recent visit. The space is intimate yet airy, and while not the best to clock laptop hours due to limited seating, an easy choice for a quick pick-me-up or espresso to-go.
Best Coffee Shops in Merida: Parque de Santa Lucia
In the heart of Merida’s Historic Center just off Parque de Santa Lucia, it’s worth a stop-in to Bengala Kaffeehaus for an unhurried pick-me-up at any time of day. Expect a wide range of options from regionally sourced beans to cold brew to smoothies, a small yet respectable selection of sandwiches and pastries, powerful A/C and free wi-fi. Choose to sit in the intimate indoor café or outdoor courtyard.
Best Coffee Shops in Merida: Santiago
A few blocks from Plaza Grande in Merida’s Santiago neighborhood, Manifesto Casa Tostadora Calabrese may as well be a mecca for true coffee connoisseurs. The caffeinated enclave takes the art of coffee seriously, housing a wide range of Mexican-grown beans sourced from various regions throughout the country (all impressively roasted on-site). Plus, a number of brewing methods from espresso to french press to pour over, and a killer cold brew.
If you prefer your coffee with a side of chocolate (not to mention history), than you’ll want to head to Placer & Delirio across from Parque de Santiago. Alongside espresso, flavored lattes and chai tea, the charming chocolatería serves spiced chocolate drinks that can only be described as decadent. Not to mention a bevy of irresistible sweets from pastries to artisanal chocolate bars.
Plus: Placer & Delirio happens to be located inside Casa Catherwood, a restored belle epoque manor once-occupied by revered English explorer Frederick Catherwood. The adventurer is famed for his meticulously detailed, 19th-century lithographs of then-untouched Maya archaeological sites, later appearing in the best-selling book, Incidents of Travel in Yucatán. For $80.00 pesos (approx $5.00 USD) you can view a collection of 25 such lithographs (all originals) in the upstairs, single-room gallery.
Where to Eat & Drink in Merida / Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants
Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants in Merida: La Libertad
Ambience is everything, and at La Libertad, you can enjoy a wide range of breakfast fare spanning Mexican to International in the glamorous surrounds of a converted colonial manor. Choose to dine in one of the elegant indoor dining rooms, or outside in the umbrella-shaded courtyard.
Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants in Merida: Casa T’HO
Nearby, Casa T´HŌ Concept House (pictured above left) resides in a beautifully transformed 19th-century mansion. An airy, palm-flecked courtyard anchors the stylish space, where healthy breakfast fare (read: perfectly plated toasts, eggs and bowls) later transforms into a buzzing scene of pre-dinner bites and cocktails. Don’t miss perusing the collection of encircling designer boutiques, perfumeries and art galleries, exclusively dedicated to made-in-Mexico talent.
Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants in Merida: Maíz, Canela & Cilantro
Across town in the quiet neighborhood of Santiago, Maíz, Canela & Cilantro opens its doors Fridays – Sundays only. The family-owned eatery is charming, unhurried and authentic, serving Mexican breakfast staples like chilaquiles, enchiladas and huevos rancheros with love. Plus, several vegetarian options.
Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants in Merida: La Chaya Maya
Offering a deep dive into traditional Yucatecan cuisine, there’s a reason why both tourists and locals alike flock to venerable La Chaya Maya at all hours of the day. There are two locations in Centro, though I prefer the more atmospheric La Chaya Maya Casona with its verdant courtyard seating. Expect mouthwatering regional cuisine served up by wait staff in traditional Yucatán dress, while handmade tortillas are pressed to perfection right on the restaurant floor. In addition to savory plates like queso relleno, sopa de lima and relleno negro, be sure to try the region’s legendary cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork dish braised in achiote paste, sour orange and lime.
Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants in Merida: Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca
Nearby, Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca offers a similar, if not slightly more contemporary, experience. Here, sleek wood dining tables pair with a stylish bar, plus – as the name suggests – a small on-site museum dedicated to Yucatecan gastronomy. Daily at 3pm, you can even witness the unearthing of the pib (underground oven), a centuries-old Maya cooking technique used to prepare such dishes as cochinita pibil, pollo pibil and relleno negro.
Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants in Merida: Manjar Blanco / Taqueria La Lupita
Because one taste of cochinita is never enough, you can also try the celebrated dish in the lush garden of Manjar Blanco by Parque de Santa Ana, or bustling Taqueria La Lupita in Parque de Santiago. Both of Netflix fame. TIP: If heading to the latter, go early. Open 6:30am – 1:30pm daily except Wednesdays, they’re known to sell out of cochinita (plus popular lechón) by late morning.
Best Lunch Restaurants in Merida: Ramiro Cocina
For an elevated daytime take on Mexican cuisine, reserve a table at newcomer Ramiro Cocina. Here, female chef Aleli Vicencio serves up artisanal spins on traditional antojitos (light bites) like quesadillas, tamales and molotes, plus larger plates like mole verde and pulpo en tinta, from an open kitchen. Order a la carte or opt for the seasonal, 6-course tasting menu, perhaps best enjoyed in the leafy back patio.
Best Breakfast & Lunch Restaurants in Merida: El Apapacho
For a more eclectic turn, head to El Apapacho. Tucked onto a quiet side street a few blocks north of Parque de Santa Ana, this hidden gem is an eatery, art gallery and bookstore all-in-one. The space can be described as colorful, quirky and bohemian, serving heaping portions of Mexican classics, plus seafood and vegetarian options, by day and night.
Best Breakfast & Lunch Spots in Merida: Wayan’e / Taquería de la Union
For those looking for a true bite of Mexico, look no further than taco hotspots Wayan’e (open 7am – 2:30pm, except Sundays) and Taquería de la Union (open 12noon – 11pm daily). Both, popular, casual and resoundingly delicious. Plus, table seating. Expect a range of Mexican and Yucatecan options from chicharrón and pollo guisado to longaniza and castacán, and at the latter, vegan picks too like chaya, champiñones al ajillo and guacamole con maíz.
Best Gelato in Merida: Pola
Best way to cool off amidst Merida’s infamous Yucatan heat? By satisfying your sweet tooth at Pola. The popular gelatería dishes out homemade gelato in a dizzying number of indulgent flavors, ranging from milk-based to daily-free. Enjoy in the shop’s cool confines, or head to nearby Parque de Santa Lucia to finish your sweet treat in one of Merida’s famed kissing chairs.
Where to Eat & Drink in Merida / Best Rooftops
In Merida’s Historic Center, rooftop bars and eateries are an emerging scene. Luckily, the exclusive crop of early adopters aren’t just paving the way, they’re effectively elevating the city’s culinary landscape – literally and figuratively.
Best Rooftops in Merida: Restaurante Picheta
For sundowners with (arguably) the best view in town, reserve a table on the rooftop terrace of Restaurante Picheta. The stylish spot boasts a privileged location along Plaza Grande, where – within the storied facade of a 350-year old colonial building – expertly prepared tipples pair with artful interpretations on regional cuisine. Plus: views of Merida’s grand Cathedral San Ildefonso, which lights up in spectacular fashion as sunset turns to dusk.
Best Rooftops in Merida: El Remate
Heralding the entrance to Paseo de Montejo, El Remate is part elegant indoor eatery, part fashionable rooftop – yielding the only elevated views in town of the grand boulevard – and part dapper cocktail den. Best to reserve a table here too – see and be-seen crowds start to arrive at sunset; by nightfall the candlelit terrace becomes a buzzing affair. Expect fabulous cocktails, an innovative menu pairing contemporary Mexican cuisine with coastal sea fare and dare I say among the best and most welcoming service in town.
Pre or post-dinner, consider a stop into the site’s covert cocktail den, El Gato. Stepping into the intimate space transports you to a debonair, 70s-era living room, where sophisticated libations are served against a wafting soundtrack of retro beats.
Best Rooftops in Merida: Kioyú Sky Lounge
Those looking to reach higher in Merida’s Historic Center will need to head further north along Paseo de Montejo. Here – just off the stretch south of Merida’s Monumento a La Patria – you’ll find Kioyú Sky Lounge crowning the 8th floor of Courtyard by Marriott Merida Downtown. Brought to life in partnership with renowned Merida chef Pedro Evia, come here for sweeping city views, Asian fusion bites and creative cocktails in a contemporary setting. Plus: live DJ sets Tuesdays – Sundays starting at 6pm.
Where to Eat & Drink in Merida/ Best Dinner Restaurants
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: K’u’uk
Raved as one of the best restaurants in Merida, K’u’uk is worth the hype – and then some. Located off Paseo de Montejo in a beautifully restored Spanish Colonial mansion, head here for a fabulous imagining of traditional Yucatecan staples from the palate of award-winning Chef Pedro Evia. Haute takes on cochinita pibil, esquites, longaniza, tamales and more are cooked in a one-of-its-kind “Pibinal” oven designed to mimic the traditional Maya pibil (an underground oven covered with earth), while no detail is spared in each dish’s presentation. Order a la carte or go all in with the tasting menu – a veritable feast of 21 imaginative courses.
An impressive selection of wine and champagne, plus smoky mezcal cocktails and more craft libations, complement the experience – sip tableside or in the elegant bar and lounge. TIP: Pre or post-dinner, ask for the tour to get a guided visit of the mansion as well as the restaurant’s on-site food innovation lab. Here, you can peruse a giant map of the Yucatan Peninsula outlining where K’u’uk sources its ingredients.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: Yerba Santa
While strolling along Paseo de Montejo, you might notice the exquisite, French-inspired architecture of El Minaret: a 1904 colonial mansion-turned-fine dining destination Yerba Santa. Led by Chiapas-born female chef Nidia Sánchez, an elegant homage to Mexican gastronomy resonates throughout farm-to-table cuisine, sea fare and elevated street food alike. Plus, an extensive and creatively rendered offering of plant-based plates for vegans and vegetarians. Choose to dine within the mansion’s glamorously appointed interiors, grab one of the few tables on the airy, colonnaded patio or sidle up to the small yet swanky bar.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: Huniik
If you watched the Yucatán episode of CNN’s Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico, you saw her step into the gastronomic enclave of Huniik: a love letter to Maya origin cuisine from Merida-born chef and culinary wunderkind Roberto Solís. Textured stone walls, traditional pasta tiled floors and moody lighting set the stage for the tasting menu-only experience, where an open kitchen serves nine artful courses rooted in ancestral flavors and region-sourced ingredients. The eight-table eatery is the only Relais & Chateaux culinary concept in the Yucatan Peninsula; one of five in all of Mexico.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: Micaela Mar y Leña
Located on Merida’s growing restaurant row of Calle 47, you’ll find Micaela Mar y Leña: a beautiful restaurant and bar serving creative Mexican fusion with a focus on seafood. Get the pulpo a la parrilla (grilled octopus) and don’t forget to ask your server for the story behind Micaela. Don’t have time to make it here for dinner? Try to at least squeeze in time for a stop at their bar, where you can try one of their many innovative craft cocktails.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: Catrín
A Calle 47 original, head to eclectic Mexican kitchen Catrín to enjoy creative regional cuisine and craft cocktails from Merida-born chef Adrián Marcos. Dine indoors surrounded by colorful, art-adorned walls from Mexico City artist Jacobo Roa, or keep walking to emerge onto the open-air back patio. Here, a giant wall mural comes to life each night with an atmospheric light show.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: Oliva Enoteca
When you’ve had your fill of Yucatecan cuisine, book a table at Oliva Enoteca for haute Italian fare set in a contemporary-yet-intimate setting. An extensive wine list of over 150+ bottles awaits, as do excellent craft cocktails from the talented bartenders. Don’t skimp on the decadent desserts. You’ll need a reservation at this popular spot, or you can try your luck at snagging a seat at the bar.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: Anima
Entering through a red-tinted hall of souls sets the scene at Anima, where you’ll eventually emerge into a sprawling back garden that can best be described as hip, industrial and atmospheric. Wood-fired cuisine is the star here, seen in masterfully roasted pork belly, spare ribs and brisket tacos, plus savory sides like grilled romaine and chile-fired broccoli. Classic and creative house cocktails complement the menu, focusing on made in-Mexico spirits like sotol, raicilla and a Yucatán-born gin.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Merida: Mercado 60
Those looking for a more casual foodie affair need look no further than Mercado 60. Located in the heart of Merida’s Historic Center just one block north of Parque de Santa Lucia, this vibrant food stall hangout counts nine culinary vendors, three bars and two stages for nightly live music and performances. Guests are spoilt for choice with an impressive range of cuisines, crossing Mexican and Argentinian to Japanese and Texas-style BBQ. Open daily from 6pm, expect live music as the night progresses – eventually turning into a lively dance party.
Where to Eat & Drink in Merida / Best Bars
Best Bars in Merida: La Negrita Cantina
No trip to Merida is complete without a stop at La Negrita. Open daily 12noon – 10pm, you’ll find locals and tourists alike flocking to this lively Merida institution all days of the week. It’s easy to see why, as an endless flow of cerveza, mezcal and cocktails – the latter served in kitschy mason jars – are complemented with rounds of gratis botanas (bar snacks). If you’re looking for more than snacks, a full menu is also available serving up standard cantina fare.
TIP: If you want to be where all of the action is, head to the back where you’ll find festive live music keeping the party going every night. If you prefer a more intimate experience, sidle up to the quieter, candlelit bar by the main entrance.
Best Bars in Merida: Malahat
Named after a rum smuggling ship that sailed during Prohibition era, Malahat boasts status as Merida’s original speakeasy. Locate the hidden entrance – a nondescript wooden door in a back alley behind Parque de Santa Lucia – and you’ll emerge into an intimate space filled with flickering candles, drifting jazz music and expert mixologists ready to serve up your choice of inventive craft cocktails. Reservations recommended to ensure your spot at the bar or one of the few small tables. Open Thursdays – Saturdays only, 8pm – 2am.
Best Bars in Merida: Dos Diez Mezcalería
Textured stone walls, colonnaded hallways and hanging chandeliers set the scene at Dos Diez Mezcalería: Merida’s buzziest new arrival. The focus is on mezcal to be sure – an impressive list of artisanal offerings at that – in addition to other wild agave distillates and interesting made-in-Mexico spirits (think: Mexico-born gin, whiskey and rum, all available by the pour or cocktail). Snag a seat at the bar, grab a table amidst moody interiors or head outside to the palm-fringed patio. Whichever you choose, smoky sips are best complemented by Oaxaca-leaning bar bites like stuffed tlayudas or chapulines (crispy, seasoned grasshoppers – don’t knock em til you try ’em).
Best Bars in Merida: El Lagarto de Oro
Swing open the saloon doors and past cascading black curtains, you’ll arrive into what can best be described as a speakeasy-style cantina. El Lagarto de Oro feels cool, nostalgic and just the right amount of seedy. Think: moody lighting accented by flickering dripped candles and red neon signage, menus that read as playbills and the recurring motif of a dapper, tux-clad lagarto (alligator). Outside, an uplit back patio framed by greenery and faded stone walls. You’ll want to leave room for food here, as libations are best paired with elevated bar bites like quesitos rellenos, empanadas negras and tacos de xcatik relleno.
Best Bars in Merida: Casa Chica
After a stroll down Paseo de Montejo, stop into popular Casa Chica for a drink and bite in the converted colonial home’s open-air front patio or back garden. The vibe is tropical-kitsch, where neon pink lights and recurring motifs of palm trees and flamingos frame a casual setting for spritzes, martinis and mezcal flights. The cuisine is just as eclectic as the setting, crossing Asian-inspired to Italian to comfort plates like hamburgers and mac n’ cheese.
Best Bars in Merida: Salón Gallos
Located in a transformed oat mill in hip La Mejorada, Salón Gallos gives speakeasy, industrial and atmospheric vibes all at once. The anchor eatery – Cantina Gallos – churns out innovative Lebanese-Yucatecan fusion fare and craft cocktails, extending to an intimate wine bar specializing in Mexican-grown grapes and brews. Plus: a gallery space of rotating contemporary exhibits and an arthouse cinema. All, set amidst nostalgically faded walls giving way to original stones underneath, soaring ceilings lined with exposed wood beams and enough original machinery to remind you of the space’s bygone era. Open until 2am daily.
Best Bars in Merida: Dzalbay Cantina
Owned by a Mérida local, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, an Italian and an American, it’s no surprise that this modern take on the traditional cantina is popular among expats – or that it boasts an eclectic range of nightly music ranging from jazz to blues to folk rock. Walk through the swinging, saloon-style doors of Dzalbay Cantina to find a lively atmosphere and friendly staff, alongside an impressive list of Yucatan craft beer, signature cocktails and a wide range of spirits. Hungry? Snack on a light selection of complimentary botanas like popcorn and peanuts, or opt for something more filling from their menu of bar food faves like tacos, burgers and fries.