What’s your favorite ice cream place in Merida?
Here’s the Casual Restaurant Critic’s – their Pay de Limon is most amazing!
What’s your favorite ice cream place in Merida?
Here’s the Casual Restaurant Critic’s – their Pay de Limon is most amazing!
In a short span of two days, I had three memorable customer service experiences which I think are typical of Merida, a city not known for its outstanding customer service whether it’s retail or restaurant. Perhaps some of you have had similar experiences? Read on.
The Dry Cleaners
Pre-wedding (not mine, one I had been invited to) and I had some shirts to clean so I stopped at a previously unknown-to-me dry cleaning operation at the Uptown shopping mall. I stopped there because I rarely if ever visit the dry cleaners and so my criteria for selecting one is if I see it on the side of the road or not. This one was there, with a parking spot to boot, so I stopped.
In I went, holding my two items of clothing and standing behind a woman who was in the process of leaving her clothing. No one looked up or acknowledged my presence in any way. The space was small, so the young woman behind the counter knew I was there, I was sure, and the other lady who was wandering around behind the counter unsmilingly definitely looked my way at some point before quickly looking away without so much as a growl.
I was there for a while, while the counter lady and the customer lady negotiated what was cleanable and what was not. I was growing increasingly impatient as one does when one is ignored, but finally, after what seemed like a Pleistocene length of time, customer lady departed leaving me face to face with counter lady. She looked up and then at my shirts.
“Digame?” she asked, finally acknowledging my presence.
¿Digame? What is she? A Venezuelan phone operator?
I asked her if she had any idea of what it felt like to be invisible. Her response came in the form of a bovine stare and silence.
“It would have been nice if at least you had said hello when I came in” I remarked.
“Es que estaba atendiendo a la señora”
Of course, I hadn’t noticed. Silly me. And imagine the effort and coordination it would have taken to continue attending one client and saying hello to another! I ask too much. There wasn’t much more to say so I left my shirts, took my receipt and left.
Thank you, Tintorerias MAX. Never again. Well, one more time, to pick up the shirts.
The Camera Store
It had been almost a week since I left my Canon camera to be repaired and maintained. When I went to pick it up, the person behind the counter informed me that unfortunately, it was not ready.
I was more than a little mortified since it was my daughter’s wedding and I kind of needed to have the camera that night, but I held it together as best I could.
“Is there nothing that can be done? I had hoped it would be ready for tonight. It’s my daughters wedding you see.”
“Déjame hacer una llamada” the employee said and went into the back room.
Although I have been coming to this place for many, many years now and know the owner quite well. I could understand that things were what they were and if it wasn’t ready, it wasn’t ready.
“Le vamos a prestar una cámara” I was told when the employee emerged, smiling, from the back room.
Once I picked up my jaw from the floor, I thanked her profusely and signed the receipt for 20,000 pesos of camera that they were lending me in order for me to be able to take photos at my daughters wedding. Who does that anymore? I was impressed, big time.
You have my business for life, Victor and Digicentro.
Home Depot Stop
I have 10 minutes to run in and buy a faucet, a simple garden-type faucet, as there is one at the house which is not closing properly and so, water is running all the time, which means the pump comes on all the time… but I digress.
I rush in, only to find that the aisle that has the faucets is closed, as a forklift is working in the next aisle over. There is an employee standing next to that little fence they put up.
“Can I just rush in and get this faucet?” I ask, showing him the one I had brought from home.
“No, porque están trabajando al lado” replies the employee.
I point to another customer, in that very same aisle, looking for something.
“What about him – does he have magic powers or something?”
“No, de hecho le estamos esperando para trabajar.”
OK, while you work/wait could you perhaps pop in and get me one of these? You know where they are, it’ll only take a minute.
He does. Comes back with several models.
“Tengo este que es cromado pero es de medio, el suyo es de tres cuartos. Tiene que comprar un adaptador. Y tenemos este otro de tres cuartos que no necesita nada.”
I don’t like the 3/4 inch one because it looks like a gas valve shutoff thing. OK. I am ready to buy the adaptor and the half-inch version, in chrome.
Miraculously, the forklift stops working in the next aisle and I am able to enter this one to peruse the faucet offerings. I quickly find exactly what I am looking for and am in the cashier line-up, not before showing the employee what it was I had been looking for. He shrugged and said “Oh” and that was that.
Home Depot, no worries and as the Terminator said, I’ll be back.
Xcalachen (sh-cala-CHEN) is a neighborhood in Merida’s economically challenged southern half, where the real estate folks advise against buying anything as your property values might not as appreciate as quickly as an investment on the northern side of the Plaza Grande.
Once known for its many chicharronerias or chicharra (pork cracklin’s) stalls, the neighborhood, directly next to Merida’s cemetery, fell victim to decay and the lack of economic opportunity. Now, the neighborhood is coming back to life thanks to the efforts of residents and municipal authorities who have reinstated the colonias most famous product: the chicharra.
In addition, there are many colorful and quite beautiful murals throughout the neighborhood, another effort to spruce it up and make it somewhat of a tourist attraction. Interestingly they are not just great art plastered on an available space, but each painting actually has something to do with the owners of the home or wall where they reside.
Today, November 24th, there was another edition of the Feria de la Chicharra, where pork rinds, fried pork belly, local blood sausage, and a stuffed haggis-like delicacy called buche relleno.
A live band was playing cumbias and other tropical hits while the crowds – and many many policemen from Merida’s municipal police department – filled the streets, munching happily on their cholesterol-laden heart-attack-inducing snacks. The mayor of Merida was also on hand, taking many photos with fans and dragging behind him a large and persistent press entourage.
Enjoy the photos – this is what the walk-through looked like today, from murals to pork to politicos, in chronological order 🙂
The Casual Restaurant Critic and his band of merry Critics including Mini and Better Half, tried this new sushi restaurant which is on the THIRD floor of yet another commercial plaza in Merida, where the commercial plazas outnumber the parks by a million to one. Yes, you have to walk up to get here (or take an elevator – fancy) but it is worth the effort. It’s in the Altabrisa area, in the umpteenth version of a luxury plaza; this one is called Luxus (yawn)
However, the sushi is great. Service is friendly and professional and the room offers a great view of the area around Altabrisa, specifically the mall and hospitals just down the road. There is also seating outside. And you might recognize the chef behind the sushi bar – he was a fixture at the now-defunct Hamachi, so you know he knows that you know that he knows what he’s doing.
Location info at the bottom of the page or on their restaurant link here.
Location: Calle 20 between 15 and 7 (Correa Rachó Avenue) in Altabrisa, Merida
From periferico, take Altabrisa exit, get into the side access road and turn right on Calle 20
The Mini-Critic invited the Casual Restaurant Critic to try a new sushi place called Sushi Pop in the closest approximation of shopping bliss in Merida resembling Miami. If you are looking for somewhere to make you feel like you are not in the Yucatan (with the exception of the people around you) come to La Isla.
Sushi Pop is a franchise with locations all over the country. Merida location at the end of this post.
Directly in front of a colorfully lighted fountain with spurts of water shooting up ala Bellagio, and with the artificial lagoon in the background where you will nightly presence a light show, you can enjoy some truly average sushi, either in their air-conditioned locale or outside on the little terrace, where you will swelter but can enjoy a smoke without being hassled by the pure-air police.
The service was alright, but nothing outstanding. What put the Critic off is the fact that the waiter, who was dancing happily inside the locale, showed up at the table and his rumpled shirt with rolled up sleeves and unshaven face put an immediate damper on his expectations (the Critic’s, not the waiter’s)
There were some rolls which were fine, and an order of gyoza, but the most interesting item was their broccoli tempura, for which they are apparently famous, according to RumpleShirtSkin.
Would the Critic go back? Maybe, but no rush.
LOCATION AND HOURS INFO:
La Isla Mérida Cabo Norte
Calle 24, Cabo Norte
MONDAY TO WEDNESDAY:
13:00 – 23:00
THURSDAY THRU SATURDAY
13:00 a 2:00
Hacienda Xcanatun, one of the Critic’s favorite go-to options when you want to eat in a civilized manner, without crowds, without downtown traffic (bonus: no retenes! for after-wine driving peace of mind) just the other day had an interesting event featuring some of their typically fabulous food paired with some delicious wine from Baja California, part of a collection called The Four Seasons by Proyecto Vinícola de México (links at the bottom of the page) On this occasion, three of those seasons were presented to the folks attending.
Since wine is such a subjective topic, we shall leave the flowery descriptions to others far more qualified than the Critic. Nevertheless, there was one fine Chardonnay (Spring) accompanied by both a home-made duck paté as well as a terrific no-lime esmedregal ceviche and one very rich red blend (Fall), the latter a favorite at the Critic’s table, with definite notes of forest fire and earthiness. ‘Velvet’ was was another term that came to mind after some serious consultation and mouth swirling with the Critic’s always entertaining table neighbor, the Sculpting Critic and her husband, the Eagle Scout. That’s some pretty flowery wordplay right there…
As usual, a terrific experience at Hacienda Xcanatun.
Links for more info:
Every once in a while, my work, such as it is, requires me to visit restaurants that could be potentially incorporated into a tour offering. Such was the case today, with Las Yuyas, located in the Merida’s Jesus Carranza colonia.
Open since March of this year, they are cooking up traditional Yucatecan food with some original twists and presenting it in an attractive manner. My dear readers will agree that one of the most delicious and absolutely worst Yucatecan platillos to photograph is sikil pak, but the way chef Edwin prepares it here is a work of art. Very tasty too! Look:
All the dishes tried were excellent, from the queso relleno (my go-to dish when comparing Yucatecan restaurants) to lomitos de Valladolid to pipian de puerco. Also sampled were chayitas, taco de cochinita, relleno negro and escabeche, along with crema de brocoli and sopa de lima. Each was very well presented and perfectly seasoned. Tortillas were handmade and hot, and the tostadas for the sikil pak were fried just before being brought out to the table which made them extra hot and crispy. Nice touch.
Dessert was caballeros pobres, better than the usual goop served at so many restaurants, and papadzul ice cream. This is made by a local ice cream artist and this restaurant is the only place in town where you can have this flavor. Reason enough to come and sample the wares.
The room is comfortable, chairs are a bit on the hard side, walls are all glass and the A/C is cold. Service was very friendly with a bit of a delay on the removal of dirty dishes but overall very attentive. Owner Mario stopped by for a chat and explained a little about what he is trying to do.
Recommended; a restaurant that deserves a visit. Enjoy the (iPhone) photos!
There is and always has been a palpable racist element in this country and you will see, in the hundreds of interactions the well-to-do Mexican upper classes have with their supposed inferiors, a total disregard for these browner versions of themselves.
Look around. You will see it everywhere.
Privileged kids at private school
dropping wrappers and plastic bottles
Dirty dishes in the sink
greasy pots and pans
Enemas and bandages
bedpans and injections
The Lincoln on Montejo
garbage out the window
The traffic accident
blue lights flashing
The Barbie Mom
coffee after the gym
Babies in strollers
families at the mall
The busy executive
car at the valet
towels, wrappers, water everywhere
The children’s party
the piñata bursts open
The drug war rages
who to fight the cartels
henequen industry families
A stray shopping cart
supermarket parking lot
thugs beating up citizens
Morning TV show
the silver-toothed buffoon
The Casual Restaurant Critic had the opportunity to spend a Sunday afternoon near Izamal and so it was only logical that lunch should be had there. Instead of the usual and 99% excellent Kinich it was decided, with the Better Half’s acquiescence, that the newer Zamná, which has somehow appropriated the entire serving staff originally working at Kinich (how did THAT happen?) should be given a chance.
Located just near the edge of town, where the ‘paint your place yellow’ memorandum somehow failed to arrive, the Zamná restaurant is an attempt to recreate the same atmosphere as Kinich, with mixed results. There are artesanias for sale, there is a giant palapa roof, there is an hipil-clad Mayan lady making tortillas in a separate hut along with a young man grilling the poc chuc and the servers are all women, able to maneuver giant trays of food and drink to their guests.
But somehow, the atmosphere is lacking. There is something missing here and it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it is – maybe a lack of interaction with the friendly-enough staff, who are mostly efficient, but not particularly charming. The actual space is a long an unremarkable rectangle and the music is all trio but the overall feel is… meh. If you are going to copy or emulate the already very successful brand that is Kinich, you are going to have to try to make it better, not just the same or almost the same.
The food you ask?
The food is fine. Better Half had the pipian de conejo, served only on Sundays which was quite good and the Critic had the queso relleno, which his go-to dish to evaluate Yucatecan restaurants, due to its complexity and the facility with which one can get it wrong (like at the over-rated Hacienda Ochil, where the dish is quick to arrive at your table and has seemingly been microwaved) and here, the platillo tipico was very good, but not better than, Kinich. Or Teya, where it is excellent.
Sikil pak dip was excellent, as were the empanadas, crunchy on the outside and melty cheesy inside.
Here are some photos of the food and restaurant and in the Critic’s opinion, visitors to Izamal are well-served by sticking to Kinich.
Under new Mexican ownership, the hacienda Santa Cruz, on the outskirts of town, is undergoing a massive facelift and renovation. The Critic visited recently to have dinner with Better Half and spent a very pleasant few hours in this beautiful dining room.
Food was good, service was fine and the place is peaceful and relaxing. There are the usual tweaks that could be made to the service, which is a pet peeve of the demanding Critic and BH, but it is a nice way to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of life in Merida.
The pasta was fine, “spaghetti” according to the waiter when asked, which turned out to be a flat noodle more reminiscent of a tagliatelle, but who cares. The cheese-y sauce was tasty enough. Better Half’s choices were more inspired and definitely better. The black bean soup in particular was excellent. The pork with a guayaba salsa was also delicious.
Not cheap, but not expensive either, considering the location, which is here.
Enjoy the photos.