We Fives are pretty spoiled. Traveling around the world, we always have an amazing cook and travel companion right there at our side, creating amazing vegan dishes and baked goods with an unpredictable supply of ingredients and cooking appliances. To her credit, Five Spice has made some of our favorite dishes in the most unforgiving of circumstances; St. Anthony Sliders came from having only chick peas to work with as a protein in Northern Newfoundland and Microwave Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies arose from having no oven to bake with in San Cristóbal de las Casas. The only disadvantage of her great cooking (if there is one) is that visiting restaurants can be somewhat disappointing. No matter how good the food is, we usually end up concluding that we have just spent extra money on something Five Spice has already made or could make at home. Much to our delight though, we have just found an amazing restaurant here in Mérida that provides an incredible dining experience worth every peso.
Lo Que Hay Cafe is unlike any restaurant we’ve had the pleasure to encounter in our two years of travel. It came onto our radar through TripAdvisor, where it is #1 out of over 340 restaurants in Mérida (not too shabby for a restaurant that has an entirely plant-based menu). Intrigued, we knew we had to check out Lo Que Hay Cafe for ourselves. We were surprised to learn they have a different fixed menu each night highlighting a certain country’s cuisine (check out their Facebook page for the current offering). We worried a little about how the kids would do with not being able to order their own particular dish, but the fact that we went on a Friday when they had two different options (Indian and Mexican in our case) convinced us the kids would have enough to choose from.
From the moment we rang the bell at the street entrance, a truly magical evening unfolded. After ensuring the kids would be okay with the menu format (no special orders or kid’s menu), the host led us through a beautiful courtyard to a lovely patio, open to the evening sky and surrounded by fruit trees. We took a table a little removed from everyone else and settled in as the waiter brought us the night’s themed beverage, a refreshing cardamom drink over ice. We soon ordered, and within minutes the first courses arrived (a corn, ginger, and coconut cream soup from the Indian menu and a vegan ceviche from the Mexican menu). We were astonished at how quickly the food arrived (definitely a big plus when dining with hungry kids), but our astonishment did not stop there. Our waiter struck an amazing balance between keeping the dishes coming out, without ever being intrusive or making us feel pressured. The food was truly out of this world, expertly prepared by chef Cecilia Loría Mafud. Left to our own leisurely pace, we ended up spending hours enjoying the amazing cuisine in the wonderfully relaxing environment.
Our time at Lo Que Hay Cafe could not have been more perfect. It gave the Younger Fives a chance to try out some new dishes and the Older Fives a chance to relax and unwind (which doesn’t happen too often during mealtime, at least in our house). We were treated to some great conversation with the restaurant’s owner, who spent quite a bit of time at our table asking about our travels and telling the story of how the restaurant came to be. And, as with any meal, the perfect ending was dessert, a mango sorbet made with the fruit of the 100-year-old tree growing right in the patio. As the evening came to a close and we said our goodbyes to the fantastic staff, it was Five Ball who put it best; he turned to the owner and exclaimed, “This is the best restaurant I’ve ever been to!”