It was my fellow student Chris, who first told me about how a taxi driver recommended a restaurant for poc chuc. She and her family went twice and both times they really enjoyed their Yucatecan meal. It took a bit of research and digging around, but I finally figured out that it’s a famous restaurant that started in a town called Maní. They expanded their operations a few years ago with a branch in Merida and in Oxkutzcab.
El Principe Tutul-Xiu has a very limited offering but what everyone raves about is their poc chuc, a traditional Yucatecan dish of grilled pork marinated in naranja agria juice (sour orange). For weeks I kept talking about trying the poc chuc there and thinking about how and when I’d actually go. Chris and her family took a cab down and Doña Gloria had no idea which bus I should take (she’d been there twice but drove both times). She suggested that I should make it easy on myself and just take a cab but I was determined to figure out a way to get there on my own. I was even prepared to walk if I had to (Googlemap calculated it would take about an hour from the center of town on foot), but the whole trip turned out to be the easiest thing I’d done since I arrived in Merida. With some help from my conversation partner Vera and a helpful guy at the visitor’s center, by Thursday I had all the information necessary to make my visit.
Sunday was my poc chuc day. I got on the right bus exactly where I was told I’d find the bus (as I noted previously there are no signs for bus stops or any published information on all the routes) and when I asked the driver about the restaurant, he nodded to indicate indeed he was headed that way. Great! Oh, and this bus was had air air conditioning- it was a rare treat. We took off, heading south of the city and as we drove down I tracked our progress on Googlemap. In less than 15 minutes we were in a neighborhood called Brisas del Sur and the driver actually dropped me off right in front of the restaurant. I’m not sure whether that’s normally a regular bus stop but I’ve found that you can more or less request to be dropped off, and if the driver feels like it he will let you get off wherever. Taking a bus can be frustrating but it’s got some benefits, too.
Now, for the restaurant. It was a lot bigger than I’d imagined and when I arrived for lunch at 1:30 they weren’t very busy. I think most families have lunch around 2 or 2:30 here on Sundays after church. The hostess, dressed in a huipil (a typical dress for this part of the country) was happy to let me sit anywhere I wanted. I chose a table by the window and took a good look around. There was really no need to consult the menu since I already knew I’d be having poc chuc and a glass of horchata, but I peaked over at the simple list of offerings just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. If I were hungrier I would have also ordered a bowl of sopa de lima but I had to let that go (Doña Gloria had made me a big omelette for breakfast).
Within a few minutes my horchata arrived along with two different salsas (tomato sauce and spicy chile), pickled onions, and a bowl of black beans. Then came the main event, poc chuc. It looked great! And there was a lot of it – definitely enough to share. I quickly took a couple of photos and with a freshly made tortilla, I went for it. And…. to my utter disappointment it was too salty! It had a nice smokey flavor from having been cooked over leña (wood burning grill) but it was unremarkable in almost every other way. All I could taste was the saltiness and the acid from the sour orange juice. And the salsas weren’t amazing either. Sigh. As for the horchata, it was nice and grainy but the horchata I had in Motul was infinitely better. Another sigh.
I think my expectations were too high or maybe I caught them on an off day. But at least the service was very attentive and my waitress was kind enough to pose for a photo for me with a smile. I’ll have to think about whether it’s worth another visit but I’m still happy that I ventured down to the other side of town to try something new. I can’t always have amazing meals, right?
El Principe Tutul-Xiu: Calle 123 No. 216 46A y 46B Brisas del Sur, Merida, Mexico http://www.restaurantestutulxiu.com/
Directions from Centro de Merida: From Calle 58 between Calle 65 and 67, look for a bus that reads “Serapio, IMSS Ruta 2, Rojo” This bus will travel south via Calle 50 and make a left turn onto Calle 123 where the restaurant is located. To return back to Centro, take either the “Rojo” bus or the “Azul” bus, right across the street from the restaurant. The parking attendants from the restaurant will tell you which corner the bus will stop to pick you up.