Seeing as our decision to visit the Yucatecan city of Mérida was inspired by episodes from Rick Bayless’s food show, “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” we decided to hunt out the places featured in the show. One of the episodes featured the food stalls at Santa Ana market, and as it happened, this was the first place we found. Located beside the beautiful Parque Santa Ana at the junction between the south end of the Paseo Montejo (Calle 58) and Calle 60 (the main road into the historic centre), along Calle 47, the Santa Ana food market is a popular destination for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Upon our approach to the market, we were greeted by several keen waiters trying to steer us into tables in front of their respective food stalls. While I’m sure any of the stalls would have been fine, we opted to sit at Lonchería Castillo–they seemed to be the busiest, and had a bright, friendly sign that had pictures of the food we were interested in trying. Mérida is much more of a “tourist” city, so we didn’t stand out quite as obviously as we had in Mexico City, and there was no problem ordering the dishes (the menu helps).
The food of Mérida is a hybrid cuisine of several cultures that reflects the complex and long history of the city; there are elements of Mayan, Spanish, Dutch, Lebanese, and so on. I definitely recommend watching the Mérida episodes of “One Plate at a Time” before you visit, just to get a sense of the craziness (and deliciousness) that you should expect. The first dish we tried, and which has subsequently become our favourite food on the planet, was sopa de lima. The Yucatán grows several types of limes, one of which is featured in this amazing soup! In essence, sopa de lima is a turkey (sometimes chicken) soup with a slight hit of lime, garnished with fried tortillas and a lime wheel. The flavour, however, is indescribably rich and complex. This is the kind of food that you simply cannot stop eating–once the bowls hit the table, all talking ceases until every last drop is consumed. We tried several other dishes, including a bizarre, but delicious, concoction that consists of a wedge of Edam cheese stuffed with flavourful ground meat (queso relleno–literally “stuffed cheese”), and papadzules, a delicate plate of rolled tortillas filled with egg and topped with salsa verde and tomato sauce. We went back to Lonchería Castillo several times during our stay in Mérida.
Also worth ordering are the panuchos, cochinita pibil tacos and poc chuc tacos.