Restaurant of the Month: La Negrita Cantina

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January, 2015

Cantinas are present everywhere in Mexico, both in cities and rural settings; for decades their swinging doors have been synonymous with bars restricted to men only. However, that started to change in the last century, when only the front bar area was restricted to men, but a family area was set up in the back. Founded in 1917, Cantina La Negrita was the first cantina in Mérida to set this new trend. However, it still remained something of a rowdy place, and finally closed its doors in 2011.

The essential concept of a neighborhood bar with hearty affordable food always appealed to its new owners Patricia and Erik. There are many current patrons who used to go to La Negrita in the past; in its heyday it was famous for its popularity with doctors, lawyers, and other professionals: a sort of “Men’s Club”. After the couple lived in Paris and New York where the concept of a neighborhood bar is an everyday part of life, they decided to try it in her native Mérida. When La Negrita came up for sale, they bought it and began its renovation.

Instead of gutting it and transforming it into a modern eatery, the new owners decided to maintain its format of bar in front and dining area in back. They refreshed everything and modernized the kitchen, added bathrooms and a patio, and rescued the original metal tables and some mirrors from the garbage bin. But they have brought the cantina concept into the 21st century: with affordable drinks (including beers from Yucatecan micro-breweries); a daily changing food menu including Yucatecan snacks, wings, ribs, sandwiches, pasta, and salads (from which you can eat and drink for less than 100 pesos); and a concept of bar and restaurant areas being open to absolutely everyone, they have created exactly what they dreamed of: a friendly neighborhood bar with tasty, affordable food; where women are welcome at the bar on their own or with a group of friends; where a construction worker might be at one table and a French tourist at the next. Families with kids like the affordable menu, which always includes a juicy hamburger, popular with kids and teens. The music is reminiscent of La Negrita’s past as well: Cuban, Latin jazz, and tropical (with live Cuban music every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting at 5 pm, during Happy Hour). The traditional cantina flavor is unmistakable but the simple, popular ambience is Today. La Negrita, at the corner of Calle 62 and 49 in Centro, is open every day from 12 pm – 10 pm, with Happy Hour from 5 pm - 8 pm. La Negrita opened its doors in May 2013 and has been a hit with locals and visitors alike ever since.

The owners of La Negrita also have two other successful businesses. La Fundación Mezcalería, which opened in June 2012, is exactly what the name implies: a mezcal bar. This is a party place; you can come in your most casual clothes. They have over 50 kinds of Mezcal from all over Mexico; all are organic. Music is supplied by a DJ or live band. Wed. – Sat. 8 pm – 2:30 am. Calle 56 x 53 y 55, Centro.

In May of 2013 they also opened a state-of-the-art recording studio “if 6 was 9”. It boasts the best technology on the peninsula, with facilities suitable for music, films, or ads. Tel. 999 102 2838.

 

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