Trips to Mérida are all about friends, food, architecture, and coffee, and not always in that order. Before 10 a.m., it’s just about coffee, and the city that once offered tourists packets of Nescafé and powdered milk has come a long way. And the fact that we gobbled the lion’s share of the coffee served by our hosts last week didn’t quench our thirst for caffeine-based pleasures.
We love all kinds of coffee drinks, and they’re all widely available in Mérida lately, but lately we’ve been stuck on cappuccinos. Here’s our running list of where we’ve taken cappuccino breaks this year:
Bistro Cultural (66 x 43) is our favorite for the moment: They serve the best cappuccino we’ve had, better priced and more generously portioned. Patterned on a traditional cocina economica, this informal little eatery opens at 9 on weekdays and is closed weekends. Pictured above is Sebastian Masson. He and his wife, Maola Baquerano, own the restaurant. They live in the rear with their two adorable, frolicking children. There are salads, omelets, and croissants that you can have stuffed with ham and cheese, plus a comida del dia. Wifi.
Dilan Coffee is nearby (70 x 45), a very bare bones place with coffee as good as Bistro Cultural’s, but with smaller portions and slightly more expensive. No food; somewhat of a rock-and-roll atmosphere. Gustavo’s friendliness and enthusiasm is infectious, and we’ll keep going back as long as he’s the owner and tamping the beans. There was wifi, and then not, so ask.
Coqui Coqui (55 x 62 y 64) is a spa and residence, but it does a nice job serving tiny cappuccinos in fine china cups. You get to sit in a lovely Belle Epoque salon, where we were also tempted to purchase some cologne made with tobacco and cocoa beans, but smelled like Coco Chanel. You won’t be surprised this little jewel box is part of a series of enterprises by one of those supernaturally beautiful supermodels, Nicolas Malleville, who is from Argentina. This site explains it well. I was feeling too properly Victorian to check for wifi.
Gloria Jean Coffee (55 y 60) brings a California-based coffee franchise to Santa Lucia park, which was renovated recently. It was overly foamy and came out cold, and we had a bready panini that we didn’t like at all. What is a huge chain, mainly found in malls, doing here anyway? No wifi.
La Tratto Santa Lucia (55 y 60) is, like its neighbor El Pez Gordo, is a spinoff from the Prolongacion Montejo. They made us nervous, struggling with the huge expensive-looking coffee machine, but they got it right. It was pleasant sitting at the bar, pre-dinner rush, with a cappuccino and a biscotti. I enjoyed watching the on-point, no-nonsense staff prepare the open kitchen for dinner service. Wifi.
Hotel Casa Lucia (60 x 55 y 53) faces the new La Tratto, and maybe all the new competition on the park forced its small restaurant into retreat. The tables along the windows have been replaced with a high-end clothing boutique, but if you step into the lobby, you’ll see the remains of the restaurant, probably maintained for the convenience of their guests. We were too early for La Tratto one day, so we tried out Casa Lucia, and guess what. Really good cappuccino in an elegant atmosphere! Bathrooms are locked; desk clerk will let you in. I assume no wifi.
La Boheme on the Paseo Montejo is the quintessential expat hangout. Get a shampoo and cut at Robert Abuda’s and then relax next door, where affable owners Alex or Chris or café manager Victor will serve really good coffee and a nice pasta salad or panini with a side of camaraderie. Excellent baked goods; go for the buttery croissants. We’ve enjoyed many pleasant hours there, chatting with future neighbors, and have purchased art from the walls. Wifi.
Starbucks, also on the Paseo de Montejo but closer to the hotel zone, has so-so cappuccino, but it’s the prettiest Starbucks you’ve ever seen. Where else would they convert a mansion into a Starbucks? Better that than administrative offices for a bank, so thank you Starbucks. Valet parking. Wifi.
Café Creme (41 y 60) on the elegant La Maison Bleue courtyard has excellent cappuccino and through-the-roof baguettes or croissants stuffed with manchego, serrano, brie, etc. Quiche is very good, but the sandwiches are an epiphany. One plate can combine the best of Spain, Italy, and France. I even forgive them for spelling it “expresso” on the wall. Fancy tarts and other confections, too. You can’t go wrong. Wifi.
Flor de Santiago (70 off Parque Santiago) is open after being closed for a bit. Seeing the historic, charming building listed for sale scared me a little, so we finally went there despite its lack of coffee cred. Big brick ovens appear to be producing breads for more than just this dining room, which is indeed splendid and hints at pre-Castro Cuba. When I saw the plastic push-button machine that dispensed the coffee drinks, I opted for something different: espresso with foamy milk. It was reasonably good. The waitress was wearing a shirt from the forgettable Gran Café on the Remate del Paseo de Montejo, so they’re not concealing their connection to that and its sister restaurant La Habana. It never occurred to me to check for wifi in such an old-timey place; I’d guess a rotary pay phone might somewhere.
Café Cafico (58 y 47) is our first love. We brought home two big bags of Cuban roast beans, and although there’s not much of a café setting, they whip up a mean cappuccino. I suspect that many expats who do most of their shopping at Costco will still come to the Centro to buy their beans here.
Hotel Casa San Angel (Paseo de Montejo at the Remate), or more specifically its stunning Tala Bistro, has great Persian cold cucumber soup and chicken tostada, but we’ve also found their cappuccino stand up to any coffee bar. It also boasts an exceedingly pretty dining room, which leads to a gorgeous courtyard. Have I exhausted all my adjectives? Fast fact: The building was originally the family home of famed Yucatecan mathematician Graciano Ricalde; he died there in 1942. Wifi.
Riqueza de Chiapas (60 y 49) is a hole-in-the-wall with a couple of tables. Coffee is very good, but for some reason we feel too self-conscious to linger; we take ours to go.
Café Chocolate (across the street from Riqueza) has OK cappuccino. Coffee served at their breakfast buffet was pretty bad, however.
Italian Coffee Company. No, no, no. Let’s just go back to the Nescafé packets if this insipid joint ends up being the only game in town.
Punta del Cielo (63 off the main square) offers not-half-bad cappuccino, clueless servers, but it’s a decent port in a storm if you’re desperate for some caffeine and air conditioning. Very cool, hip atmosphere. Wifi. There’s actually a better place that’s less chain-like, on the opposite side of the square, and it’s called …
Café La Cabaña (61 off the main square) between the Sorbeteria Colon and the Palacio de Gobierno is quite good. Great people watching, too, when you’re on the sidewalk looking at the Zocalo, the main square. Don’t let them overwhelm your foam with cinnamon. You can pick up wifi from the municipal service that comes with the plaza.
Café Latte (Calle 18 x 21 Col. Itzimná) is tiny, cramped and wonderful. We don’t get up to that neighborhood very often, but when we do, we’re there. Some people consider it the best in the city.
Mérida International Airport ( Carretera Mérida a Uman Km 14.5) has options for the groggy early-morning traveler headed on that early flight to Houston. First, there’s the Hacienda Montejo, a full-service restaurant which has an automatic cappuccino maker, the output of which results in fairly decent stuff. We always grab breakfast there if we get our boarding passes quickly enough. Then, when you’re past security, there’s one last Airshop coffee bar so you can take one on your flight, if you’re willing to pay their inflated prices (and for the 7:05 a.m. flight, we definitely are).