A central joy of travel is eating, and a central element of parenting is ALSO food. Thus it stands to reason that during the recent Spanish immersion in Mexico that my friend Gareth and I just did with her 6 year old daughter and my 8 year old son in the city of Merida, we reveled in every meal and snack!
Let’s tour some of our favorite eateries in this Yucatan Peninsula spot. Warning: the whole first half of this post is about ice cream, but never fear: there are tacos galore, along with surprises like “Vampire Juice.”
Now, because Merida, Mexico is a sizable city of nearly 900,000 people, this “what to eat with kids” list only scratches the surface of the food there… but provides a helpful starting point if you’re going to travel to the area yourself — or perhaps simply delicious inspiration if you’re ogling from home. You might even recreate some of these dishes in your own kitchen!
Fruit Sorbet in Merida
Let’s start with the most important, in my book. The eatery in Merida that got a TON of our love was Dulceria y Sorbeteria Colón: a sweet shop conveniently located both in the center (Centro) of town, and right by our AirBnb on leafy Paseo de Montejo — pictured above. Colón specializes in fresh fruit sorbets, and features a rotating array of seasonal flavors. Revel in the options below…
Mamey Fruit Sorbet
We went to Colón almost every afternoon after Spanish camp — steadfast in our quest to sample and rank as many flavors as possible. Hands-down, our #1 winner for us adults was “Mamey” (roughly translated in English as “Tropical Apricot“) which is only available around July. Mighty lucky for us that we arrived in time to devour it.
The photo below of my son’s Mamey Sorbet doesn’t fully communicate depth of its flavor and its thick, satisfying consistency. To me, Mamey tastes as rich as meat — yet it’s sweet, though not too sweet. That description may sound odd, but wow, Mamey is good!
The Kids’ Favorite Fruit Sorbet
For our kids, the sorbet flavor winner wasn’t Chocolate as one might have expected. The chocolate at Colón has cinnamon (canela) in it, so while our 6 and 8 year olds liked it, it didn’t rank at the top of their list. Their #1 favorite sorbet flavor was… MANGO — yum!
In a close second place for the kids’ favorite Merida fruit sorbet was Watermelon (sandia), pictured below in all its slushy, refreshing glory. Please note that the sorbet stop in the photo was the only thing that saved our brood from a total and utter meltdown after being forced by a certain woman named Lillie to walk nearly a mile in 94 degree heat to check out some pretty architecture in the Centro. Thank you for your service, Sandia!
History of Colón in Merida
Yeek — I got so wrapped up in rhapsodizing about sorbet, that I neglected to tell you the illustrious history behind Colón, so here it is now. Colón sorbet shop has been an institution in Merida since 1907 (!!!) and also sells pastries and sorbet shakes called Champolas. Shout-out to the great guidebook (affiliate link) Yucatan with Kids for the tip to go.
At Colón, I loved that you don’t have to stand and wait in line; the servers come right to your table to take then bring your order. They even provide complimentary cups of purified water! Isn’t the open, arched architecture pictured below lovely?
Elote or Corn Sorbet
Now we come to the most exciting chapter of our sorbet journey: Elote flavor… CORN sorbet! Colón is famous for this offering. I ordered Elote sorbet our first day in Merida and enjoyed it more than I expected — just know that it really does taste like corn placed in sweetened slushy ice. If that’s not your thing, perhaps pick another flavor. If it is your thing but you’re not in Merida, it could be fun to try to make at home.
Kranky Candy in Mexico
Let’s now step away from our lengthy Merida sorbet escapade and wander to the world of Mexican candy. Pictured below is a sweet spotted on local shelves that made me smile. First, the candy’s name, “Kranky,” is good for a million jokes about soothing CRANKY kiddos. Second, in the words of my friend, “Those warnings about excessive calories, sugar, and fat only make me want to eat it more!”
Mysterious Juices of Merida
Let’s move out to the street. In Merida, you’ll see many little juice stores which vary in size and fanciness. The one next to our AirBnB is pictured below, and it posed a fascinating and comical linguistic mystery for us. What, oh what, was “Vampiro” (vampire) juice?? And was “Conenjín” juice made out of little rabbits?!
My friend Gareth ordered the Vampire Juice (in the name of science and cultural understanding) — and it turned out that its chief ingredient is beets, so as to look blood red! We never got around to sampling Jugo de Conenjín, so we beg of you — if you know what the heck is in it, please tell us in the comment section below.
Drinking Chocolate in Mexico
Speaking of drinks… I swooned for the iced drinking chocolate I got at the cafe called “Choco” on Paseo de Montejo during our last day in Merida — but it was a battle to get it. Here’s why: There are three flavors of chocolate drinks offered, and one is pure cacao, with no sweetening. That was the one I wanted — but the server kept warning me that I wouldn’t like it because it wasn’t that sweet!
At last I convinced him, in my most impassioned Spanish, that at home I regularly eat 92% cacao chocolate bars, and was more than up to the challenge. Thus my drink was approved and delivered. It was awesome! I don’t like overly sweet things, and so this fit the bill perfectly. There are sort of grainy chocolate bits in the drink, but that makes it more exciting. I wish more places in the U.S. served pure cacao drinks like this! If you know of any near Boston, let me know where.
Cafeteria “Impala” in Merida
So remember when I made our 6 and 8 year olds walk a mile in the blazing Merida, Mexico heat to check out the center of town? Well, once they were pacified by the watermelon sorbet, I made them turn around and start walking the mile back to our AirBnb. Um — I underestimated the power of the sorbet, because it wasn’t long before our party was drooping and loudly protesting. Thank heavens, Cafeteria “Impala” came to the rescue, perfectly located at the start of Paseo de Montejo!
A Family Friendly Restaurant on Paseo de Montejo
Cafeteria “Impala” is a particularly family-friendly restaurant for several reasons. First, it has PANCAKES (“Hotcakes”) and offers both indoor (AC) and outdoor (shaded, fan) seating — not to mention bathrooms. Second, it has yummy Yucatan favorites like the Salbut pictured below. The third reason was less expected, and even more fabulous…
A Tree to Play On!
It turns out that right next to Cafeteria “Impala” is a tree with roots so massive, it acts like a natural climbing structure! Our kids played there in the shade — chatting it up with local Merida kiddos — for a good long while, as Gareth and I leisurely sipped our juices. Parenting heaven!
Trying Chilaquiles at Last
Impala will also forever be remembered in my mind as my first time trying Chilaquiles (pictured below). This version of chilaquiles contained lightly fried tortillas with chicken, red onion, salsa, cheese, and crema (cream). Utterly decadent in my book — yet supremely scrumptious and filling.
Tacos in Merida, Yucatan
I know you’ve been waiting for it — what about the tacos, right?! Never fear: we lustily indulged in the abundant taco scene of Merida, Mexico. Below are two from the extensive menu of the corner taco store, Wayan’e. On the left is egg with beans and local greens. On the right is a local Yucatan pork specialty that has a wondrous black color. Both were highly yummy — especially when washed down with fresh tamarind juice.
Eating With Kids During Mexico Travel
You’ve now seen a few of our favorite restaurants for Merida, Yucatan, Mexico travel with our kids, but what did we do for the rest of the meals? Well, Merida has a number of options, from U.S.-similar Walmart grocery shopping, to UberEats delivery. However, there’s an option in Mexico that is far more available and affordable than it is in the United States, that is well worth consideration…
Hiring a Cook in Merida
We hired a cook, and we were so thankful for her help! Her name was Karla, and we found her through the Spanish school. For payment, we’d pick up a big bag of her freshly-prepared food every four days or so, arranged via texting in Spanish on WhatsApp.
Pictured below is my heaping-high plate of her fruits, vegetables, eggs, beans, and rice from Karla’s treasures. Ahh — papaya and jicama taste ten million times better in Mexico than in the U.S. — and you know I devoured that entire meal with gusto.
Learning to Make Tortillas
No food post would be complete without sharing that we got to learn how to hand-make corn tortillas for tacos during Spanish immersion camp in Merida! A photo is below of the process, and I’ve also embedded a video of it here — including footage of my son very shyly learning to place the tortilla on the hot metal to cook. Habla doesn’t always offer this workshop, but it’s great fun, so I do suggest trying to find a cooking class in Merida… or wherever you are traveling.
Food at Merida Airport
Time to leave Merida by air? The good news: Merida Airport is WAY calmer, neater, and more enjoyable than the chaos and flashiness that is Cancun Airport. The silly news: When in Merida Airport, you may be peer-pressured to partake in the Guy Fieri “Flavortown” restaurant near your gate… and thus encounter the “Grilled Cheese Mac and Cheese” pictured below. Oh me, oh my.
Merida, Mexico Food With Kids, in Sum
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of some of our favorite places to eat in Merida, Mexico with kids! I said it before and I’ll say it again: this post does not even begin to scratch the surface of the WONDERFUL, VARIED Yucatan cuisine on offer in Merida. There are innumerable restaurants we missed, and because we went to bed so early, we didn’t even try the many evening food stalls, even the famous ones serving the snack called Marquesitas. Clearly, we just need to return to Merida to continue this culinary investigation.
Despite its incompleteness, I hope this article at least gives you a taste (pun intended) of the wide variety of alluring food options your children will have in this part of Mexico — or of foods you could try to create at home. If you’ve been to Merida, Mexico with kids (or just adults), what were your favorite places and items to eat? If you haven’t been yet, which foods mentioned sound most tasty to you? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!