Merida has many bars that are legend for their botanas, which are small servings of prepared nibbles to accompany your beer, much like the concept of tapas in Spain, where lids were placed on wine glasses to keep out the dust and then someone said “let’s put something tasty on those lids” and a culinary tradition was born. Maybe they didn’t say that – it was probably in Castilian Spanish for one thing.
The most famous in Merida of these bars or cantinas was for the longest time, La Prosperidad, which the Critic visited almost 20 years ago. Never been back. Now, the most well-known is probably Eladio’s, who have branches all over the city and in Progreso too.
Yesterday, as part of the Blogger Summit held in Merida, a numerous contingent of palefaces descended on another Merida classic cantina, La Ruina. There was some initial confusion regarding the placement and joining together of several tables; it seems that the proposed arrangement by the Critic – under the fans – would have implied taking tables from TWO waiters areas and this was very confusing until it was suggested that perhaps two waiters could look after the table, since there were going to be 12 or more people. Once this critical detail was sorted out, the lunch began.
Beers were ordered and the botanas started arriving. Plate after plate after plate. There were cooked but now cold organ meat (love that term) dishes, fresh guacamole, zesty sikil-pak dip, pickled beets, coditos (macaroni with traces of tomato sauce), pickled carrots, chicharrones (pork rinds), ceviche, dzic de venado made with beef and a few others that currently escape the Critic’s memory. Honestly, there was nothing particularly OMFG excellent in the selection of the botanas, but the beer was frosty.
Food is also available from a menu handwritten on a piece of paper that the waiter leaves with you. There are about 6 dishes to choose from, all extremely local and things you will not find on the menu at Taco Bell any time soon.
The bar was empty when the PaleFaces arrived, but full to the point of bursting an hour later. This is a very popular spot!
The beer is cold, the botana is abundant and the service is fine. You should probably visit one of these places at some point in your Merida visit to get a real sense of where the locals hang out when the sun bakes the city to a crisp.