I don’t know if this is unique to Merida, and it probably isn’t, but in these parts, a vegetarian cuisine doesn’t exclude chicken. Vegetarianism excludes red meat, but not white. We ate a few times at Café Club on Calle 55 — a really nice little place with a side view of the Sta. Lucia church and its enormous leafy trees. You can almost make out Café Club in this Google image, just to the left of center, a pink building in the distance. (This is not to be confused with Club Café in Boston. Don’t go looking for drag shows here.)
This was one of the first places we ate on our own, on our first trip to Merida. We had been warned about not drinking the water, and how lettuce washed from the tap, or ice cubes in our drinks, could make us sick. We even abided by one guidebook’s advice, which we now consider a little extreme, to carry a roll of toilet paper around in our backpack.
So we grilled the poor waitress a little: Is the ice clean? How do you wash your greens? She assured us they were safe, and we reluctantly ordered our vegetarian chicken soup, a rice dish and an iced tea.
The food was really tasty, and once we discovered their nice little courtyard, we returned several more times, at different times of days, until we were considered regulars. My companion, who speaks the lingo, spoke with a waitress there at length about this and that, while I sat there, patiently (or not) waiting to hear what was being said. It took about 30 seconds in English to explain a 20-minute conversation in Spanish. I guess that’s the nature of the language. Another night, we were stumbling home from an art reception at Café Chocolate, and we saw Café Club was still open. I thought it was just a breakfast or lunch place, but their patio was a wonderful place to enjoy a night cap.
So once again, we discovered the joys of the more obscure eateries of Merida. On the same trip, we finally made it to Casa de Frida, which many gringos rave about. On the night we were there, a Tuesday in January (a slow day of the week at the height of the season) only one or two other tables were occupied, and only one man and one white bunny was stationed at the front of the house.
Yes, a white bunny, which both I and the family across the room kept trying to get a picture of on our phones. I’m not sure how I felt about having a bunny loose in the dining room, but I was relieved to find no rabbit dishes on the menu. I had a duck with mole sauce. The sauce was a revelation, but unfortunately it was tasked with rescuing a very dry duck breast. Maybe they should have boiled that rabbit for me after all.
Frida’s was OK, but we really appreciated the hospitality of that plain little restaurant on Calle 55.