A stone’s throw away from the future La Plancha park to the north is Luciérnagas y Cosmonautas (Fireflies and Cosmonauts), a small restaurant created by Abril Batún and Natalia Sánchez.
This gem — located in an area that may at first glance seem a little chaotic and caught up in the city’s rapid development—is the perfect opportunity to duck in and out of the hustle and bustle of the street to catch your breath and have a delicious bite to eat. The decor is unassuming and minimalist yet warm and welcoming. Soft music flows into the dining area from the kitchen. The furniture is simple, and the colors are sober and sharp.
Modestly small, there is a tiny kitchen, a small waiting area in the entryway, and only three tables in the dining room. The opening hours are limited and vary depending on the day.
The menu is perhaps a little atypical, offering a range of dishes from quail tacos, pastas, and castacán quesadillas, to meat-free options. Reading through the menu, it is clear that Abril and Natalia apply their creative flair to every dish.
The vegetarian plantain enmoladas caught our eye as the mole for this dish is prepared with eggplant. The flavorful sauce and tart cream garnish proved to be good counterparts to the sweet plantains.
We also ordered the Chicken Sando with xcatic mayo slaw and pickled local cucumber. The sandwich bread and burger buns are made in-house. The sandwich was delicious (crunchy, juicy, soft, and tasty), and we would definitely go back for another.
While we were still eating, we saw a handsome dessert pass by on its way to another table, and we immediately ordered the same: pecan tartlet with ice cream and café especiado inspired by the traditional café de olla. The pastry was crisp, and the filling was rich and just sweet enough, not at all cloying, when eaten with a bit of the ice cream.
It is immediately clear that the couple’s strong convictions guide the project. Fiercely independent, they set up the restaurant with the intention of using the proceeds to fund their other artistic projects (photography, writing, and a larger restaurant, to name but a few). Each aspect and detail has been thoughtfully and carefully created as an authentic, sincere expression of themselves.
The food itself is made to be enjoyed by others, but above all is what they want to serve, without pretensions, a cocina sincera. Natalia explains: “This isn’t gold, it’s barro (clay).”
Abril’s cuisine is not about creating fancy, elaborate dishes, or showing off techniques learned by rote at culinary school. Instead, each dish shows how beauty can be found even in the ordinary and in life’s simplicity and brevity. A cliché, but in this case, very true: this is honest food made with much love.
Luciérnagas y Cosmonautas, Calle 48 between 55 and 57, La Mejorada, Mérida. Open Monday and Tuesday 7 a.m. to noon; Wednesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. @_luciernagasycosmonautas
With writing and reporting by Hannah Hudson.