I recently spent two weeks in Mexico on an epic press trip experience like no other. Here, I enjoyed the Tastes of Mexico. It consisted of a gastronomical tour in Yucatan and ended withe a culture-filled adventure in Guanajuato, one of my all-time favorite places! So, naturally, I have a lot to talk about, and a lot of it is… wait for it… food related!
When we think of Mexico, we are quick to think of Cancun, Cabo, and all the beach-filled towns that have become second nature to our vocabulary. However, by doing this, we are doing ourselves a disservice. There are so many cultural and gastronomic destinations around Mexico that have much more to offer.
So, it’s important to put our pre-conceived notions aside when we think about Mexico and go into an adventure ready to experience a new culture we may not have known about. Here, I’m going to discuss the local gastronomic gems in both the Yucatán peninsula, as well as in Central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato. I tasted a variety of cuisine from Traditional Mayan to Seafood to the culinary variety that lies in Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. Read all about it below.
Traditional Mayan Cuisine
Traditional Mayan cuisine is not the normal Mexican food you would expect. In these tastes of Mexico there are a lot of sweet flavors mixed in with the traditional meat-filled meals your mind first thinks of. Bitter orange is marinated into sauces and pumpkin seeds are used in many dishes. As someone who isn’t big on meaty meals, the use of pumpkin really rocked my world when we were in Yucatán. Sikil P’ak is a Mayan dip made from crushed roasted pumpkin seeds. I had some with habanero chili peppers as well as with fried tomatoes in Mayan villages, fondas, and homes across the state of Yucatán. And that was my favorite takeaway from the Traditional Mayan cuisine.
While many traditional Mayan meals consist of pork tacos or negrito on corn tortillas, the flavors have almost a bean-like accent to them, making them more unique than traditional pork tacos. In traditional homes, you may see them being cooked under the ground to give the dish a wood-fired taste to it. It adds some soul to the meal. If you’re looking for the traditional meaty taco dish and you are in the Mérida area, I highly recommend checking out Restaurante Zamna in Izamal.
Or, if you’re less of a meat lover or just love empanadas, I highly recommend stopping into the fonda, Cocina Mirna, located in Tekax. We were served a cheese empanada, a bean empanada, a turkey empanada, and a pork empanada, and they were all absolutely delicious. The cheese and green salsa on top of them accented the dish perfectly.
If you’re looking for a full day experience with fun and food, be sure to visit Xibalbá park once it opens in June 2022. Cenotes and scenery aside, the food really stood out there. During our visit, we ate in the chapel there, and there was a variety of fruit with chili, baked desserts, empanadas with cheese, shrimp in a cream sauce, and, of course, the traditional tacos of the area. Xibalbá offered a full variety of meals for all dietary restrictions.
If you’re looking for an escape from the traditional food for a little more variety while in Mérida, I recommend trying Mi Viejo Molino Café. From coffees to salads to French fries and burgers, they have something to satisfy your cravings for more familiar food if you find yourself needing to scratch that itch. While I can’t recommend them enough, I’d also suggest trying to eat as traditionally as possible when in Mérida, otherwise you may miss out on some new, delicious treats.
Micaela Mar y Leña
If you’re more in the mood for seafood during your visit to Yucatán, you are in luck! Right in the heart of Mérida is Micaela Mar y Leña, and it was our favorite restaurant in Yucatán. The ambiance was traditional yet with a hip, modern twist. Micaela’s signature cuisine is wood-fired fish, octopus, and of course, delicious oysters. Micaela holds strong onto the traditional Mayan culture of the area while also bringing in the modern world with their focus on sustainability in the industry. They work to ensure fisherman are paid appropriately and that all of their practices are as sustainable as possible.
More importantly, their distinctive taste is also made from local ingredients, and they offer a signature mead that is made from local bees in the area. It was exquisite!
Not only was their seafood incredible, but they also happily cater to vegan and vegetarian diets. They made vegan ceviche, sautéed mushrooms, played with a vegan flatbread, and had extremely tasty salads the night we visited.
Micaela is a tribute to the traditional Mayan and Mexican women who get up at 5am to make corn tortillas for breakfast and then spend their day planning lunch and dinner for the family. Their cooking is a way to say thank you to all of them and to those who give and bring love to the table. The wood fire aspect brings in the old ways of the 1800s. From food to ambiance, Micaela offers and experience you will never forget, and I highly recommend you visit if you’re in or near the city of Merida.
The Cuisine in Guanajuato
While the State of Yucatán is all about the traditional meals, the state of Guanajuato, on the other hand, is all about modern accommodation. The variety of treats offered in Guanajuato is overwhelming in the best possible way. There are so many delicious meals to choose from that you may regularly find yourself asking the waiters what they think the best choice is. Guajanuato is, without a doubt, a melting pot of delicious treats.
Our first meal experience in Guanjuato was in the restaurant at our hotel, Quinta Las Acacias, and I cannot recommend their food enough. The Mexican style scrambled eggs served with fruit and beans really hit the spot each morning, as did the cappuccino and fresh-squeezed orange juice. And if you’re there at lunch, I cannot recommend the salmon enough!
For dinner, I highly recommend visiting Amatxi! Their soup and pasta was absolutely unique and delicious, unlike many I’ve had in the past. And they offered a variety of vegetarian and vegan friendly options for those who can’t eat meat or dairy, as well. The ambiance of Amatxi is cool and chic; it’s definitely a place for fashionistas to check out for themselves.
If you’re looking for a place to eat right in the center of the city of Guanajuato, look no further than either La Trattoria, located in the hotel San Diego, or Casa Valadez. While I think La Trattoria offered the best ambiance, overlooking the busting city center and all its performers at night, the food at Casa Valadez really stole the show for me. They were also the most vegan friendly place in town from our experiences! You definitely need to try the Mango Sushi and the El Jardin de la Reina salad. Both have distinctively unique tastes that I’ve never experienced anywhere else, and the presentation was perfection! Sitting in the city center by the window of Casa Valadez eating delicious food was an experience like no other.
La Trattoria really hit the spot if you’re looking for something Italian in conglomeration with the tastes of Mexico, however, which isn’t always easy to find in Mexico. Their food is delicious and also very unique.
Eating in San Miguel de Allende
If we are describing Guanajuato as accommodating, then it’s important to say that San Miguel de Allende was even more so. A hip, cool spot for emerging artists, their meals are modern, trendy, and delicious. Therefore, they easily accommodate to all dietary restrictions more than most other places in Mexico. Zibu Allende inside of the Live Aqua hotel had the most delicious shrimp tacos I’ve ever had with a tasty cream sauce. The breakfast at Live Aqua hotel was just as delicious and consisted of a full menu on top of a breakfast buffet.
And, in the heart of San Miguel de Allende (and Guanajuato, too) you can easily find a Starbucks to satisfy your caffeine cravings. This may sound silly, but it’s important to me.
Of all the places we ate across San Miguel de Allende, however, our favorite was Luna at Rosewood. When given the task of serving a vegan meal, they made a mushroom burger unlike any we’ve ever had. When asked about the Portabella burger, the waiter said, “You can get food and drink anywhere, but here, it’s about the experience.” And it truly was. The mushroom wasn’t too tough; it was just moist and soft enough to be considered perfection. Their Greek Salad was unique and perfectly balanced in taste, and their garlic French fries hit the spot flawlessly. Add a hot tea and some wine, and you have the perfect meal sitting high above San Miguel de Allende. The view at night was sparkling, clear, and beautiful.
All in all, Mexico is a melting pot of traditional and modern tastes. The tastes of Mexico are both delicious and diverse. From the traditional Mayan treats in Yucatán to the more modern, diverse tastes of central Mexico, it really is a culinary destination like no other. Be sure to find the best places to eat during your next visit, starting with the ones on my list.