Accompanied by the Better Half and Mini-Critic, the Casual Restaurant Critic visited this 6 month-old addition to the Merida centro bar and restaurant scene, located on the up and coming gourmet stretch of calle 47, which already features 130 Grados, Oliva, Caffe 47 and others, and was suitably impressed by both the place itself, and its food. Gracious and friendly service rounded out the very positive experience.
The Casual Restaurant Critic and his Better-than-Ever Half, had the opportunity (by invitation) to visit this cantina/restaurant and sample some of their amazing food very recently. With expectations not really high nor low but somewhere in between, both the Critic and BH were blown away by the food, which is on the level of some of the best they have tried in Merida, and if you are fan of Mexican food prepared with imagination, creativity, and attention to detail, you are in for a treat.
The room itself is a mixup of an art gallery – there is all kinds of art on the walls – cantina and restaurant. Real tables and chairs, cool and dark, and music videos on the television monitors.
Service is a little distracted until Salvador, one of the owners, shows up and then things improve dramatically. When asked what beers they had, the answer was “Sol y Lager” and when asked for more detail and what other beers there were, as in artisanal beers, the information became a little more detailed. La Cantina offers a chocolate stout and an IPA by Tatich, a local craft beer. The Critic ordered the dark which was a delicious accompaniment to the food that followed.
Salvador told the Critic that the idea of the restaurant/cantina is to provide guests with a relaxing space where the beer is cold and not expensive (at $25 pesos it’s much cheaper than other places that serve free botanas) but with excellent food also at a reasonable price. A place you can visit 2 or more times a week and not break your pocketbook. And the food, dear readers, is truly amazing! Ingredients and recipe ideas from all over Mexico -guacamole w mezcal anyone? – are combined with Yucatecan influences to create original, delicious dishes that are generously portioned and extremely satisfying. You will not feel you are in a normal cantina; this is a much more gourmet experience and will please the most ardent foodie.
Enjoy the photos and come to eat here soon! La Galeria Cantina Artesanal is located on the corner of 54 and 35, very close to the CMA hospital just down the street, and open from 1-11 PM. Credit cards and cash are accepted.
In the strangely named Plaza Mangus, which is home to several culinary offerings including the heavily overpriced and nothing special yet somehow still around Tony Roma’s, there is a new restaurant that the Critic can recommend highly, based on now two visits.
Located in the space once occupied by the Bodeguita and directly across from Los Trompos at City Center, La Gloria Cantinera is a cantina run by the folks who own La Recova and it is a quality operation from the food to the service to the actual room.
The guacamole presented in a molcajete is excellent, as are the spiced tostadas accompanying the fresh and zesty salsas, served tiny stone pots. Anything pork has proven to be outstanding including the chamorro cooked with mezcal, the slab of ribs with a hint of spice cooked to tender perfection and the chicharron which makes an appearance here and there. The sirloin tacos with tuetano (bone marrow) are fantastic, the tortillas are hand made, the cucumber lemonade is a great non-alcoholic drink and the salmon tostadas that the critic tried on this visit were amazing.
The churro cart for dessert is not only original, it’s contents are amazingly addictive. Have them take those crispy sugary treats before you eat them all, which you might, and then regret as your stomach protests. The churros are accompanied by three dipping sauces: berries, chocolate and Bailey’s. You have been warned.
Service is professional, cordial and the way it should be – attentive but not intrusive.
This restaurant may well be on the Critic’s short list of best places to eat in Merida, based on the experiences had so far!
Ahumadero means ‘smoker’ in English and that is the premise of this taco place, located at the glorieta in Francisco de Montejo where the ‘mestiza’ statue is.
Parking is a challenge, but if you drive around the block where the OXXO is, you will find plenty of street parking.
The menu is simple, a few cuts of pork, served in tacos or in tortas, and all smoked. The BBQ sauce is delicious and everything is home-made. There are regular and blue corn tortillas that accompany the melted cheese aka queso fundido, which is made with a tangy cheese and not the bland tasteless glop that so often passes for queso these days at other taco places. The frijoles appie is also delicious, hearty and on the sweet side like you would find at a BBQ kind of place.
In keeping with the September, mes de la patria theme, there will be pozole, also featuring smoked ingredients, available from today on and possibly to the end of the month if the demand is there. The Critic got to sample this pozole and it is fantastic, thick with chunks of meat and hominy corn and a tasty, satisfying broth.
No alcohol, just homemade regular and in-season fruit horchatas, jamaicas and the usual assortment of refrescos embotellados.
Prices are very reasonable and a filling meal can be had for a couple hundred pesos, for two to four people, depending on your appetite.
“El chile pica” warned the waiter, pointing to the blackened chile habanero bits mushed up in the little bowl.
The gringo smiled. He had eaten chiles before. Had even watched a show by Rick Bayless once where Rick explained how to spot a particularly spicy one.
“De verdad pica; tenga cuidado” repeated the waiter.
He seemed truly concerned and hovered for another moment at the red plastic table watching the gringo, who nodded and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.
The waiter turned back to the counter to pick up another order; mondongo para la mesa cuatro, his Mom told him from behind the counter, hands slick with pork fat as she worked the lechon.
He was setting down the spicy soup at table four when he heard a loud cough and the scrape of a plastic chair being violently pushed on concrete; the gringo was standing up waving his hands in the air and his mouth opening and closing like a freshly caught pescado. Comical almost, if it wasn’t for the fact that he looked like he was going to die right there.
“Pinche gringo, que bruto; se lo dije” he thought to himself.
People at the other tables smiled bemusedly at the gringo’s predicament and those nearby held out their drinks or some tortillas, all of which the gringo ignored, not out of rudeness of course but because he simply couldn’t see them, his eyes were watering so bad.
Mom was already out from behind the counter, arms around the stumbling gringo and leading him towards the counter where Luisa had some milk in a glass. Mom was also stuffing tortillas in his mouth to soak up the picante.
Little by little, his eyes drying and the coughing subsiding, the gringo came back to this world. He opened his eyes to find himself sitting at a stool by the counter with everyone looking at him. He gave a limp wave with one hand.
“Bien, estoy bien” he said lifting one hand and looking somewhat chagrined. Everyone smiled and returned to their meals.
He walked slowly, almost carefully, to his table and sat down to finish his tacos.
The waiter stopped by at the table.
“Esta bien? Si pica el chile verdad? Se lo dije no? he asked with a not unkind smile.
“Oh, si!” said the gringo and gave a feeble laugh. The waiter patted the gringo’s shoulder and moved back to the counter.
Tacos de lechon para la dos. His Mom gave him a wink.
After so many years of living here and not going, Wayan’E has received more visits from the Casual Restaurant Critic than usual, probably because of his rather sparse pocketbook situation (dictionary sales are down this lifetime) and also because Better Half is always on a trip someplace exotic.
Read the previous review here; there is really nothing new to report except that the tacos are delicious, the service friendly as hell and the prices are fantastic.
I am hungry now what with that photo. I think I will go al ratito which does not mean “to the little rat” but rather “in a little while”.
In the food court of the Gran Plaza, where the Critic found himself yesterday feeling hungry, there used to be a Subway sandwich shop, where the sandwiches were bland and the employees wore plastic gloves to protect themselves from germs as they handled both money, utensils and food with those same glove covered hands. But, RIP, Subway, because they just weren’t making enough money or the rent was too high or they ran out of plastic gloves or something; the thing is they closed and well, we shouldn’t beat a dead horse.
Why is the Critic even mentioning the sandwich shop? Because in it’s place, a new and exciting food option was opened to the public, something so novel that it deserves a mention here. Ladies and gentlemen, Asadero Grill is serving up tacos. Yes indeed, tacos; something the Gran Plaza hasn’t seen before if you leave out La Parrilla and Los Trompos who are there in the old section of the food court plus Sport Tortas and Tacos and Arrachera Grill (plus yet another taco place that opened just recently) across the way in the new section. In their efforts to provide more culinary diversity, the Gran Plaza folks have decided that since people are lining up for tacos when the mall is full, why not allow another taco restaurant to open?
The Critic is not going to get into the whole mall exclusivity thing which means about as much in Mexico as the constitution of many modern countries ie nothing, but concentrate on the usual, nit picking critiques he has become so well known (and loved) for.
Someone mentioned that the nachos were good, and since the Critic has tried the nachos at Los Trompos, this seemed like a good place to start. A combo, featuring those nachos along with a refillable refresco and a mini styro bowl of frijoles charros (a bean soup for the unenlightened) will run you $64 pesos or about 5 dollars USD. You get 300 grams of meat; either bistek (beef) pastor (marinated fatty pork) chicken and something else. You can combine two meats if you like. The Critic ordered pastor and bistek, got a plastic cup and a number and waited a few minutes for the order to come up.
Once the Critic had his tray, with the salsas and the onions and the lime wedges and the soup and the nachos and the plastic cup and the cutlery and the napkins, he sat down to enjoy this giant Mexican lunch.
The thing that strikes you about Asadero is that it seems like an exact copy of Los Trompos, a well known and very successful operation that has restaurants in strategic locations around town and in the malls. Asadero has everything on their menu that Trompos has, including pizzas and stuffed baked potatoes. All the tacos and combos are there as well. The thing is, their prices are lower and this is bringing in the crowds, apparently.
Back to the nachos. These are the deep fried thick corn chips favored here, bathed in a rather earthy tasting black bean sauce, with a tasteless melted cheese, and covered in meat; chunks of bistek on one side, strips of pastor on the other. Somewhere in between is guacamole, along with some tomato slices and pickled jalapeno pepper slices. In other words, an exact copy of Los Trompos nachos, down to the placement of the tomato slices in the corners of the rectangular plastic plate!
Comparing the two, the Critic would say the Trompos version is a little tastier; the pastor meat and the refried brown beans are more flavorful. But the cheese is tasteless in either version and the salsas, which should be good, thick and zesty in a taqueria, are always disappointingly watery and bland.
Both make excessive use of disposable plastic and Styrofoam – their plastic cutlery is identical and useless for cutting or picking up a chunk of meat – and it is truly phenomenal the amount of garbage generated by not only the taco places, but all the restaurants in the food courts. Perhaps that will be something for another article in the future.
On a scale of Wow to Ew, this one rates Whatever.
For your next party, do like the locals do and hire a taquero!
The Better Half organized a taquiza, which means, for lack of a better term, a taco party and for that you need a taquero like this one: Don Luis A Gil who provides you with delicious taquitos of great homecooked Yucatecan food. In todays case: relleno negro and cochinita.
Highly recommended by the Critic not only for the quality of his food, but for his amazingly friendly and gracious service.
Not much of a review, but if anyone is in the Francisco de Montejo fraccionamiento, especially along Calle 50, you will see quite a few options for tacos and food in general; everything from Burger King etc. to El Panucho de Kanasin.
Last night the Critic and his Better Half were in the area, making time before the Harry Potter preview in the Siglo XXI (do NOT see this movie in Spanish, ugh) and it was decided that having a taco would be a good way to spend 45 minutes.
Past Los Taquitos de PM, where the Critic should have stopped, was this place; its’ name escapes the pre-Alzheimer Critic. There was the word Norteña or Norteño prominently displayed on the large sign that probably had the entire menu on it as well, in that typical taqueria advertising strategy used in Mexican signage. In the interest of diversity, since the Taquitos PM has already been reviewed, the Critic decided to have that taco here.
Semi-outdoor white plastic tables in one area, along with other higher tables with stools in what looks like their original location, the Critic and BH sat under the head of a stuffed deer.
The waiter was so clueless that it was adorable and the food was fine. Chewy taco al pastor meat, melted cheese w/pastor meat that was not very melty in a dish they call the Fonduta.
Whatever that means.
The bill for 1 gringa and 2 tacos al pastor (2×1 promotion; you get two and four, respectively) as well as that Fonduta plus 1 jamaica, came to an astounding 102 pesos. Definitely a bargain!
Added bonus (or not, depending on your tastes) ; two girls played some acoustic music with a guitar and a djembe drum and then came around for donations, just like something you would see in Mexico City.
At a table nearby, the two couples at a table for four were asking the waiter for a menu so they could check their bill. One assumes that they thought their 211 pesos bill (the Critic looked as he was leaving) a little high. Gotta love stingy people.