The Critic knows for a fact that many of the 19 readers of his ramblings have been – probably repeatedly – to eat at the market in Santiago, so he will just post a few photos of the delicious breakfast enjoyed recently in the company of the always charming Better Half and a group of amigos.
Inspired perhaps by listening to George Carlin reading his book, or my growing impatience as I get older, or the restrictions put on my free speech in an increasingly politically correct world, I feel the urge to let loose a little.
This post will perhaps remind early readers of my neurotic ramblings from over 15 years ago, when this blog morphed out of a print version of my thoughts, both positive and negative, on life in the formerly white city of Merida. For my Yucatecan readers, those who know me will acknowledge that not everything is perfect in this great city and those who don’t know me, will tell me to go home and worse. To the former, thank you for your realism, to the latter, go suck on an habanero chile: I am home thank you very much.
There are some important traffic routes in the city of Merida, of which I will address two, having just traversed the city from one end to the other on a Saturday: the avenida Jacinto Canek and the Prolongacion del Paseo de Montejo, both of which are a goddamn mess. One is named after a Mayan revolutionary, the other after the illustrious Spaniards that thought it would be cool to tear down the remains of the Mayan T’ho and build their version of a Merida in the new world. Both are congested disasters in terms of traffic flow and city planning.
First of all, there are no lanes. Three lanes become four, then two and then four again, without any warning and without any order whatsoever. Cars jostle for position and swing right and left, driven by people who apparently have received their driver’s license from a box of Choco-Krispis and without the faintest notion of how to operate a motor vehicle. If you are driving in a left lane, you will suddenly find yourself in a lane that is exclusively for left turns, no warnings. You, and a hundred other cars behind and in front of you, will then try to move into a right or center lane, avoiding the cars flying up alongside you and actually accelerating to prevent you from getting unstuck. Old people, older than me even, will straddle two lanes, completely oblivious to the concept of a lane and perhaps in their minds they are still in 1950, when traffic was much lighter and you could get away with such idiotic driving.
There are crosswalks, with their paint completely faded away, waiting for some brave soul to attempt a crossing; there are also raised pedestrian crosswalks that force you to come to an almost complete stop so as not to destroy your suspension. Interestingly, these are nothing more than elongated speed bumps or topes, since the crosswalks lead from one side of the street to a partially treed median, where there is no crosswalk and from where you are on your own, as there is no crosswalk leading from the median to the other side of the street. Who are the mentally-challenged city planners who come up with these designs, I wonder, as I ease my car over yet another giant obstacle in the road. Having any sort of clue is not a requirement for their taxpayer-funded positions, it seems.
Interestingly, the one place where there SHOULD be a raised crosswalk or – mínimo – some yellow paint, is on 60, at the Tecnologico. Here, students are constantly running across the street without any bumps to slow down traffic. I always marvel at the fact that nothing has been done here, when other streets feature these suspension-rattlers so prominently and in less-trafficked locations.
Turn signals on vehicles driven by the afore-mentioned Choco Krispi license holders are unused and vehicles sashay from left to right and right to left, the drivers left guessing as to where the lanes might be, as paint is obviously in very short supply and so whatever lane marker was painted a month ago has now been washed away
Traffic policemen, who may or may not have ever driven a vehicle of their own, direct traffic in such a way as to further make life miserable for everyone else, creating bottlenecks and traffic jams beyond anyone sane’s worst nightmare. The traffic lights, untimed and randomly switching from green to red and taking at least a thousand years to change, create further lines and congestion.
It can take you a solid 45 minutes to drive from say, 47 street and Montejo to the roundabout at Chedraui Selecto and the Gran Plaza mall. This roundabout, created by the same mindless planners as those in charge of the crosswalk tope, is a two and a half lane affair, funneling traffic from 5 lanes back into 4 to where Cordemex meets Costco. Then there is a further delight once you pass Liverpool and head into what is the area around the newest monster-mall name Via Montejo/The Harbor, where you will find a traffic light on a 3 lane road that does not align at all with the 3 lanes you will be taking once you get through the traffic light. If you are in the left lane, you must then force your way right and make that person in the middle lane also move to his or her right, often accompanied by much handwaving and horn honking. The engineers who design these roads should really face a firing squad for their complete and utter ineptitude.
There are more cases like these, of course.
In el centro there are plenty of one-way streets, where you will be happily driving along when suddenly you see oncoming traffic and realize that for a half-block section, the street has unbeknownst to you become a two-way affair.
On the Itzaes avenue, also called Avenida Aviacion or the street where the trannies gather at night, the same lane challenges and lack of paint make driving a treat.
I thank you, dear reader, for allowing me to get this off my chest. Happy and safe driving out there!
Once upon a time, on a Merida intersection, there was a great property to build a city park. Unfortunately, this being Merida, it became yet another shopping mall, complete with a hotel, a Best Buy, another Walmart (Merida needed another Walmart) a movie theater and the obligatory Telcel store, along with VIP’s, Fridays and some other lesser-known restaurants. Today the Critic will discuss one of these, the interestingly-named Partners and Brothers Burgerlab. Or Burguerlab.
Why is it called Partners and Brothers? I had a look at the website to find out more, and found the typical message of FUN! and FRESH! and COOL! with lots of really great English words sprinkled throughout (at the top of the website: HOME / SOMOS / FOOD / DRINKS / CONTACTO – why?) to make it all so much more international. Burger is spelled Burguer and then it isn’t, which shows an impressive eye for detail considering it is in their name. The annoying video on the home page says that at this restaurant, which seems like a clone of the Fridays or Bostons concept, at one point says: enjoy… partners, with your brothers. Um, OK. I don’t understand, but maybe it’s in English so that’s cool in itself, regardless of any possible meaning. By the way, the video and its ear-worm jingle will continue playing as long as you are on the website, ad nauseum.
The experience was a mix. The food is perfectly acceptable: the MiniCritic had a half kilo of BBQ ribs, which were tasty enough and the Critic had the Louisiana Burger, a monstrously high collection of many ingredients stacked on home-made bread. The bread kind of fell apart quickly, with the juices of the meat and the caramelized onions, but the flavor overall was very good. Home-made chips (as in potato chips) are an option and while they were fine, they seemed to have been sprinkled with either lemon or vinegar and the sour taste was not to the Critics liking. A dessert of apple tart, described in flowery terms as soaked in Jack Daniels blah blah blah, was frankly, inedible. The coffee is of the Nespresso machine variety.
Service, as is so often the case in Merida, was spotty. The waiter was friendly enough, when he was around. To get the drink order, one must get up to get a waiters attention. Many staff members are lounging about, absorbed in their smartphones and whatever exciting stuff is going on in there.
Considering the place had been open for three hours, you would think that things would be ready for the evening rush. However, sauces in glass bottles on the table were not full and had that look like they had been there since last month, with crusty bits inside and a generally unappealing look to them.
A visit to the bathroom revealed that there was no paper towel in the dispenser to dry ones hands after washing, that in spite of the obligatory cleaning schedule on the door which obviously no one was paying any attention to.
Dirty dishes on the table containing rib bones and burger/burguer carcasses had to be looked at for the longest time until the Critic, on his way to the bathroom, interrupted the waiter who was smartphoning with his compañeros, and mentioned that he might want to clear away the dishes.
That caesar salad! A caesar salad is a caesar salad. If you leave out the dressing with the anchovies, throw in a tomato and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds you no longer have the right to call this a caesar salad. Call it a bloody pumpkin seed salad, or a Mayan salad, or make up another name. It’s NOT a caesar salad for crying out loud.
So overall, this restaurant does not impress. The Critic suspects that it is popular with the drinking crowd in the evenings, especially on the terrace where there is a nice breeze and it is quite pleasant, in spite of the horrific view of traffic and concrete that makes up the area around Altabrisa. Then again, with drinks on the expensive side, including a bottle of scotch you can enjoy with your brothers (or partners) for a paltry $13,000 pesos, the target market might be a bit fuzzy.
Verdict? Don’t bother. Friday’s is directly across the hall from them, on the second floor of the mall, and they have their act together and will provide you with a more predictable American-style food experience. Partners and Brothers is a poor imitation.
The Critic and his Better Half bought tickets for several culinary events for this year’s version of Club Sibarita’s Festival Gastronomico 2019, the third such festival in Merida and now recognized nationally as an event worth attending. Chefs from all over Mexico (including Merida of course) and places further afield are in attendance, showcasing their talents with exquisite creations for attendees to swoon over.
Events at Pueblo Pibil in Tixcocob, Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca in Merida and the Hacienda Xcanatun were packed and the food was truly amazing. It made for some very late nights, and often the Critic and BH were home around 1 in the morning, full of great food and excellent wine courtesy of Casa Madero.
Enjoy some photos of the highlights of the events! First up: Pueblo Pibil, in Tixcocob for a leisurely and delectable lunch. Click on the photos to make them grow magically.
Next stop: Hacienda Xcanatun for the Fine Dining signature Sibarito event.
Lastly, Taste the Best at Altozano:
The Critic and BH along with MiniCritic, enjoyed a solid, good, Yucatecan lunch on Sunday at the new-ish and already very popular Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca. (Note and hola to Jan Morgan: the information on where it is etc. is in the link which is the name)
First of all, this is a gigantic restaurant especially compared with the cramped quarters of the also popular Chaya Maya or others, probably because it is an old colonial-era home of one of the henequen barons from back in the day. So you have a huge interior open-air patio surrounded by terraces and rooms which make up the area for tables. Each of the rooms features a henequen (sisal) based theme that is still being completed and will be finished very soon.
In the back, there is a re-creation of a small Mayan “village” complete with the requisite kitchen structure where two or three mestiza women make hand-made tortillas. Other chozas feature information and displays on ingredients used in Yucatecan cooking. Explanations are in Spanish and English, and the Critic is happy to report that the translations are pretty good. Also in the back yard is the pib area, or cooking pit(s) where the food is cooked, in the traditional way of the Yucatecan pueblos. On this visit, the Critic arrived in time to see, along with a dozen or so other interested diners, the moment when the ‘relleno negro’ was pulled out of the pib, and samples were given out – delicious!
In addition to all this, there is a gift shop and a small museum-like display of artifacts and ingredients typically used in the preparation of Yucatecan food and it is evident that someone took their time to arrange and present all this in an attractive and professional manner.
The food was excellent. Well prepared and tasted as it should. BH enjoyed one of her favorite dishes, a Sunday Merida classic called puchero de tres carnes, MC and the Critic both had queso relleno, which is the standard (for the Critic) by which all Yucatecan restaurants are measured. This queso relleno, complete with capers, raisins and almonds is the real deal and is up there with the best of them. Brazo de reina and a small mucbilpollo or tamal were had as appetizers. The first was good, while the tamal was just OK and lacked the crispiness of the fresh-baked version.
Keep in mind that this is heavy food; very filling and you will need a siesta afterward. Don’t feel the need to try everything the first time you visit. You can come back. And don’t eat this at night, for crying out loud: Yucatecan food is a mid-day thing.
What really blew the Critics mind, however, especially after recent forays into various “fancy” restaurants and their indifferent or just plain inadequate service, was the service at the Museo. Santos arrived at the table to introduce himself and when offering drinks made a smooth, professional, sales pitch that convinced all three members of the Critics lunch group to try the house cocktail. Throughout the meal, Santos was not more than a hand-wave away, in spite of having several tables under his charge. There was no intrusiveness, no slinking up to the table, no mumbling and no arriving with the dishes and not knowing to whom they belonged. So, a big shout-out to Santos – keep it up!
The location will make this place very successful and if they keep up the quality of the food and service, this place should be around for a while. Enjoy the photos!
The powers that be have decided (link at the bottom of the page) that a drop in the price of your local bus ticket is warranted and starting February 16 the price will drop from 8 pesos to 7.50. This represents a huge saving of course for those using the buses, and those 50 centavos will be put to good use elsewhere in the family expense budget.
But wait. Have you ever seen a 50 centavo coin?
There are several versions of this cute coin from Mexico’s glorious past kicking around; little silver-colored things made of some worthless metal that range in size from tiny to microscopic. If you have ever tried, you know that picking one of them up off the ground or floor is a geriatric nightmare. Plus, who actually uses them anymore? Do you really think that when you pay your bus fare with a 10 peso coin you are going to get 2 pesos back AND that 50 centavos coin too? That bus driver, already overworked and underpaid for his 12-hour shift, is going to be very pleased to provide this extra service.
Maybe they will have a redondeo, OXXO-style, to benefit some charitable organization that exists only in the minds of its creator.
Enjoy the new bus fares, everyone!
Meanwhile, the Yucatan’s archeological sites are getting a makeover as new tariffs are introduced, doubling the current entry fee price for visitors. Expect huge and amazing changes as the sites are upgraded. Uxmal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, might even get phone service in 2019!
Just kidding. Of course, there will be no improvements forthcoming. All that money will go the way of the Elton John concert money, for which there was little to no accounting and whose destiny is a mystery still, years later.
Besides the huge increase to see the Mayan sites in the state of Yucatan (one of the few states in the country to charge people an additional entry fee along with the INAH ticket) the folks in the hallowed halls of government have also decided that since people don’t have anywhere else to park their cars, buses, and vans, it would be a grand idea to raise the price there as well.
Parking at one of the sites – and there are no other options for leaving your car anywhere nearby – has gone up by 167% from a symbolic 30 pesos to a whopping 80 pesos. And it’s not like it’s an incentive to use some sort of alternative transportation system to get to Uxmal or Chichen (or Ek Balam or Dzibilchaltun) because there is none.
Things are going swimmingly. Happy 2019!
Diez Diez is a new boutique hotel offering that is in the works just a block off Paseo de Montejo. The kickstart party to the construction which is underway as you read this was at the end of January. Some music, some drinks and some classy snacks from chef Roberto Solis (Nectar, Orori et al) made for an interesting evening, meeting the project founders, architects and promoters.
Should be interesting – stay tuned!
Thanks to the beloved Better Half and her connections, the Critic was able to join BH at the inauguration of the new Roberto Solis project Irori, a sushi bar to rival what Merida already has in that very popular segment.
This was not a restaurant visit in the normal sense of the word; there were lots of samples generously served by the restaurant along with sake and sake-based drinks, all of which was not only delicious but much appreciated. The restaurant has been open for a few months now, but this was the ‘official’ opening.
The restaurant is beautiful and is an offshoot of the original and highly successful Irori in Cancun. The sushi bar, in particular, is inviting – ie. you are not staring at the back of a refrigerated countertop fish container – and a real option for those who enjoy sitting there and talking to the chefs as opposed to a table. Chef Solis commented that he will be presenting omakase tasting menus in the near future which the Critic will happy to experience.
Good music, good food, a beautiful room and plenty of beautiful people made this a stand-out event.
Below is a selection of photos featuring some of the people attending, the food served and of course the restaurant itself.
It’s a been on the list for a while, but Piñuela, in the heart of the ‘centro’ restaurant scene and in its high-visibility location on the corner of 60 and 57, has never been visited by the Critic.
Until last night. With the always charming and elegant Better Half, the Critic met up with some folks for dinner at this establishment, run by the folks who founded Ku’uk.
The room is pretty enough, but the Critic couldn’t decide if the feel was casual or formal or perhaps casual-formal? The food and settings look elegant, while the television screens showing a Fox Sports futbol match along with lively tropical music are reminiscent of a different ambiance altogether.
Everyone was happy with their meal; the catch of the day, short ribs, octopus and a steak. There was nothing over-the-top that made the Critic’s eyes pop out or achieve the coveted mouthgasm. The food was good, and the presentation of each dish attractive.
Where the restaurant really fell down, in the Critic’s opinion at least, was the service. There was no welcome or host, per se. Waiters and cooks wave you in and when a reservation is mentioned to the world-weary and clearly bored waiter, he simply nods and continues to wave his arm at the empty restaurant. ‘Sit wherever’ is the motto.
The menus are brought over, no drink orders are taken. After requesting it, the drink menu is brought to the table, the waiter leaves. The Critic at this point has had enough of the dragging-his-feet-I’m-so-bored waiter and asks another waiter to wait. Which he does. Critic has to call the second waiter over to get a drink order going. No sales pitch, no attempt to create interest in anything on the drink menu. He literally waits on Critic and BH, to make a decision that is. This second waiter is of the tail-between-the-legs-I’m-not-going-to-the-table-in-case-they-ask-me-something variety. He approaches the table – when called over of course – as an abused animal at the shelter might crawl towards you on his belly to get a pat on the head.
After dinner and the plates cleared, the Critic once again signals for the waiter, who is waiting in the wings, to come over and ask the table about wanting desserts. Which the waiter does and tells everyone what’s on the menu. No use asking which is his favorite, he might flinch. One of everything is ordered and soon our slinky second waiter arrives with the dessert selection. Is coffee offered? Nope.
The service was so distracting that it became a focus of the evening. With decent but nothing special food and this kind of attention, the Critic won’t be back any time soon, especially with so many better options now around in El Centro of Merida.
Food photos below.
Tatemar, the latest restaurant from the masters that created the uber-popular Apoala, is in the new La Isla Mall, inside another upscale area known as Cabo Norte. There is a dearth of marine references lately that was only hinted at with the arrival of wind-themed Altabrisa . You have La Isla (the island) and now The Harbour or Via Montejo. All with artificial lakes and a definite Miami look. Very aspirational, to put it nicely.
But the Critic, as he so often does, digresses and spouts commentary on things not related to the restaurant in question.
When you arrive at Tatemar you may recognize a few faces from Apoala among the wait-staff, which will indicate to you that you’re in the right place, and not accidentally in the Brazilian rodizio next door which is always packed by the way.
The restaurant is of course, beautiful and situated in front of the ‘lake’ with what will soon be a condominium background, the setting is very pretty. One thing the developers of this mall and it’s water feature perhaps didn’t contemplate was that water attracts flies. There were some fruit flies buzzing around inside the restaurant to remind one that one was in the tropics – something to think about for both future water-themed mega projects and present-day restaurants where the last thing you want is for your diners to have to be swatting insects away from their pricey entree.
The Critic and his always charming Better Half arrived as a staff meeting was taking place so there was a momentary lull during which no one arrived at the table for any reason, least of all to take drink orders. No one minds sitting out a staff meeting, but throw a few peanuts and a drink to those waiting in the restaurant, would be the Critics suggestion.
Drinks to start: Mayahuel, a Critic favorite from Apoala and BH had the Mezcal Mule. Both were deliciously amazing and pretty to look at.
A selection of tostadas; tuna, shrimp and fish, to start and for the main dish, a pescado zarandeado, split open and cooked on the grill, the robalo (sea bass) was terrific and too big (sizes vary) to finish after the fishy tostadas.
While it’s not cheap, Tatemar is a great place for a fancy night out dinner away from El Centro.