Cartas a Frida

 

 

I do not often review a restaurant on this blog, but yesterday I had a delightful experience that I want to share…

To start with, if you are in Yucatan right now, you know the weather has been beastly hot and humid.  The temperature usually drops after sunset, yet last night at 8 pm, that had still not happened. Jorge and I did not want to leave home, but some friends suggested we get together for dinner downtown, and since we haven’t seen them in some time, we agreed.

As soon as we got out of the car, I felt perspiration on my upper lip, and by the time we had walked two blocks to the outdoor restaurant where we planned to eat, my swirling skirt and sheer blouse were stuck to my body like saran wrap. My hair had drooped, and I am sure that even my ears were sweating. I regretted not wearing cotton… but hindsight is 100%, isn’t it?

We quickly downed one drink at the place where we thought we’d spend the whole evening, and then we headed for the door. “Where shall we go now?” someone asked. “Wherever they have AC is fine with me,” Jorge said. I looked around, and across the street I saw a restaurant with beads of condensation on its windows. “Thar’ she blows,” I crowed, and got ready for the others to join my b-line for salvation. But our friends were holding back. “We’ve never been to that place,” one of them said. I looked at both with total resignation. “Neither have I, but it looks cool in there, and I have to get out of this steam bath.” They saw I was close to meltdown and humoured me.

Once we entered and felt the blessed comfort of the AC, we decided that no matter what the menu looked like, we would stay. And without even taking in our surroundings, we plonked onto the four closest chairs. A waiter immediately rushed over. “Would you like some water,” he asked… I knew that we had come to exactly the right place.

The restaurant we had stumbled upon is called “Cartas a Frida”. Anyone who has met me even once, probably knows that I am an unabashed, unswervingly loyal fan of Frida Kahlo. The first time I saw her work was during a Grade 11 Art class. Our teacher, Mr. Laing liked to show slides of his favourite painters and on this particular day, he focussed on Frida. I had never seen such vivid colors and her “subject matter” shocked me. In North Vancouver during the mid 60s, we did not get much exposure to anything remotely avant-guarde. I fell in love…

And when I moved to Mexico a decade later, I looked forward to seeing more of Frida’s art in galleries and museums. But no, I did not; even the Casa Azul was a derelict mess.  At the time, Frida’s husband, Diego Rivera was much acclaimed; however critics did not consider Frida, a serious artist. But I felt OK with that; it was as though she was my “secret”. Then sometime in the early 90s, her image began showing up everywhere. Matchbooks, key-chains, journals, posters, little wooden boxes, earrings made from bottle caps… any flat surface was a potential space for exploitation. I was not in love with that…

But I came to terms with it, as I have done with much in my life. And now, when I come upon a tasteful, beautifully staged “Frida-theme” establishment, I am ecstatic. And the restaurant, “Cartas a Frida”, is indeed such a place. I fell in love again…

So… feeling happy with the comfortable temperature and lush surroundings… with an attentive server looking out for us… no giant TV screen broadcasting a loud sporting event to annoy us, but romantic Latin soft rock enhancing our mood… we wondered what more could we ask for?

Well… we were there to eat, weren’t we? And once again we were pleased; our meals surpassed our expectations. The four of us found exactly what we wanted to eat on the extensive menu, and we all enjoyed what we chose. The presentation and portion size were perfect for an evening meal. We got our plates at the same time… what was supposed to be cold, was cold; and what should be hot, was hot. Three of us shared a bottle of red wine, and Jorge had a beer. Our water glasses were kept full… there would be no heatstroke on our waiter’s watch!

When the bill arrived, again we were surprised… less than 800 pesos for four complete meals and our drinks. For price-conscious diners, this is hard to beat. But what surprised us most is that our table was the only one occupied. Why was such a restaurant was not full?

“Cartas a Frida” is located on Calle 55, between Calles 58 and 60… less than half a block from Santa Lucia, the “restaurant plaza”. The outside lighting is subdued… a good thing in my estimation, but maybe it doesn’t stand out enough to draw people in? Their social media presence is also low-key and I have not seen any print ads.

Jorge and I started our own college in 1990; we know how hard we worked to make it successful, and without our friends supporting us and cheering us on, it would have been even harder. It takes a while for an independent business of any kind to become known. With no splashy ads like the ones chain establishments can afford, locally-owned and operated bistros often languish. I would be sorry to see that happen to this restaurant. With full enthusiasm, I am joining the cheering section, and I urge everyone reading this post to also support “Cartas a Frida”.  I am sure you won’t be sorry …

I took a few photos with my phone… in the low light, they did not come out too well… but they do give you and idea of what the place looks like. Go soon, and enjoy…

 

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Published by Changes in our Lives

I am originally from Canada but have lived in Mexico since 1976. My husband is from Merida, Yucatan and we raised our family here. We both worked for many years at Tecnologia Turistica Total (TTT), the tourism, language and multimedia college we founded for local and international students. Now retired, we enjoy spending time with family and friends, My other interests include spending time with freinds, reading, painting, cooking and travel.

14 thoughts on “Cartas a Frida

  1. When we were there back in March, we were also wandering because our original restaurant plans had fallen through (music was blasting, suggesting they were waiting for a different kind of crowd). It was nice. Not great, but good, and the hospitality was cordial. And when a cleaning lady came through with a Best Western badge on, I suddenly realized that the restaurant was actually part of the chain hotel. A manager showed us how the rear door connects to the hotel around the corner with a series of courtyards.

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    1. I am surprised to hear that… I was told the owner is a woman from Monterey… and the place sure had an “independent” feel… But who knows. Best Western hotels are individually owned and from the ones I’ve stayed in over the years, I know they can be very different from one another. But whoever set the place up has put a lot of effort into the decor and certainly has invested in AC! Our meal was not “great” by all criteria, but certainly was superior to many I’ve had…

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  2. Maybe it is brand new- it is in a fantastic location- I hope they make it! Good to hear we have another delish restaurant in town!
    Thanks!

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  3. Sounds and looks cool. Looking forward to going.

    Very grateful for the wise reminder “But I came to terms with it, as I have done with much in my life.”

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    1. The tiles are from the home of a relative in Amsterdam; the people represent different trades. This type of Delft tiles have been popular since the XVI century… I am not sure how old these particular ones are, but they are definitely old…

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  4. Toronto has been experiencing another heatwave. Coupled with a lot of rain the humidity is miserable. This year we have been having a long, hot summer which is going fast.

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