Thursday, December 11, 2008


Mike, Lin and Pablo enjoying a Friday afternoon cocktail and some botana at Los Barriles.

Most places have an entire band, but these two performers provided a pleasant ambiance. As you can see the duo did not draw in huge crowds.
When I lived in the Yucatán in the 80's, I used to come to Mérida for vacation. One of the unique features I remember from several visits to the city are the restaurants that serve up tons of botana. I would describe "botana" as samplings of lots of different dishes. In Hawaii we call them pupus.

There is Eladio's, which now boasts 9 locations. There is Los Henequenes, and I know of at least two of them. Last week we tried Los Barriles. These are mostly daytime restaurants. They are great places to have any kind of get together and often you see people celebrating something inside. The Yucatecans are fond of eating, drinking, music and dancing, and by mid afternoon most seats are occupied. They usually have two live bands that rotate so that there is no lull in the dancing music.

Once you are seated, your drink order is taken. In "the old days" the table would decide whether they wanted rum, tequila or brandy and a bottle would be set on the table with several cokes and mineral waters so each person could make his own cocktails. Today they have extensive bar options, including the fufu drinks so popular among tourists. Before your drinks arrive, several waiters bring plate after plate of botana. The standard fare is tortilla chips and salsa, guacamole, refried black beans, a local style potato salad made with onion, cilantro and lime juice. Also popular are kibis, the Lebanese fried finger hummus. At Los Barriles, they brought us papadzotes (rolled tacos of scrambled eggs and chaya, a local green), chicken in escabeche, tamalitos, tamales, rice with vegetables, empanadas, sopes, and chile verde. That was with the first drink. If you sit there drinking, they bring out more plates with new items. They want you to keep on drinking, but they like to see you nibble at the same time. The drinks are a little more expensive in these restaurants, but well worth the "free" meal you get.

This botana was brought to us at Viña del Mar in Progreso, where we went for mariscos after our trip to Xcambo last week. The orange is potato salad, the black refried beans, one salbute covered in red onions, and a snail ceviche. This was not conch, I think it was some kind of sea snail. It is very common to have a table full of snacks to accompany your main dish.

Of course I ordered the whole fried fish again. This is boquinete, or hogfish. Mouthwatering and delicioso! It was another beautiful day in paradise so I took a photo from our table looking out at the Gulf of Mexico.

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