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Pórtico del Peregrino Restaurant

Portico del Peregrino RestaurantWhenever I eat in a restaurant, anywhere in Yucatan, I generally end up with a little wave of guilt washing over me at some point during the meal. Now, mind you, the guilt is never enough to stop me from eating, but I am always well aware of just how lucky we are to be dining out in Yucatan, rather than in the States. The following is a prime example of our most fortunate circumstances.

Originally from Louisiana, you can be certain that I am well aware of what good food is, and exactly how much it costs to dine in some of the finer establishments there. For the sake of comparison, one of my favorite meals in Louisiana is a shrimp cocktail, soup of the day and salad, and stuffed eggplant, finished off with a nice sundae and a cup of coffee. Now, such a meal is going to take a while to eat, but no hurry. Louisiana was, after all, settled by the same folks who settled Yucatan, so the need to rush through anything, especially a meal, is not part of our culture at all. Ultimately, the damage for such an evening, including tip, is just under $50.

…and then I came to Merida! …and found myself in El Pórtico Del Peregrino.

Oh-looky-looky! Shrimp cocktail, a stuffed eggplant and coconut ice cream topped with Kahlúa! Are you sure I’m not in Louisiana? Every once in a while, I still look around, just to make sure.

…and then our food begins to arrive. Three of us were eating out together that night. My shrimp cocktail came to the table and we must have looked as if we had lost our minds completely. Not one of us could make a sound! We just sat there, looking at it. It was huge! We were speechless and then began to giggle. It was beginning to dawn on us that we had no idea how much food any of us had actually ordered!

Thankfully, the soup and salad were of a reasonable size. The three of us shared my shrimp cocktail and prepared for our entrées. My stuffed eggplant was excellent, even though the stuffing had chicken in it, rather than Louisiana shrimp. When I was ordering, I was a bit worried about that but, considering the size of my shrimp cocktail, I think I had already had quite enough shrimp for one night. My stuffed eggplant was large, but not overly so. I think I only had to stop and rest once during the entire main course, but I was enjoying the company, so that was not a real problem. We were, however, all glad for a little break between our entrées and our desserts. I don’t believe I ever remember actually praying for a slow waiter at any other time in my entire life!

My coconut ice cream, topped with Kahlúa, came with a slice of almond cake. I made it through the ice cream, with the help of my coffee, but had to give the cake to one of my friends. What a blessing it was that we were headed for the Yucatecan Serenade, in Parque Santa Lucía. If ever a meal called for a walk, this one did! The total of my bill, for all of the above, in dollars, was about $17, plus tip. I just feel terrible about all those poor people, back in the States, not having the advantages we have – but what can one do? We will just have to think of them often and hope they can come and visit every now and again.

Did You Know:

Alma Reed in 1932The name of El Pórtico Del Peregrino is taken from a popular folk song about Alma Reed, a New York Times reporter, who covered the early excavations at Chichén Itzá. She admired the social reforms of Governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto, which were quite progressive for the times. Carrillo’s greatest accomplishments were reclaiming ejidos (communal farms) from the haciendas, legalizing birth control, giving women the right to vote, and translating the Constitution into Mayan. Reed and Carrillo fell in love and he called her La Peregrina, which means pilgrim. Reed wrote articles that helped recover artifacts that an American had taken from Chichen Itza. Their wedding was to be in January, 1924. While Reed was in San Francisco, preparing for the nuptials, angry hacienda owners paid federal troops to march Carrillo to the cemetery in Merida and execute him by firing squad. Today, the bullet holes can still be seen in the wall near his grave.

El Portico del Peregrino, or Peregrino’s as the locals call it, is located on Calle 57 halfway between Calle 62 and Calle 60.

 


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32 Responses to “Pórtico del Peregrino Restaurant”

  1. Hi Carol “Khaki”, I haven’t read anything as “moving” as I did yours, on the “dinner”… I laughed out loud, when I read that you really “prayed for a slow waiter”! Ha! Ha! Sound like my times I have had at the restaurants across the border from El Paso, with my sister and her husband… I’ve never been so stuffed in my life~! ( I was hoping the waiter would forget the 4th and 5th course!) Ha! Ha! My sister is now the dean of the Tucson University, but they lived in El Paso for about 25 years, where she taught Spanish and English (she’s the “smart” one!). Ha! Ha!
    Later, have to check-out the rest of your magnificent site!
    Mike…..

  2. Thanks for the “did you know” section. There is so much culture and history in Yucatan that small caveats like this bring in a nice tie in from the past to the present.
    To add on, catch a serenata one night and you are guaranteed to hear the song dedicated to Alma Reed called “Peregrina”.

  3. I sent you an email last month to post the prices of the restaurants that you reviewed last month. Thank you for posting the prices. It might be nice also if you post the address of the restaurants that you review……

  4. Hecho!, as we say around here. It is done!

  5. MAN!!! That sounds wonderful, I’m a Cajun from the free state of Avoyelles (central Louisiana ) and I really enjoy eating out cause I`m not that good of a cook, and from the pictures Khaki included it looks like a wonderful place. I imagine the people there are beautiful also. Hopefully, one day I will get to visit there and especially make a stop at Peregrina, I would love to see one of the menus. Thank you very much for the article and I sure would like to know more…….Rick

  6. Your article made my mouth water. I can visualize the shrimp and the eggplant. Shrimp would be better to me too. Great article.

  7. Hola amigos gringos/yucas: You just did it again! I can just imagine myself eating “helado de coco”! hmmmmm!
    I was transported to MY hometown. Of course we know who Peregrina was,the song was written specially for her, but Felipe was already married, hers was an impossible love. Did you know that she requested to be buried next to her lover? You can check the cemetery in Merida, it is very interesting. By the way, my nickname was picked up in her honor, not because I am a beauty like her, but in this country (U.S.A) I am a peregrina. I am not from here, nor there..just traveling thru… in the world…I love the song Peregrina, have you listened to the words?..it is a serenade like Roque said.

    I would just love to fly back…soon, very soon..until then gracias, muchas gracias.

  8. My first meal at a restuarant in Merida was at the Portico del Peregrino fifteen years ago. It was amazing. Your review nailed it beautifully. On every return visit we find another new restuarant and we always return at least one time to Portico…… We are now six weeks away from our retirement move to Merida, where we intend to return for special meals on a regular basis.

  9. Peregrina, a beautiful love song with sentimental lyrics, was written by the renowned Yucatecan composer Ricardo Palmerín, in the Cuban danzón style.
    It was recently recorded by the folkloric group of Californian musicians Cascada de Flores, who specialize in the traditional music of Mexico and Cuba. The last verse:
    Cuando dejes mis palmares y mi tierra
    Peregrina del semblante encantador
    No te olvides, no te olvides de mi tierra
    No te olvides, no te olvides de mi amor

  10. For those of you who do not speak Spanish, this last verse says:

    When you leave my palmares and my land
    Traveler of the charming face
    Do not forget, do not forget my land
    Do not forget, do not forget my love.

    Palmares is a holdover name, from 17th century Brazil, often used to describe groups of people who escape to jungle strongholds to form self-governing communities. He was asking her not to forget his people and not to forget his land.

  11. Thanks for the translation. Not as musical as the original Spanish though.
    That’s an interesting interpretation of Palmares, especially in view of the independent Maya enclaves still around in the 1920s. I had understood it to be simply palm groves.

  12. Dick, my first clue was that I didn’t know what “palmares” meant – and discovered it doesn’t translate – it had to have meaning to him because he used it in this particular song – so I just looked it up – as is – in a history book – part of the mystique that surrounds Felipe is his claim of Creole and “royal” Mayan heritage – so isn’t it interesting that he would use the words “my palmares” in the same sentence with “my land”? I’ll bet dear Alma knew a whole lot more about things that were going on back then than anyone could ever guess.

  13. Being a native of the Fort Worth-Dallas Texas area for 46 years, I’ve never visited Louisiana. Only passed through it a few times. I have met a number of people from New Orleans, and tasted the great food of that region. I can imagine Merida being some what like New Orleans. 1 question. You said the same people who colonized the Yucatan also colonized Louisiana. I thought the Spanniards colonized the Yucatan and the French colonized Louisiana. How are they the same? I love History.

  14. What you think of as Louisiana often passed between France and Spain because the area was huge and expensive to defend. East boundary of Mexico was at Natchitoches (central LA), southern boundary of the U.S. was Bayou Manchac (Baton Rouge). The Galvez family governed the entire Gulf region (all of it!), all the way to Guatemala (son in LA, father in MX, uncle had the rest). Galvez promoted heavy levels of immigration from Yucatan to Louisiana. Read about them here: http://enlou.com/people/galvezb-bio.htm

    Current data shows that there are still 22 Carrillo families and 105 Cheek (Carrillo) families in Louisiana.

  15. Khaki,
    Thanks a lot for the information on Felipe Carrillo Puerto. (We have the same name, but we are not related)
    His execution reminds me of Blessed Miguel Pro, who also helped his people and was executed. Is Felipe Carrillo considered a saint and a martyr–in the hearts of the Mayan people?

  16. If you look at this Yucatan Living article, you will see the marker on Felipe Carrillo Puerto’s grave and find that he was considered to be an apostle and maryter by his people:

    http://www.yucatanliving.com/daily-life/merida-cemetery.htm

  17. I plan an moving to mexico and need to find a job in merida or the surrunding areas I am a chef.I cant seem to find many jobs on the web. if you can help or have any ideas it would be great. thanks

  18. Hola, Manny…
    Are you a Mexican or US citizen? If you are Mexican, it will be much easier for you.
    We can suggest that you email or call various restaurants and talk directly to the owners. You could certainly start with the restaurants we have reviewed (Trotters, Slavia (3 restaurants), Villa Maria. But there are a lot more restaurants here than that. Do you know someone here? Maybe they can photocopy the Yellow Pages for you? There isn’t as much on the web for Merida as there might be for any other city of this size.
    The other option of course is to BE here and just start going places. There are a lot of restaurants here and bound to be some openings.
    If you are a US citizen, you are going to need to get someone to hire you in order to stay here and that will be difficult unless you have some sort of specialty that they need and can’t find here.
    If you still have questions, feel free to email us at info [at] yucatanliving [dot] com

  19. Ah, so many memories! I remember eating at Pórtico del Peregrino (and thoroughly enjoying my meals there!), but I did not know the history! Thank you! Again, I am having such a wonderful time reading through your site! Now, if only retirement would (or could!) come sooner!

  20. Rachael, Don’t wish your life away – take your time – Merida will still be here when you’re ready. Just visit often and keep on making memories. :)

  21. My wife and I ate years ago at this restaurant. Must have been shortly after it opened, I think, because in several trips to Merida, this marked the first time we had seen it.

    It was not in the shape it’s in now, but it was still one of the most civilized dining experiences I’d had to that time.

    The courtyard area hadn’t been rehabbed yet and it was a bit overgrown and shabby. As I recall, there was a fountain along one of the walls, but it wasn’t working.

    They took us to an outdoor seating area when we arrived, where we were served drinks and given a chance to study the menu. After a reasonable time, they took our order, but left us sitting in the courtyard area til just a couple of minutes before dinner arrived, when we were shown to a table inside.

    We’re heading back to Merida in a few months — for probably the 12th time — and this place is on the list of restaurants I plan to visit. I hope it’s as great as I remember.

  22. Alma Reed was my husband’s Aunt. I’m looking to find the song La Peregrina, and I heard there was a movie (does anyone know the name) about Felipe Carrillo. Alma’s nephew, my husband, has been famous, like his father also. To read more you can go to The Gene Sullivan Story or http://www.jumpforjesus.net.

  23. Dear Cici,

    The lyrics to La Peregrina are:

    Peregrina, de ojos claros y divinos
    y mejillas encendidas de arrebol,
    mujercita de los labios purpurinos
    y radiante cabellera como el sol.

    Peregrina que dejaste tus lugares
    los abetos y la nieve, y la nieve virginal
    y viniste a refugiarte en mis palmares
    bajo el cielo de mi tierra, de mi tierra tropical.

    Las canoras, avecillas de mis prados,
    por cantarte dan sus trinos si te ven
    y las flores de nectarios perfumados
    te acarician y te besan en los labios y en la sien.

    Cuando dejes mis palmares y mi sierra,
    peregrina del semblante encantador,
    no te olvides, no te olvides de mi tierra…
    no te olvides, no te olvides de mi amor.

    The movie we think you’re asking about is also called “Peregrina”. It was produced in 1966, starring Antonio Aguilar as Felipe Carrillo and Sasha Montenegro as Alma Reed. It was released on DVD last year, and you can sometimes still find a copy on Amazon. A remake is currently in production, directed by Carlos Bolado.

  24. Cici, If you go to this site: Cantante del Mayab you can hear a snippet of Peregrina. The site is slow loading – just leave it alone and let it do its work – you’ll get a concert of trova that will help you understand what it was that your husband’s aunt fell so much in love with in Yucatan.

  25. Thanks so much for the reply’s. Hoping to come visit soon! Tried getting the movie on Ebay but it doesn’t have English Captions. Maybe the new one will. Thanks again, hope to see you if you live down there!

  26. Last year we stayed at the hotel across the street from the Peregrino. Could anyone tell me the name of that hotel?

    Bill McDermott

  27. Hola, Bill!
    There is actually no hotel exactly across from the Peregrino. The closest hotels are either Mision Merida at one end of the block on the same side (and it is now closed, sold to someone else and due to reopen soon) or Hotel Colonial at the other end of the block on the far side of the street (on the corner actually) and facing Calle 62. Hope that helps!

  28. A friend and I ate at Portico de Peregrino last night (April 21 2008). While the food not the worst we’ve ever had, it was certainly mediocre. The service, however, was terrible.

    We mostly went in to have some fresh fish. A full ten minutes after we ordered we were told they were out of the snapper. We ordered two salads and two entrees (salmond and shrimp). The fish was decent. One of our salads never came, and the fruit salad was nothing to write home about. My fish was accompanied by a tomato stuffed with what could only appear to be half a cup of sour cream with mayonaise that had been sitting out and yellowed heaped on top of it and plain rice (not the potato advertised). The service was slow beyond belief, and we even stated at our entrees getting cold on the serving tray for a a full five minutes before the server brought it to our table. Other diners looked equally bored and displeased with the experience. I don’t recommend anyone go there, everywhere else in Merida has been better. The coffee shop on the other side, however, is awesome. They even managed to make an iced mocha for my friend which was exceptional and a great deal at only $1.60 US.

  29. Well, this was hysterical. Having visited, eaten, and nearly passed out from trying to complete a meal in NO, I could understand the message, but to have someone from NO praise the food in the Yucatan is truly an inspirational thing.

    Most of my friends from NO, and Louisiana sniff their nose at seafood prepared in any manner by anyone other than a purist from their neck of the woods.

    Perhaps, now, I will be able to harness my friend from Baton Rouge to travel to Merida with me.

  30. I’m very surprised at any positive reviews for this restaurant. It was the worst meal we had in all of the Yucatan. It was so bland that I couldn’t finish my food. I felt like I was chewing on sawdust. My husband was likewise disappointed with his meal. He adores Tortilla soup so has it before every meal whenever we are in Mexico. He couldn’t eat his and had a similar reaction to his meal. We skipped dessert and just got out. They had some decent wines. The service was slow, but we expect that when traveling outside the US. The patio was gorgeous. I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone.

  31. [...] Type: Yucatecan with some international cuisine Neighborhood: Col. Centro Telephone: 928-6163 Address: Calle 57 x 60 How to Get There from the Centro: You are right there. Restaurant is two blocks from the Main Plaza. Go north on Calle 60, turn left on Calle 57. Parking: On the street or on Calle 62 x Calle 57 in the multi-story parking lot. AirConditioned: Yes Outdoors: Yes Drinks: Full Bar Hours: Every Day: 12am to 12 pm Website Facebook Note: We reviewed it here… [...]

  32. This is a nice tribute to the Peregrino restaurant. They still serve shrimp cocktail but not so huge. I cannot remember whether eggplant is still on the menu. What I do know is you cannot eat that much for $17.00 dollars today. But yes, it still is a very good place for late lunch or dinner, reasonably priced and with a very pleasant garden atmosphere. I strongly recommend it.

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