Now, I see that La Casa del Cheesecake has somehow topped Lonely Planet’s list of things to do in Mérida. Really? Eating cheesecake in Santa Ana is the No. 1 thing to do? It’s two steps above visiting Catedral de San Ildefonso, in this list at least. [Read more…]
Centro is steeped in history, but the city is good at expressing modernity as well. The endless modern-art galleries at the Museo Macay wore us out, but we were delirious with pleasure at its exhibits. More and more contemporary architecture is out there, and I don’t need to list the practitioners here who are unmatched in any larger city.
And at street level, we can’t but help take great pleasure from the city’s cosmopolitan coffeehouses.
The latest one to catch our eye is Café Libertad, which opened on Calle 60, off 55, in May. After a long day that culminated at the Mérida English Language Library MELL-o night, we stopped in at Cafe Libertad on the way back to our quarters. The owner came right over and introduced himself to us, and he explained his vision. The cafe is to be a haven for open exchange of ideas about art, culture and politics.
We had cappuccinos and some quiche under the watchful gaze of history’s big thinkers and revolutionaries — in a pair of murals high up on two facing walls. We plotted no coups, however, sticking strictly to small talk.
To see how much the local coffee shop scene has evolved, check out Yucatán Living’s 2008 coffeehouse survey. Mérida has come a long way.
Now that we’ve been back to Café Chocolate a few times, we have witnessed waiters loitering by unswept floors, bird poop on the chairs (flip the cushions and there’s more poop), so-so food, apathetic servers and cooks smoking in the kitchen, our enthusiasm has waned a bit, but it’s still a good place to drink a beer and catch a cool vibe. I have black paint or tar, that won’t come off my fingers, from touching the side of my metal table in the courtyard. Oh, and the art hasn’t been very strong for a while now; some of it is even laughable. But our affection for this place remains.
We think we already have a first-night tradition when it comes to our jaunts to Merida. They will be spent at Café Chocolate, one of the places in Centro where we feel most at home. This place is an art gallery and restaurant on Calle 60, a place we pass when we’re walking to Santa Ana, by 49. I think we must have thought it was a chocolate shop. To just glance through its windows doesn’t give you a very clear idea of what it is.
Given its great location, it’s a place we passed many times. Then one day, we came across a tiny gallery on 66, a real hole in the wall on a corner in the Gulch. I don’t remember its name. The artist was having an opening reception at Café Chocolate, something very informal, and all were welcome. We had no particular plans, so we went.
The quality of the art varies, but so far the one piece we bought and have displayed in our dining room was purchased there.
Here’s my favorite table, right by a large window that faces the side street. By day, it’s a little jarring. Trucks idle waiting to cross, and the I might catch the driver eyeing my plate. But at night it’s a very cool, relaxing spot.
What really hooked us was the laid-back bohemian atmosphere, which carries through in a rear dining room and two courtyards that connect out back. The clientele appear to be young and fairly hip — sort of like our other favorite place, El Hoyo, over on 62. We always seem to be the only NOB types there, and we tend to be older than their target audience, which is fine.
They have, as we discovered at the end of our last trip, a really good breakfast buffet. Food is served all day, and they make their own bread and pasta. I have yet to try their sandwiches, crepes or bruschetta. (Update: Now we have, and like I said, they’re so-so. Their bruschetta with paté is very nice. Pasta was overcooked. Crepes with goat cheese and caramel sauce were heavy but tasty.)
My blood pressure is dropping just thinking about it.