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Monday, January 24, 2022

Obscurities: We found 5 of Mérida’s hidden treasures

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Maggie Cale
Maggie Cale was born in the United States and has lived most of her life in Pennsylvania. She has a social work degree from Penn State University and finished her career in Washington, D.C. working with families. She moved to Yucatán in 2017 and has worked part-time ghostwriting for bloggers. She lives in Itzimná with her two dogs.
Luca’s patio is great for brunch. Photo: Maggie Cale

I love finding new little spots to eat, shop, or for reliable service. And I love meeting the proprietors. Their stories are always so interesting. Here are five of the dozens of places I’ve been cataloging. 

Luca’s asparagus omelet. Photo: Maggie Cale

Casa Espejo Boutique Hotel, Restaurant da Luca: a peaceful three-room hotel with an Italian restaurant. The charm of the boutique hotel will allow you to immediately relax. A multilingual staff will make you feel at home quickly. Spacious rooms, with fans and air conditioning, make it a comfortable stay and the pool outside is great for an afternoon dip. The owners, Luca, who is from France, and his wife had a restaurant on Holbox Island for years before relocating here. Included in this great location are a fabulous restaurant that has a few tables inside and the charm of a large garden outside with tables. Mature trees with chirping birds while you enjoy breakfast or lunch seem heavenly. The menu has a nice variety with eggs benedict or an asparagus/bacon omelet and on to homemade pasta dishes. Homemade bread and relishes on the table make the meal complete. They make their own pasta and the mushroom sauce is amazing. Slowly as they build their business they are offering an evening with live music as they serve you their pasta of the night. “If there is a pasta you want or a group you would like to bring to the restaurant — feel free to ask me. We can make that happen for you,” Luca tells me. I am keeping an eye on this restaurant because the food is amazing and the outdoor space is cozy and relaxing. Avenida Pérez Ponce 403 b, Itzimná, 984-137-8312

Sunnys spicy chicken sandwich. Photo: Maggie Cale

Sunny: a cute small restaurant with a variety of breakfast and lunch items. They have two tables inside and a delightful staff of two. They have been open for about three months and have been getting busier. The owner, Natalie Rodriguez Solis, says she changes the menu items weekly with different specials. Natalie has a unique style of cooking with a mix of Mexican, American, and Asian influences. She also makes a Japanese cheesecake that sells out before noon. One of my favorites on the menu is the veggie bowl: fresh sautéed vegetables topped with two eggs of any style, and toast. All that was 90 pesos and it was a generous portion. I also tasted a fresh chicken sandwich, with peppers, lettuce and tomatoes, and a spicy sauce. The side on that dish is fresh cut-up local fruits. A generously packed sandwich for 120 pesos. I have not been able to try the Japanese cheesecake but I plan to go back. Calle 59 463, Parque Santiago, Centro; 999-421-2230

Baskets on view at Casta Artesana Santiago in Mérida. Photo: Maggie Cale

Casta Artesana Santiago: since 2019, a cute place to shop for a variety of colorful Mexican items. The proprietor is there from 10 a.m. to 5 a.m., Monday through Saturday. She and one of her young daughters will greet you, with the youngest proudly demonstrating her English. The shop has struggled a bit through the pandemic, but they are upbeat and the beautiful display of natural baskets will catch your eye as you enter the store. Then to the right is a display of colorful baskets and every color of drink coasters you could imagine. She carries a variety of self-care items, some organic. Then a nice variety of men’s and women’s clothing. To complement your outfit a variety of locally made men’s and women’s shoes, bags and jewelry are also available. If you have your little one with you check the display of stuffed animals. It doesn’t feel touristy but instead like a cute variety shop. This is a fun one. Calle 70 490E, Calle 57 and 59, Santiago; 999-530-1242

Llantus Seminueva goes under the hood. Photo: Maggie Cale

Llantus Seminueva: a local garage that has been operating since 1981. Eduardo and his wife have been running the car repair business together. Berta sets up appointments and payments and Eduardo does the hands-on repairs. They both were born in Mexico but met in California. Eduardo lost his father at an early age and at 17 years old moved to California. Eduardo states, “many young Yucatecan men moved to California to work and learn the car mechanic business and go to technical school.” He moved back in 1981 with his wife and they opened their garage. They both are bilingual and involved in their community. Eduardo has been teaching his son-in-law the business for the last eight years but he is still in the shop daily. Eduardo is known to drop what he is doing and come rescue you if your car breaks down. Calle 24 290, Itzminá; 999-144-4123

Frosh ice cream bar in Mérida. Photo: Maggie Cale

Frosh Ice Cream Bar: the cutest little local soft ice cream bar with all the toppings from sweet candies to fresh fruit. I remember when so many of these soft ice cream places opened up in the United States. This ice cream bar has only been open for about a month and carries vegan, keto, low sugar, and coconut milk concoctions or yogurt. At this moment they have three flavors; chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter. If you are not sure which one you want to try they provide small tasting cups. The owners have not been in the shop when I have made my visits so I can’t wait to get the scoop on the story behind the shop. Adorable tables are set up outside to enjoy your selection. Avenida Andrés García Lavín between 41 and 39, San Ramón Norte; 999-369-6209

So that’s five down and I have at least another 20 to share.

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