In Yucatán, Christmas Eve is the big event. Christmas Day is an anti-climax for many families, a time to sleep in and pick at leftovers.
And the city nearly shuts down, including most sit-down restaurants.
So what do the rest of us do on Christmas Day if we want to eat? If we’re not in the mood to cook, we go out and prepare to tip our servers a little more generously than usual. Because it’s Christmas.
We’ll assume you’re not sneaking out to a fast-food restaurant. Of course, there are hotel buffets at the Hyatt Regency or Fiesta Americana. Like Chinese restaurants back in the States, they wouldn’t dare take the day off. But maybe you don’t feel like standing in line for what’s become a pretty expensive proposition.
The choice has shrunken considerably, and because of demand, many of them aren’t taking reservations — unlike Thanksgiving when calling ahead was mandatory. So we’ve called around and found 11 reasonable options for a Christmas Day escape.
Hennessy’s Irish Pub
With a special Christmas menu from noon to 2 a.m., and live music starting at 9:30, this is our choice for the most rockin’est (yes, it’s a word, just ask Dick Clark) Christmas Day to be found. Hennessy’s is one restaurant that’s an exception to the no-reservations rule. Call ahead for a seat: 999-509-7089.
El Original Montejo
The former TGI Fridays, on the Prolongación, El Original Montejo gets good online reviews and could be worth a shot. The neighborhood — which also has an Office Max, McDonald’s, and Home Depot — is a little slice of American suburbia right here in Mérida, but once you’re inside, it may very well feel like — a little slice of American suburbia. Open noon – 8 p.m.
Sanborns Gran Plaza
We have a soft spot for Sanborns restaurants, what with these adorable uniforms and old-timey menus. Everyone’s charming and the food’s reliable. We’re still aching for the old Sanborns at the Fiesta Americana. But Gran Plaza has been pushing through, even when supply chain shortages turned their chef’s salad into a random sampler of whatever was in the fridge earlier this year. And bless their hearts, they’re open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
La Recova on Santa Lucia park is closed, along with the rest of the restaurants there, on Christmas. But the main branch of the steakhouse on the Prolongacíon in Campestre has the meats from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Head north for the Oliva that’s actually open on Christmas. One of the city’s best Italian restaurants, Oliva Patio on Avenida García Lavín is cozy and modern with an inviting terrace 1 p.m. – 11 p.m.
It’s not fancy, but people like the Korean Grill in the heart of the Paseo de Montejo. Known for typical Korean food such as bibimbap, as well as specialty ice cream desserts, this could be a fun choice. 1 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Teya Santa Lucia
This third in a chain of Teya restaurants, on Calle 60 between Santa Ana and Santa Lucia parks, has excellent Yucatecan staples. And we love the contemporary atmosphere, contrasting with the original hacienda dining room at the edge of town. Christmas falls on a Sunday, so you’ll be well justified to sample some traditional cochinita pibil. Open noon – 11 p.m.
Texas Roadhouse Montejo & Caucel
With competitive prices for good-enough steaks, Meridanos have thoroughly embraced the arrival of the Texas Roadhouse chain, and so can you. But based on past experience, good luck getting a table 1 p.m. – 10 p.m.
We’ll bet you hadn’t thought of this one. For seafood and traditional Yucatecan cuisine, there’s a Habaneros restaurant by the Siglo XXI convention center, and it’s open from 1 to 9 p.m.
Although Paseo 60 appears to be mostly closed on Christmas Day, the Progreso branch of the fabulous Crabster Seafood & Grill is open, starting with brunch at 8 a.m., then closing at 7:30 p.m.
Boston’s Pizza Montejo
This Canadian restaurant chain has a pasta dish with a rosemary-chipotle sauce that seems Christmassy enough for us. We also notice they expanded their geographic reach on Rappi, so this could be the lazy person’s Christmas-day choice. There are three Boston’s Pizza places in Mérida, but we’ve only verified the Prolongacíon location as being open, from noon to midnight.