Saturday, 9 August 2014

Bar El Templo – Almost a religious experience

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – Around the world there are many drinking establishments called ‘Temple Bar’ (Bar El Templo in Spanish); the name appears to originate in Ireland, where the area on the south bank of the River Liffey in central Dublin is known as ‘Temple Bar’, and is the home of the ‘Temple Bar Pub’, arguably the most famous bar to carry the name. Many others around the world have copied the name, or have used the same name due to their proximity to a church or temple.

Bar El Templo in Mérida appears to have been named for the latter; situated as it is nearby the church in Parque de la Mejorada, on the east side of centro. There has been an establishment with this name in this location for more than 8 years; in 2006 it was opened as a restaurant; the current incarnation however dates back to 2010, and has chosen a rather unusual ‘alternative religious’ theme for its décor. Paintings feature religious figures wearing lucha libre (wrestling) masks, while a somewhat bizarre mural, with an alternative depiction of the Last Supper greets you in the lobby. A picture of St. Jude in the men’s room advises you not to drink and drive, while a picture of Jesus wearing an Apple (as in iPhone) t-shirt, and carrying a martini and a cigarette is emblazoned on the menu. Given all of this, you might expect the bar to be patronized by Goths and devil worshipers, and staffed by greasy haired waiters dressed in black. As regulars however, we’re pleased to reassure you that this is not the case; the customers are a normal cross section of Mérida centro society, while the friendly staff are clean and well presented.

The front room at El Templo is largely empty and unused in the evenings, in fact, from Monday – Friday from 12 noon – 4.30pm it functions as a cocina economica, serving tasty, value priced lunches with fresh vegetables; highly recommended if you are in the area. There are a few tables here towards the back, which are used as overflow from the bar when it gets busy. The main bar area is in the rear, behind the entrance lobby, anchored by a long bar with plenty of stools, together with 4 tables large enough to seat 4 – 5. Behind the bar counter is a huge black and white photo display showcasing head shots of famous people ranging from Margaret Thatcher to Fidel Castro to Madonna. There’s an outdoor terrace seating area with a number of tables too, where smoking is permitted. The building was originally a colonial house, and features the high ceilings that the early residents must have enjoyed. Be sure to look down as well, at the original tiled floors which still remain.

The menu offers a good choice of food and beverage options at very reasonable prices, as well as combos featuring a bucket of beer with various menu items at reduced prices. We particularly recommend the Tlayuda, a Oaxaca style giant crisp tortilla, topped with beans, chorizo, cheese and avocado. My mouth is watering while I write about it, it’s that good. It’s $63 pesos, and makes a substantial appetizer for two, or enough for one person as a meal. The Tlayuda combo, including a bucket of 5 beers is $139 pesos.

Snack options include nachos, cheese fingers, wings, stuffed mushroom, guacamole, potato skins, and a flavorful hummus (dip de garbanzo) for $50 – 70 pesos. Main dishes include chicken in various guises, hamburgers, salads and filled bagels for $55 – 75 pesos. A new item added to the menu recently is the Tuna Steak, which at $95 pesos is the most expensive dish. It comes with a side order of garlic bread. I tried it on our latest visit, and found it to be excellent; juicy, pink on the inside, and full of flavor.

Individual domestic beers are $25-26 pesos (or $19 pesos during happy hour, which runs 7pm – 9pm, Monday to Thursday). A better deal is the bucket, at $95 pesos for 5 beers. A full range of cocktails, mixed drinks, shots, etc. is available, as are various specials depending on the day and time. Several artisan beers, including Minerva and Cucapá are offered at $36 pesos each.

The bar is manned by Jonathan, while the tables are looked after by the always smiling and friendly Pablo, and new waiter Jesus.

Music is provided by a DJ, usually a mix of Spanish and English language rock and pop from the 80s through today.

Bar El Templo opens from Monday to Saturday, from 7.00pm to 3.00am, and is closed on Sunday. Futbol (soccer) matches and other sporting events are screened at the bar. It’s located at Calle 59 #438 between 50a and 52, half a block from Parque de la Mejorada. From centro and the Plaza Grande, it’s an easy 10 minute walk along Calle 59 from Calle 60.

For more information, visit El Templo on Facebook at

For good food and drink, excellent service and prices and a unique setting, give Bar El Templo a try for an evening out in centro!

Editorial note – this review is entirely based on my personal experiences as a paying customer – no free hospitality was received in exchange for its publication.