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Yucutan vacation recs

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We will be in the Yucutan/Quintana Roo in January. We will be there for one week starting about 4 january. We will fly in to Cancun and wanted to take side trips to Chichen Itza and especially Merida. Would really appreciate good lunch and dinner places in Merida for good Yucutan (and Lebanese?) local specialties. In Cancun we will be in town, not in the hotel zone. Anyone have any idea if there is a mercado with good fondas downtown? Also need recs for one splurge resto. Thanks so much.

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  1. If you can stay at least a few nights in Merida.... unless you will be visiting the area... you cannot miss Uxmal & the Puuc Route... also hit the city of Campeche & particularly Restaurante La Pigual arguably the best seafood in the whole peninsula.

    1. The ciudad, 'city' of Cancun, i.e. all parts west of the Nichupte Lagoon, is not exactly the place where memories are made. And with no disrespect, "mercados with good fondas" indicates a lack of fluency in spanish, which is practically essential outside of the tourist zone. For these reasons, I'm afraid you will be underwhelmed and overwhelmed, and that's too many whelms.
      Your principal interest seems to be in the northwest of the Yucatan. It appears that you are traveling from Ohio; have you inquired about flights to Merida? There are increasingly more of them from stateside.
      Eat Nopal has unfaltering good taste and advice, but Cancun-Merida-Campeche and back is too much for one week.
      Just my opinions, but I know the lay of the land there pretty well. You could e-mail me and I'll be of help. In any case, buen viaje.
      John Gray, of Ritz Carlton fame, just opened a new resto on the Lagoon (island side) which I would recommend for your "splurge". I missed it last month, but I'm returning next week. His restaurants in Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen have stood the test of time, and are patronized even by my cheapskate friends who live there.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        Yeah... it would be tight in a week... I guess I find Cancun rather blah... and think if this is the one trip to the Yucatan there are better places to spend time.

        BTW Veggo... what is your favorite beach town along the Riviera?

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          EN, I think Playa del Carmen is one of the more interesting, international, high-energy resort destinations in the world. (I have been a disciple since its genesis in the 1980's, and I donated it's first fire engine and ambulance). Incredible range of international restaurants. Plus, within an hour's drive is Tulum, Akumal, Puerto Aventuras, and Cozumel by ferry. Within a 4 hour drive is Chichen Itza, Merida, Holbox, and the Bacalar Lagoon. You can't beat it. You can't even get it all done!

        2. re: Veggo

          Yes, I agree that adding Campeche is too much. I hadn't planned on doing that. How does one inquire about good local restaurants? I thought that a fonda would indicate a stall or counter within a market area which would be a good place to get food that the locals might frequent and eat. I have found these in Puerto Vallarta and Oaxaca City and looked forward to doing the same in Cancun.
          I suppose I'm not looking for memories to be made in Cancun...Perhaps in Merida.Thanks for the info.

          1. re: johnmart11

            In Merida... definitely start at the Mercado Central... eat something there... and ask for recommendations from the people... make sure you engraciate yourself by telling them you don't want gringo food. Merida's usual suspects... Los Almendros, Portico del Peregrino, Amaro's etc., aren't going to inspire... best bet is to find out where the locals might eat (but this will just result in economic fonda food)... some of the Haciendas around Merida have great, great food... but as I learned... there is quite a bit of turnover among the cooks as Restauranteurs from the Riveria are always recruiting... so you have to find out who is hot at the moment. Of course you should also try the street food around the Plaza de Armas.... I am particularly craving the Marquesitas:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/441318

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Thanks. I'm craving Marquesitas too. I haven't heard of the Pastel Imposible/Chocoflan. Sounds worth looking into. We will probably be in Merida for a weekend, so I'm looking forward to that.Hopefully the zocalo will have good food vendors and I understand there is something going on every day, not just the weekend.

        3. For good comida corrida in Cancun, I like La Chaya in Mercado 28. It's not fantastic, but good enough. But my favorite is a few blocks from the market, called Luz Maria. Simple, fast food for lunch, but delicious. Those who work and live close by frequent that place. Your "waiter" will most likely be a fourteen year old, but then, you're there for the food, not the ambience.

          For good, cheap, fast food, there are several El Poblano locations in Cancun, but the one I visited most frequently was the one located on Yaxchilan. For a splurge downtown, La Habichuela is nice.

          1. The most common wish amongst my customers is to keep Holbox exactly as it is. My thoughts are the best way to do this is to keep the locals in business, happy and prosperous to not sell off their families land.

            So what follows is a list of LOCALLY owned businesses that I find to generally be more consistent (meaning the same chefs and employees- mostly because they are family owned) and in the case of the restaurants, to serve the local food as it has been prepared here for generations.

            BREAKFAST:
            FRUTERIA LA ROMANITA: On the main road in front of Monkeys store. (One block south of the square) Fresh fruit store. Sometimes will have fruit salad or cut fruit and almost every morning the best liter of orange, grapefruit, or mandarin juice in a bag on the table in front of the door.

            LOS CORALES (NO SIGN): Directly behind Hotel La Palapa, this family cooks out of their kitchen, providing the best empanadas I have ever had. They also serve tamales, enchiladas, salbutes, etc. Try the empanadas made with cheese (queso) and chaya. For the more adventurous, they should also have Raya (ray) and Cazon (baby shark) empanadas.

            LOS CHALECOS: Located one block west of the square, a few doors down from Viva Zapata and Tienda NOA. Also great salbutes, enchiladas, sopes, and my favorite, chalupitas. Great deep fried breakfast of champions.

            LUNCH:
            BUENA VISTA GRILL:Directly behind Hotel Faro Viejo. Holbox’s best ceviche, cold beer, grilled fish and lobster, octopus, conch, etc. Conch is considered to be an extreme aphrodisiac and fertility symbol. Wonderful place to spend the afternoon looking at the ocean. (Note: the view is only blocked by the one wall- not the restaurant in front that is beach front- no longer local).

            LOS CHIVOS: On the main road 1/2 block towards the beach from the square. Pink building. Panuchos, quesadillas, etc. Also homemade chicken soup daily (caldo de pollo)

            POLLO MAGO: In front of the square on the west side. Daily specials and mainstays.

            PALAPA DE COCO DURO- A.K.A. COCO BEACH: On the beach next to Holbox Dream hotel. Fresh fish, ceviche, and fresh coconuts picked by the wonderful family that runs it. (It is believed that if a local offers you a coconut you will return to Holbox- and if you take it with alcohol- well, that;s what I did….)

            RASTA PALAPA: On the beach in front of Hotel Casa Sandra. Food changes daily depending on the catch. True local experience with wonderful local fishermen. Grab a hammock and relax…
            LAS PALMAS (OR “CON LETY”): From the main road “Tiberon Ballena” up towards the ferry pier take the Paseo KUKA (there is a rentadora on that corner) and go two blocks west. Local seafood and daily specials.

            ZARABANDA: One block towards the lagoon from the pizzeria on the square. More seafood, stuffed avocados, Veracruz style whole fsh, and regional favorites such as poc chuc

            AFTER LUNCH TREAT: ICE CREAM!!!! Two blocks towards the lagoon from the Pizzeria on the square- WORTH THE SEARCH! Homemade waffle cones and natural coconut ice cream…mmmmmmm

            If you cant find that one Helados Meresa is also local and sold almost everywhere, the main house is on the street behind the church. Just ring the doorbell…

            WONDERFUL LUNCH TO GO:
            CON MOISHA: At the bakery- take the road where the pizzeria Edelyn is and walk towards the lagoon a few blocks. Grilled pork ribs and cutlets and chicken sold by the kilo accompanied by rice, beans, salsas, and salad.

            LA POLLERIA: On the main road a few blocks towards the lagoon from the square. Daily grilled chicken with a simple pasta soup, rice, and cabbage. Sold by the 1/4, 1/2 or whole chicken.

            DINNER:

            VIVA ZAPATA: 1/2 block west of the square. Local guys who have spent time cooking in Europe. Wonderful grilled seafood and steaks and pastas.

            PIZZERIA EDELYN (CON CHEFO): On the southwest corner of the square. Famous lobster pizza and other menu options. Great place to watch Holbox at night.

            BUENA VISTA GRILL: See lunch- also open for dinner

            LOS CHIVOS: See lunch- also open for dinner

            CHACARITO: One block towards the lagoon from Internet Antonio. Regional food- sopes, panuchos, chicken soup, etc.

            DRINKS:
            TUCH: Or, the swing bar. Located directly on the beach in front of Faro Viejo. Not really part of the Hotel, this is a locally owned business and a great place to meet people since it is so intimate. Sweet bartenders and a great place to watch the sunset (or cool off from a beach walk).

            HAVANNA NIGHT: Upstairs next to Viva Zapata- Big screen T.V., loud music, and a local experience.

            DISCO CARIOCAS: The Disco- usually starts after midnight and goes until morning. A true experience. Occasional live music- NOTE: This disco recently celebrated their 25 year anniversary. The hotels that built around it obviously knew they would have noise issues but did so anyway. If you happen to be staying at one of these hotels and are bothered by the music either get up and join it or change hotels. Complaining to the disco is fruitless.

            PIE DESNUDO SOCIAL CLUB: Above the Pizzeria on the square. Open late night. Deep fried snacks and drinks. This bar is a recent endevor by the local reggaton band from Holbox. Most nights will be live music if not acoustic at your table.

            INTERNET:
            DON ANTONIO: One block West of the SW corner of the square. Clean, comfortable, cheap intenet access.
            Tony is also the guy to ask about buying land- I know nothing so PLEASE DON”T ASK!
            Note: Tony is now running the internet part of the café internet “Mi Caprichio” on the West side of the square. Sip a cappuchino while connected without the overly excited game playing kids. Paty, a wonderful Italian does the bakery but Local Tony proceeds from all Internet time.

            SHOPPING:

            ARTESIANAS LELIA: On the SW corner of the square. Wonderful shells and shell crafts, many mad locally by the owner herself at great prices. A must see!

            All of the super/mini marts are locally owned. Remember prices will be a bit higher than mainland Mexico. After having made the trip here from Cancun yourselves, think of the logistics of getting everything here!