The people of Mérida are traditionalists when it comes to food. Certain dishes are associated with a particular day of the week. In households across the city, Sunday would feel incomplete without puchero (a kind of stew). On Monday, at any restaurant that caters to locals, you are sure to find frijol con puerco (pork and beans). Likewise, you'll find potaje (potage) on Thursday; fish, of course, on Friday; and chocolomo (a beef dish) on Saturday. These dishes are heavy and slow to digest; they are for the midday meal and not suitable for supper. What's more, Meridanos don't believe seafood is a healthy supper food; seafood restaurants close by 6pm unless they cater to tourists. The preferred supper food is turkey, best served in salbutes (small, thin rounds of masa fried and topped with meat, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce) and panuchos (salbutes with the addition of bean paste) -- and turkey soup.

Mérida also has a remarkable number of Middle Eastern restaurants. A large influx of Lebanese immigrants around 1900 has exerted a strong impact; Meridanos think of kibbe almost the way Americans think of pizza. Speaking of pizza, if you want to get some to take back to your hotel room, try Vito Corleone, on Calle 59 between calles 60 and 62. Its pizzas have a thin crust with a slightly smoky taste from the wood-burning oven.

Downtown Mérida is well endowed with good midrange and budget restaurants, but the best upscale restaurants are in outlying districts. For something special, treat yourself to a meal at Hacienda Xcanatún, whose French-trained chef excels at a fusion of French, Caribbean, and Yucatecan dishes.

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