Casual Restaurant Critic Burger Slapdown: Elevation vs. Angry Angus

Exciting stuff – a burger slapdown.

In this corner, at a trim 57 kilos, Elevation Burger. A big blue-themed restaurant that smacks of fast foodiness but offers a fresh and organic take on the hamburger, according to all the hype and publicity. The Critic has heard people whine on about how expensive the burgers are and this is probably the case, but have you seen the price of organic meat in Costco vs the regular hormone and steroid kind? You are what you eat, and that is another slogan on the wall of Elevation.

The Critic was underwhelmed by the size of the burger – a plain burger accompanied by large fries – and overwhelmed by the fries, which were huge and so tasty that he couldn’t stop eating them in spite of the fact that his arteries were visibly constricting. The burger, while small was very tasty. The meat (one patty) was meaty, not pasty and the tomato, lettuce and pickle were refreshingly cold. Real Cheddar too. It tasted like a burger you would make at home. Satisfying. Cost? $160 pesos fries and burger, no drink.

And in this corner, weighing in at 104 sloppy, smoky kilos, Angry Angus. Not sure about the name but the burgers are all extremely loaded up with extras and the prices are  much lower than our elevated contender. Of course AA doesn’t need to pay a huge franchise fee in USD and probably pays a fraction of the rent. The burgers are huge, absolutely crammed with extras and accompanied by fries that are fresh and hot. On this occasion the Critic had a burger with chistorra, that tasty fatty Argentinian sausage, plus real Cheddar cheese and god knows what else. It was hard to wrap his lips around this thing. Sloppy, messy, tasty, fatty and ultimately satisfying. The cost? 99 pesos. Yup, that’s it.

Service at Elevation was fast-food style although they did make an (inconsistent) effort to have someone open the door for arriving or departing guests.  Ambience again was fast food-y and instead of orange and white, the colors were blue and white. The kitchen is open and clean.

Service at Angry Angus was amazingly good, considering you are really out on the street. Ambience is, well, out on the street. There is a TV, of course, and you can see the giant grill off to one side where a host of burger people are busily cranking out the wares.

The winner of this smackdown? Based on taste, service and price, the clear winner is Angry Angus. Go tonight, the place opens at 7 PM.

Links and more info:

Elevation Burger:

Angry Angus:


Outraged at Tree Removal

IMG_0441 I would hardly consider myself a tree-hugger, but I do love me some trees. And to see a huge, healthy and obviously old tree reduced to firewood in a day, in order to comply with “Mover a Mexico” the federal government’s plan to build more highways and infrastructure, was so saddening.IMG_0437

Apparently we need yet another bridge/overpass on Merida’s periférico ring road and the tree was in the way of this progress and the planners strategic objective of converting Merida into another automobile-centric Distrito Federal or worse, Los Angeles.  Of course these big contracts mean big payouts and payoffs to those approving and participating in these large infrastructure projects that are so necessary to make certain segments of society feel like they are ‘modern’ and ‘progressing’.


How much media play as a forward thinking, environmentally aware administration do you think the city could have gotten out of building a on ramp or overpass or whatever around this tree? Is it really that difficult for planners and engineers to think outside their square box? Do we even need another overpass when there is one just 300 meters away?

And before you misguided Yucatecans (there are a few out there) jump all over me and tell me to go back to where I came from, let me assure you that I am speaking as someone who loves the city and the state and can not fathom the need to emulate the ugly urban sprawl that is so prevalent in the rest of the country, instead of planning something better for our children and grand children and using the talented people we have here to come up with a friendlier, greener and healthier city.


Looking for that elusive great television series


Just so my seventeen faithful readers aren’t under the impression that the only thing on my radar is anything Yucatan-related, I hereby remind them that I can go off at length in other areas as well.

This week I downloaded the first episodes of Fear the Walking Dead, in response to David Bianculli recommending the series as worth a look, on NPR’s Fresh Air recently.

While the show, a prequel to the highly successful Walking Dead drama which I enjoyed until it became too much like a never-ending and splatter-y graphic catalog of how to kill a zombie , tries to muster up some tension and suspense from the outset, I found myself completely distracted by both the dialogue which was heavy and not particularly natural and the grossly distracting (to me, the neurotic observer) details in the finished production, particularly the sound.

For example, the woman who is the main character, is told by her boyfriend/husband that the strange story told by her drug addict son makes some sense as he (boyfriend/husband) had gone to the site where the event took place and she tells him no “Oh you went there, what did you see?” but “Really? I don’t think you should validate his outrageous stories by pretending they are based on real events.” To me this implies that she certainly does not take her boyfriend/husband very seriously indeed and is hardly believable if they are in an adult relationship. He of course, like a good TV husband/boyfriend, just stands there with no expression, waiting for her next line.

Other distractions:

  • Misunderstood overachiever white daughter is sitting with black boyfriend on bleachers at school (edgy) and he begins to draw on her arm, because he is a graffiti artist and that’s what they do: they draw on you. Camera is back to their faces, earnestly expressing some lovey-dovey mush and when the camera comes back to the arm and he asks her if she likes his creation, you can’t help but notice that what is there has nothing to do with what he started drawing previously
  • Family drives a 2006 Toyota Camry – as I do – and every time they lock or unlock the door and I hear the chirp of the alarm, I am thinking “THAT IS NOT THE SOUND THAT CAR MAKES”
  • Aforementioned daughter is visiting empty house where missing boyfriend lives. She is walking on concrete, then a wooden floor and the sound of her shoes is important to the plot here as it is supposed to be a very suspenseful buildup to something. The distraction is that her shoes are sneakers aka running shoes and they would never sound like a solid heeled shoe like that.

And so, I made it to the end of episode 2, but doubt that I will continue as these and other distractions will make it impossible for me to take the series very seriously.  Sorry David.

The Heat

“It’s not every day that you feel like actually killing someone” an overheating Jack thought to himself as he looked in vain for a way to somehow maneuver around a fat woman in a black sleeveless top and red polyester skirt featuring a prominent and evidently struggling zipper along its taut length, and her two teenage sons in jeans, metal-band t-shirts and chanclas, sporting identically gelled jet black hair that stood up in some sort of Archie comic throwback look.

They walked slowly, and occupied the entire narrow sidewalk of Merida’s calle 58, which was packed with sweltering human flesh, while alternating green and yellow buses and a swarm of white colectivos inched and honked along the street beside the seething humanity. Overhead, the sun pounded down angrily, seeming to push against Jack like a physical force. He winced, and felt the steady trickle of sweat against the small of his back. Behind him, the crowd seemed to push him forward, although he couldn’t tell if anyone was actually touching him. He didn’t want to think about.

If he had only heeded his wife’s advice not to go shopping this morning.

“It’s too hot, and there are too many people,” she had said in that irritating all-knowing way she had. Perhaps just to spite her and perhaps prove that he did not mind these inconveniences, or perhaps to just get out of the house, he had ventured out and now he was stuck in this mess.

Jack felt an elbow in his side as a mestiza complete with hipil, sabucan and small child’s forearm firmly in her grip, pushed past him and headed for the fat lady, whom she also pushed aside like a small Mayan missile, the little kid half running, half stumbling along behind her. The two Archies looked surprised but moved to the side. Jack saw his chance and followed quickly on the heels of the mestiza, but he was too slow. The family closed in again and Jack had to bite his lip so as not to yell at them in frustration. He could feel the heat of the pavement oozing through his sandals.

An OXXO appeared suddenly, it’s giant letters beckoning him inside. He swerved, almost tripping as a man behind him stepped on his heels. He glared back, but the perpetrator had already moved on. As he reached for the door, it opened from the inside and hit his hand, causing him to grimace in pain. A group of students rushed out past him and he again had to wait, somewhat impatiently, to go inside. Wafts of cold OXXO air trailed behind the students, dissipating quickly in the heat around him. Jack felt like his hair was going to spontaneously burst into flame.

The air conditioning inside the OXXO was ice cold against his wet skin and felt heavenly. Jack stopped for a moment inside the door and looked around. There was a lineup at the cash register and many students from a nearby school sitting at both of the two tables. He walked slowly to the refrigerated drinks area and stood, looking at all the options in the coolers. Finally he grabbed an iced tea – Snapple in Merida: who knew? – and headed towards the cash register. Only one was open of course, and there were about four people ahead of him.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that some of the students were getting up from the table and moving towards the door. Jack decided to take a break and sat down with his icy tea, sipping the artificial peach flavored liquid and feeling his body temperature return to a safe, comfortable level, his mood mellowing from murderous to magnanimous and he smiled at the students who were very entertained by something on one of their cell phones.


The Casual Restaurant Critic visits Pilgreen

Pilgreen Menu

A hungry Better Half suggested this oddly-named place for lunch and the Critic found a pleasant locale, friendly service and tasty, fresh and healthy food.

This visit occurred some time ago and so the actual names of the dishes ordered are lost to time (ha ha) but rest assured that if the place is still there, and you are in the neighborhood, it is a stop worthy of your pesos, caloric intake and time.

More info can be found on their Facebook page, here.


The hamburger was fresh, generously served and the chips were crunchy. Not much else to say except that it was a satisfying burger.


Fresh fruit drinks of the day include pitahaya, center


A salad chock full of goodness. Cold and refreshing and filling too.

The Uman Police Stop

On the outskirts of that large small town called Uman, to the south of Merida, there is a small retén, a police roadblock manned un-imposingly by one or two members of the Uman municipal police force, a formidable foe feared by organized crime, I’m sure.

On this occasion I was driving through Uman to Muna and the single skinny police official manning this post, who could not have been more than 18, made the up and down motions with his hands indicating that I should slow down and stop at his 4 poles and a piece of plywood shelter, complete with the economical and improvised flattened-tire-across-the-road speed bump.

I rolled down my window. It was a first for me to be stopped here in the many times I have driven this route, and I gave him a look that I hoped was inquisitive and at the same time supremely bored.

¿A donde se dirige?” was the official-sounding query that came out of his barely teen mouth. This is a common phrase from the Official State Police Handbook used by police officials and literally translates as “where are you headed?” They could just say “a donde vas” but that just doesn’t quite cut it in terms of official verbosity.

“Muna” I answer evenly.

EagerCop closes in to peek inside the vehicle and sees that I have two 12-packs of cervezas on the floor of the truck. His face lights up noticeably.

Muéstrame sus papeles” is his next salvo. I hand him my foreign driver’s license, setting down a couple of $100 peso bills on the seat beside me, and fish around for the vehicle’s tarjeta de circulacion and hand him that as well.

Debe tener una licencia de aqui” he says. “Si no, le pueden dar una infraccion.” I know I should have a Yucatan license but did not know I could get a fine for not having one. In fact I do have one, but I like to mess with the traffic cops, especially prepotente little pricks like this one, who see a gringo face and figure they’ll try a little shakedown (cars, SUV’s and trucks were and are continuing to drive past and around us as he does his thing).

Aha – lo dudo” I answer looking at him.

He looked thirstily down at the beer. I swear he licked his lips, but my memory might be playing tricks on me. The thought occurred to me that he might enjoy a cold beer.

“¿Cuantás ya se tomó?

How many did I drink? Presuming guilt is is straight from the pages of Canadian customs officials and any hope he might have had of me giving him a few cold ones just went out the window.

He’s already giving up on the driver’s license end and now wants to work the alcohol angle or so it seems so as his next question, when I answer that I haven’t had a drink and that I don’t drink and drive is “No se puede transportar alcohol, le pueden dar una infracción.”

Right. So now, in his little world where he is the almighty authority lording it over a supuesto dumb gringo, transporting alcohol is now illegal. I explain to him that this is beer for an event I am attending in Muna, that I haven’t had any and that it most certainly is legal to put your shopping in your car and move it from one place to another even if said shopping includes alcoholic beverages.

He half-hardheartedly looks at the license, the registration, the 100 peso bills, the beer.

Debe tener cuidado,” he says and hands me back the papers. I place the license along with the $100 peso bills in my shirt pocket and nod at him, biting my tongue to not tell him what a dick he is, and drive on to Muna.





Why I Don’t Read the Newspaper – a Rant

Today, a copy of the Diario de Yucatan, once Merida’s more serious newspaper, entered my home and once again reaffirmed my belief that it is far better to ignore local news in any form because hearing, reading or seeing what is ‘newsworthy’ is really just depressing and makes one’s blood boil.

Boiling Point 1

In the newspaper, dated Saturday 20 of June, 2015, the Local section had this as their top story: “Elogio de la ONU (Spanish for United Nations) a Mérida.

It turns out that someone from the UN came to Merida for an environmental Expo and made encouraging comments about the potentially ‘great business opportunities’ in the area of renewable energy production that exist in the Yucatan along with the fabulous wealth of natural resources.

Now I am not sure what planet she is coming from – although later she mentions being in the DF so anywhere looks promising after that – but perhaps she didn’t read or hear about the rapid rate of contamination of the peninsula’s ground water thanks to complete indifference by authorities and citizens alike, who have no qualms about disposing of waste into the aquifer. Or read the article by another visitor recently who was blown away by the amount of trash that can be found everywhere in the Yucatan, particularly along the so-called Emerald Coast which was named after a visit to the Yucatan by a direct descendant of L. Frank Baum. Or see how trees are cut at an alarming rate both by those exploiting them for lumber or pulp as well as many developers and residents who regard anything resembling a leaf as garbage and ‘undesirable’. Natural resources indeed. Perhaps she was referring to the abundance of limestone. We sure do have a lot of rocks.

When she mentions that “Yucatan has one of the best environmental strategies in the country” I can only wonder at how bad the other states in Mexico really are. Is there potential for wind and solar? Yes. Is it being aggressively pursued by any government agency? Not that I know of, but then I don’t follow the press on a regular basis so am not up to date on the pomp and circumstance of self-congratulatory official pronouncements. There is an ongoing, energetic program to rid the Yucatan of plastic. Kidding. And the reforestation along avenues and highways is also a priority here. Not. Especially not when there is a billboard that needs seeing.

My lethargic cat has more environmental strategies than the Yucatan.

In the article she also states that Merida has ‘buenas vialidades‘; in other words, a good road and street system. I will give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor. What vialidades is she talking about, I wonder.

  • The multilane manic madness of the Avenida Itzaes with its lanes that are abruptly repainted at each intersection?
  • Downtown streets with its yellow curbed no parking streets that are ignored by the PAN officials who park their cars in front of their office?
  • The white-knuckle bottleneck that is the glorieta experience at the new museum of all things Mayan?

Many of us who live here would beg to differ and it is only getting worse, as the recent opening of Krispy Kreme on Montejo or a drive through the neglected neighborhoods in Merida’s south can attest.

Boiling Point 2

Second article in the Local section, is the confirmation of the construction of yet another centro comercial aka mall, this one called Uptown Center, following the accepted and malinchista protocol of naming all new and exciting commercial developments in English. Uptown Center sounds so… uptown, after all. and that’s where we all want to be. With a Walmart and a Starbucks, it most certainly will feel uptown. Meanwhile, el sur de Mérida continues to languish amidst potholes, deficient street lighting and dilapidated public transportation. What the hell, they’re poor and their apellidos are cortos so who cares.

This new mall location is a large property and it seems the Ayuntamiento has signed off on it. What makes my blood boil is the fact that Merida does not need yet another upscale freaking mall. What Merida needs is parks and green spaces for its citizens.

Imagine the city of Merida leading the way in Mexico and even North America not because of what was already there (Mayan culture, natural location – see boiling point 1) but because of what its citizens and government did to make it that way. But alas, the general interest is not in having a great, livable and healthy city; the general trend is to have as many Walmarts and Starbucks as possible, covering everything with concrete as we pursue that goal, and THAT will make us all feel like we are living in a great city.

Does this not make anyone else angry? Feel free to comment below.

Boiling Point 3

On the inside pages of the Local section, along with stories of multimillion peso frauds committed without consequence by the mayor of Yaxcaba, the usual tawdry reporting on spousal stabbings and spectacular car accidents, there is an article entitled “The Mayans; a tourism magnet”

The powers-that-be of our fine tourism infrastructure are busy promoting – in England no less – all things Mayan. Among the last names of the fine citizens representing the initiative mentioned are Bravo, Ancona, Franco, Tovar y Teresa, Gomez and others. It would seem to me that including one or two actual Mayans would be an interesting and refreshing twist to these continued efforts to milk the Mayan culture dry, that continues decade after decade, without returning a centavo to the actual Mayans living in the Yucatan today. Of course, there are many ambitious and promising projects that are announced with each new governor, mayor or president; projects with fancy logos and stationery and even official vehicles and uniforms; projects that are promptly abandoned or the funds siphoned off for a new vehicle for the office, or other much-needed accoutrements of the white-guayabera-clad functionaries with their iPhones and shiny black shoes, smiling among villagers who have been screwed over again and again and still pose for the photos, in the hope that maybe this time, the promise might be real.

As I have the opportunity to spend time in the villages and comisarías and ejidos, I see real, emaciated and forgotten Mayans every day and can tell you – without hesitation – that these Mayans do not receive any benefits from these promotional junkets.

International trips where Merida chefs prepare and serve tacos de cochinita and antojitos yucatecos; where miniature replicas of Chichen Itza and other Mayan archeological pieces are expensively shipped and displayed for foreigners who then congratulate the officials accompanying the pieces on the cultural heritage of the Yucatan. The last people to benefit from all this promotion of Mayan-ness, to paraphrase my friend Macduff Everton, are the Mayans themselves.

And that, my dear readers makes my blood boil the most; how about you?

Maybe if I read the paper, listed to the radio, turned on the TV on a regular basis, I would become inured to these myopic assaults on common sense, on human dignity and on the vast potential of Merida and the Yucatan.

Alas, (or fortunately, for my own mental health) I do not.

And so, when a newspaper comes between me and the table, and I see the absolute mierda that is occurring around me in the city and state that I love and have come to regard as my own, I rant. For I am seeing this not as a romantic foreigner who just bought a colonial in Santiago and finds the Luca de Galvez market still charming, but a long-time resident that feels coraje at the potential of the place being squandered so cavalierly.

The Casual Restaurant Critic visits Younghee’s Kitchen

IMG_2568 The Casual Restaurant Critic, following the suggestions of Better Half who seems to be trying new restaurants with far more frequency than the Critic these days, visited Younghee’s Kitchen today.

Accompanied by said Better Half, the Critic ate far too much absolutely gorgeous and delicious Korean food and is still feeling the after-effects of the severely spicy and overwhelmingly delicious soup(s) feature in the photos below.

All names have been forgotten but be assured that everything is excellent and the restaurant itself is a gem and would be at home in Miami Beach, Chelsea or Vancouver. Top notch quality throughout and the service is delightful.

This will become a Saturday thing folks, and since the restaurant is only open that day, expect waits and line ups but be patient. It’s worth waiting for.

It’s located near the Cine Colon where the Slow Food Market takes place every Saturday and doors open at 9 AM and close at 4 PM.


IMG_2569 IMG_2570 IMG_2571 IMG_2572 IMG_2573 IMG_2574 IMG_2577 IMG_2579 IMG_2580 IMG_2582 IMG_2583 IMG_2589 IMG_2590 IMG_2591 IMG_2593 IMG_2595

Tropical Haiku – The Heat

At this time of the year, the Yucatan scrub forest turns brown, smoke plumes erupt and Yuum Kin turns up the volume, scorching the earth and challenging all life forms to figure out a way to deal with the battering ram of heat that threatens to crush everything in its path.

Here’s some tropical haiku on the subject.

Brush fires

The withering leaves

on crispy branches await

fire is coming

Forest animals

crunching underfoot

the deer approaches the well

a hunter awaits


Squinting in the heat

the tourists sweat profusely

guide is mumbling

Chichen Itza

Herds of pasty flesh

burning red under the sun

give me the beach please

El Centro

The heat from above

absorbed by cement and brick

baking us humans







The Glorious Hacienda Days


Two publications lay side by side on a battered wooden table among vintage postcards, old election campaign buttons and various odds and ends; all covered by a layer of dust that hadn’t stirred since 1967.

“The haciendas,” proclaimed the gaudy tourism brochure breathlessly “are a living example of our glorious past!”

The history book; serious, dark and its pages turned far too infrequently, looked over, skeptical.

“You’re kidding, right?” it asked.

“The pseudo-French classic and baroque architecture; the grand arches!!” insisted the brochure. “The elegant soirees that the distinguished Yucatecan landowners had in gardens perfumed by citric  limonaria shrubs and gingerbread allspice trees.”

“You’re delusional,” muttered the history book, returning it’s gaze tiredly to the spiderweb-infested ceiling of the tienda de antiguedades in Merida’s overcooked and overcrowded centro.

“Ever hear of ’12 Years a Slave’ – the movie?” The history book seriously doubted that the tourism brochure had done much of anything that wasn’t of a superficial nature.

“The furniture was brought from Europe and was the epitome of refined culture and taste!” replied the tourism brochure, giddy with excitement. “You too can experience this marvellous lifestyle in many newly restored former henequen haciendas that have been turned into five-star hotels!!”

The history book declined to comment further as it would have been a fruitless undertaking to try and convince the tourism brochure that it’s spiel was not only ridiculous but also myopic as it completely glossed over all the human misery that hacienda life entailed. But, it couldn’t resist one last remark. “Glorious, indeed,” the history book snorted derisively, “unless you were brown.”

“Oh shush,” the tourism brochure whispered, “why are you always so negative?”

“Not sure,” answered the history book, “perhaps I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“The immaculately restored-to-its-former-magnificence machine room with its high ceilings is now a culinary destination worthy of Adriá!” the tourism brochure continued.

The history book sighed a tired sigh.