No, we’re not really Merida Mexico or even Yucatan locals.
The truth is this was our first trip to this portion of Mexico, and to say we are more than novice Spanish speakers might still be an exaggeration.
However, wherever we travel, we try to get away from touristy places and eat and shop with the locals.
And Merida, especially knowing all of the COVID-19 restrictions, was no exception.
Closed and Canceled
We knew heading to Merida that there were mask restrictions, temperature checks, and many cultural activities canceled.
Within an hour’s drive of Merida, there are dozens of cenotes and several Mayan archaeological sites to explore. There are smaller towns like Valladolid and Sisal worth exploring. All of these will have to wait for another trip.
This was never intended to be that kind of trip. This was a change of scenery, chill away from the same four walls we had looked at for nine months, get away from our social media, and a news stream filled with U.S. politics.
Living Like A Local in Merida Mexico
As we mentioned in our previous blog post about the Airbnb we stayed in, Merida has a different lifestyle.
Early April through Mid-June is considered HOT Season with average daily highs around 94 F. Cool Season is from Early-November through Mid-February with an average daily high of 87 F.
According to Weather Spark, the humidity from late March to early December is listed with a comfort level of muggy, oppressive, or miserable at least 61% of the time.
Hey, we live on the Florida Gulf Coast, so we’re used to it.
But many locals tend to get up early and run all of their errands early in the morning. Many people head home midday, relax inside, a hammock or by the pool, and have their main meal in the middle of the day.
Putting COVID-19 restrictions and curfew aside, locals still tend to head back out mid-evening for a light meal, cultural activities, and drinking.
Mercado Lucas de Galvez
One of our first adventures living like a local in Merida was heading to the Lucas de Galvez Mercado in Centro Merida.
Mercado Lucas De Galvéz
Calle 65A, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
It was apparent that this HUGE downtown marketplace was quieter than usual due to COVID-19, with a good number of empty stalls. But you can find everything here from cooking equipment to vegetables, leather goods to sweets, and flowers to fresh meats and poultry.
We bought ourselves some staples – fresh Plum Tomatoes, Jalapeños, White Onion, and Cilantro. We also purchased a half kilo of fresh Corn Tortillas at one of the tortillerias. They were fresh, warm, and super cheap. We also headed over and bought some Eggs and boneless Chicken Breasts. With these, we could make some fresh Salsa, Omelets for breakfast, and have Chicken for two meals.
Eating Local Tacos al Pastor
Toward the back of the market, there was a large outdoor area between some of the buildings. It sits across from the flower stalls and has a row of outdoor cafes all selling Al Pastor. Most often known as Tacos Al Pastor, these are part of Mexico’s immigrant history.
Al Pastor refers to the shepherd, as they are based on the Lamb Shawarma of Syrian – Lebanese immigrants. Pork is more plentiful in Mexico, and local spices and Pineapple were also added. But, it is still cooked on an upright spit called a trompo. Trompo translates to ‘spinning top’ as the upright spit rotates in front of an open flame cooking the meats.
We chose the first café in the row as they appeared to busiest- Mi Pequeña Traviesa – translating to My Naughty Little Girl.
Street Food Tip – look for a place that is busy with locals! Waiting in line is never a bad thing as you know it’s fresh.
In particular, with Al Pastor, look for a big trompo – if they don’t sell out, the meat is wasted, and they won’t last long. Big trompos mean they sell a lot of meat.
Local Tacos or Tortas?
Chuck chose to go for two traditional Tacos al Pastor. Two fresh Corn Tortillas stacked with thinly carved meat with a little Pineapple were topped with the conventional diced White Onion and chopped Cilantro. Simple and delicious, these were served with Lime, Avocado Crema, and Salsa on the table in small containers.
Mark opted for the Torta of the same name, served in a Long Roll- crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The Philly native in Mark loves the traditional Hoagie and Cheesesteak feel!
Both were excellent, and we loved watching the show of carving and assembling the platters next to us. Two Tacos al Pastor were 8 pesos each, about .40 cents each, and a Torta al Pastor was 16 pesos or about .80 cents!
We enjoyed our afternoon Al Pastor snack so much we decided to take a half kilo para llevar- which means to-go! A half kilo or about 1.1 pounds was 100 pesos, or just under $5.00. We figured it would be great with our fresh Tortillas and homemade Salsa as a quick lunch.
HOWEVER, little did we know that in addition to the half kilo of the meat, they also included all the fixings: Limes, cilantro, pineapple, Tortillas and 2 salsas. A massive deal for $5.00!
Another morning routine for us was a trip to SOCO Merida. This artisan bakery was just the other side of Parque Santa Ana from our Airbnb, about eight blocks away.
Calle 51 492C, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
We found them through people’s posts on Instagram and started following them before the trip. This tiny little artisan bakery has Baked Goods, Specialty Coffee Drinks, and an excellent breakfast menu. It’s located in the middle of a residential street, and if you blink, you miss it.
Trust us. It’s worth hunting down!
They are known for their Masa Madre, which we found out is Sourdough. We skipped the bread as we were on a much bigger mission. On a few of our early morning adventures, we picked up fresh pastries for breakfast back at home – from Conchas to Morning Buns, they were all delicious.
The Croissants are Amazing!
Truthfully Chuck would have liked a lot more Chocolate in his Chocolate Croissants. The next step up would be their Brownie Croissant, covered in Chocolate! Mark was partial to the ridiculously delicious Almond Croissants with sweet Cream Cheese filling, they were all delicious.
It seems the offerings change daily, so check out their Instagram posts and trust that whatever you find will be incredible.
Parque de Santa Ana y Parque de Santiago – Merida Mexico
Many of the colonias or sections of town are named after saints, more specifically around churches.
The neighborhoods center around these quaint churches. Most have a small park which tends to be a social gathering place. We also found that they also have these great little cafes and their own neighborhood Mercado.
Santa Ana’s Mercado had a few stalls tucked behind the cafes with fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and grocery items.
The Mercado at Parque Santiago had an excellent selection of fish stalls, meats, vegetables, and some fantastic restaurants and ice cream shops.
We stopped for a cup of Ice Cream as we passed through. Mexican Ice Cream is interesting. Many of the flavors are very familiar, with some interesting local flavors. However, the texture is a bit grainer than what we’re used to in the U.S. Still a great treat, nonetheless. On our next trip, we’re checking out some of the amazing fresh fruit popsicles.
Any guesses who had which ice cream?
When everything is said and done, when you travel to Merida – whether it’s to explore cenotes and Mayan ruins or are chilling out and living like a local. Don’t miss out on the local mercados and local artisan foods!