Written by Harriet Sleath
MID CityBeat team is out and about again, this time taking you to seafood restaurants that may be off the beaten track. We have found some incredible places for you to try out!
Mid CityBeat is excited to present to you Mérida Centro’s newest ceviche bar, Tobalá 58. Arriving on the scene 9 months ago, Tobalá already has risen to be a contender on Merida’s gastronomy scene by providing excellent seafood options in the middle of a city growing faster every day.
Tobalá can be found on the corner of Calle 51 x 58, walking distance from the central square of Mérida. Here you’ll find a really welcoming vibe, a casual menu with great products and some exciting new drink options.
Much of the restaurant decoration and products used to serve the food is recycled. The incredible table in the front room as you enter Tobala is the root of a zapote tree and the plates and bowls come from fallen trees from a town called Solferino, on the way to Isla Holbox. Here it’s prohibited to cut the trees and all fallen wood is naturally recycled into products by the local people.
Owner Gerardo has travelled a lot around Mexico and he’s dedicated to finding the best regional products and putting a spin on some Yucatecan classic recipes. You’ll find him at the markets early each morning picking up the freshest fish of the day.
We highly recommend the Ceviche Mixto Verde, a fabulous mix of shrimp and octopus simply served with avocado and onion and topped with serrano chili. Another great option is the Cazuela Pulpo, a delicious pot of octopus bursting with sweet and spicy flavours which complement each other perfectly. And you can’t have a seafood restaurant without some fish tacos. We tried the breaded shrimp, octopus cooked in an ‘escabeche’ style and ‘camaron a la diabla’ which has a real kick, so we recommend this one if you love a good bit of spice!
Tobalá 58 also prides itself on its top quality mixology with a wonderful variety of mojitos, all made with local, seasonal products. Ask for the mandarin mojito which is super refreshing on a hot summer Mérida afternoon. So if you’re looking for mouth-watering ceviche and a great cocktail, head over and check out Tobalá 58!
Need to know info:
Price range: $$
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00-22:00 Sunday 12:00-18:00
Saturdays it’s 2 for 1 on mojitos (with live music) and Tuesdays are 2 for 1 taco nights.
Address: Calle 58 #434, on the corner with 51, Centro
Contact: 999 285 3570
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tobala58/
Silver Fish Seafood and Grill
Silverfish is a member of the Crabster family and has been a household name here in Mérida for 10 years. It’s located between two very busy roads but somehow they’ve managed to make it a really tranquil setting. The restaurant itself is very subtly shaped like a boat with the bow pointing towards the roundabout (and ultimately the center of Merida).
There’s something for everyone at Silverfish, whether you want to bring your family at the weekend, watch the game on the TV while eating delicious food, or arrange a business meeting somewhere where you can impress your colleagues!
The menu is really intriguing; there is a lot of choice and some of the options will seem quite unknown. Our advice? Pick a dish and just go for it. We recommend the house salad which is a twirling tower of ceviche, 250g to be precise. There are 4 types of seafood in here, including some of the juiciest prawns in Mérida. The salmon with mushroom sauce is a real special treat; a heavenly piece of salmon with breaded mushrooms which will melt in your mouth.
The poc chuk with octopus is a Yucatecan classic and marinated with achiote and spice. You’ll find achiote in many local dishes here. It’s the name for annatto seeds and is what gives food that blood red colouring. It’s bright and enticing and quite exciting to tuck into! One of our favourite dishes at Silverfish is the Tataki tuna; thin, delicate slices of tuna which are so smooth and elegant and beautifully placed on a bed of colourful salad.
To finish your delightful dinner at Silverfish we highly recommend trying one of their fabulous desserts. Having a super sugary dessert after a seafood dinner can be conflicting but their pie de nuez if the perfect solution. This nutty pie servied with a coffee flavoured sauce, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and small cubes of queso de bola. This might sound odd but the flavours go together perfectly, it’s great for those with a sweet tooth!
At Silverfish, top quality food is absolutely guaranteed with a touch of sophistication and a large helping of delight.
Need to know info:
Price range: $$$
Opening hours: Daily: 12:00-20:00
Address: Avenida 19 #111 Between 7 x 4, Colonia Montecristo
Contact: 999 948 2466
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SilverfishMid/
La Fondita de Celestun
The word fondita means ‘hut’ in Spanish so, translated literally, this is the hut of Celestun, located in the city of Mérida. On the wall above the kitchen window there is a framed photo of this building from 2003 in which you can see the restaurant when it first started. It has been transformed from a small shack into a real family favorite.
Arriving at here is just like walking into a restaurant that you might find in a seaside town such as Sisal, Chelem or, you’ve got it, Celestun. All the locals come here so it’s a true Yucatecan experience. Particularly at the weekend, you’ll find a great, bustling atmosphere with fast, attentive and friendly service and the occasional live music! The striped table cloths on the tables, the fishing nets hanging from the ceiling and the wall murals with shrines to the sea… the only thing missing is the sand between your toes!
And the menu certainly does not disappoint. It has all the classic dishes that you’ll find on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The Especial Fondita is one of their triumphs. This is a true feast and is perfect for sharing with friends and family. There is absolutely everything on one plate from crab to harancha to fried octopus served on a bed of salad and other sauces. We took ours home with us to share with the Mid CityBeat family!
Some other dishes to recommend are the Jaiba en Mayonesa, a particular favourite which can be found on the coast across Latin America, the Langostina la Fondita, basically queso fundido in a lobster, and the Manitas de Cangrejo, perfectly cooked and great fun to eat.
One of the highlights of dining at Fondita de Celestun is the happiness shared by the staff and customers alike. Food is served with a smile and everyone is thoroughly enjoying themselves. If you fancy a beach experience but for whatever reason you just can’t get there, then this is the place for you. To truly get the best experience at Fondita de Celestun, we definitely suggest going at the weekend when all the local families are there and the real Mexicans-on-holiday beach vibe is in full swing.
Need to know info:
Price range: $
Opening hours: Daily: 12:00-18:00
Address: On the corner of calle 43-B #391, El Porvenir
Contact: 999 149 6589
There are pirates, mermaids and, of course, a giant kraken painted on the wall, jolly roger flags and fishing nets hanging from the windows. Welcome to Kraken, Alta Cocina del Mar in Caucel. Despite the fun and quirky decoration which give it its family feel, the food here is surprisingly sophisticated.
Kraken is 3 years old and is a family business run by Brothers Eduardo and Edwin, descendants of fishermen in Campeche. Chef Eduardo spent 10 years in the USA, experimenting with different approaches to gastronomy and discovering his passion creating authentic and innovative dishes. His aim has been to find balance with flavours, local ingredients and traditional techniques.
You will probably smell the Pulpo Kraken, one of their award winning dishes, as you enter through the front door. This is perfectly grilled octopus marinated with spices and dried chillies and served with esquites and corn tortillas. And if it’s not these smells drifting out of the kitchen then it will surely be coming from the Camarones in a Pacific Style, open shrimp that has been soaked in in a pacfici style sauce and then smoked before being served with delicious paella-styled rice. These smells and flavours demonstrate Eduardo’s passion for bringing together different cultures and creating a fusion between Mexican ingredients and foreign techniques.
A dish that people travel from all over Merida and beyond to try is the Mac and Cheese de Cangrejo a los Tres Quesos. There are 3 cheeses in this amazing pasta dish and we are not surprised that people come from far and wide to eat it. And is you’re looking for something lighter, we absolutely recommend the Torditas. Whether you choose the torditas de salmon fresco, super aromatic and simple or the torditas de calle de hacha with tropical flavours, these are so much fun to eat!
Eduardo and Edwin have taken inspiration from their experiences growing up and created an award winning restaurant bringing seasonal fish, epic flavours and an adventure for all the senses straight to your table. It’s very popular so we recommend getting there in time for the lunch rush at the weekend, we don’t want you to be disappointed!
Need to know info:
Price range: $$
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 12:00-18:00, Friday to Sunday 12:00-19:00.
Address: Calle 23 #407, Ciudad Caucel
Contact: 999 988 2300
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/krakenmid/
Last but certainly not least on our list of great seafood restaurants in Mérida we have Peruano, a treasure tucked away opposite plaza Santa Lucia in the centre of the city. In April, Peruano turned 3 years old.
This wonderful restaurant represents the crazy flavours and gastronomy techniques to come out of Peru. Perhaps one of the best gastronomies in the world, Peruvian food is a real fusion of traditional dishes mixed with ideas from cultures all over the world. This includes the Chinese, Japanese and African influences which have given it such an exciting flavour. Over the years these foreign techniques have been mixed with the products of the earth which can be found in Peru; potatoes, maiz, tomatos and chiles.
One of our recommendations from their amazing menu is the amazing Tiradito de Atun, slices of tuna so soft they will melt in your mouth, served in a super fresh oyster sauce and leche de tigre. The latter is an amazing sauce bursting with flavours from cilantro to ginger, lemon juice to caldo de pescado. It’s a truly amazing dish!
Our other suggestions are the Ceviche a la Parrilla is a small, beautiful mountain of fish and shrimp and the Asadao Anticuchero is a huge serving of pulpo and camaron served on camote and potato. For dessert, the most characteristic postre of Peru: Picarones. These are small donuts fried and served with a drizzle of honey and sprinkled with cinnamon; the perfect amount of doughy and lovely and sweet.
One of the things that they get so right at Peruano is the balance of flavours with the Yucatecan ingredients. But they also make the dining experience extra special with personal touches. At the end of your meal, your bill will be brought to you in a small, decorated box with drawers filled with small gifts which you must take in turns with your fellow diners to open. You will also have a ribbon on which you can write a message and attach to their amazing wall of multi-coloured ribbons. Similar to the concept of a lovelock bridge, here you can read memories and messages from those who’ve come to eat here and enjoy amazing Peruvian seafood from all walks of life, all over the world.
Need to know info:
Price range: $$$
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 13:00-02:00 and Sundays 13:00-22:00
Address: Calle 55 #502 x 60 y 62, Centro
Contact: 999 436 6908