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El Toro Restaurante, Progreso

Although we’ve been back for over a week, I’m still wishing we were in Mexico. It’s been difficult for me to sit down and write this post for some reason, maybe because on this cold New England evening I’d so much rather be in Mérida, where there is no doubt music playing and a warm breeze blowing. In order to make writing easier for me, I’m going to just post a little at a time. This is pt. 1 of a multi-part post on the wonderful food of the Yucatan. I know it doesn’t really fit entirely with the theme of my blog, but bear with me; it’s worth it.

In case you couldn’t figure it out, our trip was inspired by this awful winter that New England has been having. A friend of ours from college lives just south of Mérida with his lovely wife, and we decided that we needed to leave the toddler with my mother-in-law and go visit them for ten days. Another friend joined us for a week in a beach house near Progresso, and then we spent a few nights in Mérida before heading back home. We visited four Mayan ruins (Dzibilchaltun, Uxmal, Xcambo, Edzna), went caving in the Grutas Calcehtok (this was a truly amazing if not frightening experience), swam in cenotes and ojo de aguas, and of course lounged on the beach. But the food! Yucatecan food is in a class by itself. Thanks to our local friends we had the inside scoop on what and where to eat.

We quickly learned that in this part of Mexico the main meal of the day is lunch, which can be eaten early or late. You can definitely find a hearty breakfast, but most people enjoy pan dulce with cafe con leche (the selection is amazing), a big lunch, and a light dinner. So, if you want to go to the real local hang-outs you go out for lunch. Most of the dinner places are really just for tourists. Our first major culinary destination was El Toro restaurante in Progreso. This unassuming local restaurant is a typical seaside joint. We were the only gringos in there. As with most places in Mexico, there was a man playing music, lots of families, and good food to be had. It’s pretty basic stuff, fried fish by the kilo (that day it was grouper), ceviche, etc.  Reasonable prices and all of it very fresh.

Ceviche Mixto

Ceviche Mixto

Pescado Frito

Pescado Frito

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Los dulces

This guy caught my attention fast. Look at this delicous tray of goodies! The merengues were especially yummy, and sweet! He carried his tray around the restaurant, and lucky for us hung around so we could catch him after we were finished eating. I love the picture below; check out the kid. Instead of putting him in a high chair they just stacked a bunch of chairs up until he was high enough to sit at the table! Apparently they don’t worry about lawsuits too much in Mexico. He looked safe enough; I actually thought it was quite clever.

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El hombre de los dulces and a Mexican high chair

After lunch, we stopped at an ojo de agua, which is part of the underwater rivers that run throughout the Yucatan. They pop up as cenotes and ojo de aguas. As best as I can tell, the latter occur in the mangrove swamps and bubble up as little streams. The former are more like big sink holes. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. Anyway, they had dammed this one up to create a couple of pools. One had a rope swing and boy was it fun! I haven’t jumped off a rope swing in ages. Luckily we were all a bunch of rednecks from Mississippi (except for Shirley, who sat dantily by the shore) and we reverted to the hicks we are and exercised our God-given right to hurl ourselves through the air into a pool of crystal clear water. It was great fun.

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My favorite nugget from the trip. The sign to the bathroom (which was just a port-a-john on stilts with cardboard walls):

el bano

el baño

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