In Morelia every Friday night they do a fireworks show in front of the Cathedral, and as we learned even when it rains. There were a few gold sparkly bursts, but mostly the cathedral was surrounded by a haze of pink and blue smoke. Is this what it looked like during the revolution? This is a city so old and well preserved the past is easily imagined. The present is pretty cool too. For an introduction on where to eat and hang in Morelia, read my first post. Here are a few more reasons to visit.
For many of us north of the border, we immediately associate mezcal with Oaxaca (as most mezcal we see here comes from Oaxaca). But, mezcal is actually produced in nine regions of Mexico and Michoacán is one of the primary producers. Which means in its capital city there’s a treasure trove of mezcal you can taste that you can’t get in the States. Intrigued? Head to Tatita, a small mezcaleria with a big shared courtyard. The patio is at the intersection of the Fuente de Las Tarascas, a bronze statue of three bare-chested indigenous princesses, and a park frequently visited by ruffled dress-adorned teens posing for quinceañera photo shoots. Pink limestone arches border the neighboring streets. Inside the bar lampshades made out of straw cowboy hats hang low, wood boxes filled with mezcal bottles hang on the blue walls, and tables are lacquered with comic books. The menu features mezcal from Michoacán producers and has some small bites too. Its bigger sister restaurant, Tata is the patio restaurant of my dreams (mostly for the décor and drinks— more here).
Closer to the cathedral, Mezcaleria el Desnivel with its dark walls, loud music, and neon chalk plantings is a little more lively, and there’s a nice list of mezcals and a killer special: $55 pesos for a beer and a mezcal shot (and best believe it’s better than any house mezcal in the U.S.).
Morelia has a deep revolutionary history and fortunately has its fair share of artists to help tell that story. Don’t miss the Palacio Del Gobierno, where the walls are covered in the history of the Mexican Revolution and Michoacán painted by Alfredo Zalce, a contemporary of Diego Rivera and Michoacan native. His work, like other great muralists of Mexico, incorporates social and political criticism and it’s always fascinating to me how murals like this end up decorating government buildings.
Sometimes murals offer even more to their spectator when they are hidden. Walking into Café Europa there are cachetonas, big clay angels with their cheeks puffed and lips pursed on the wall. Inside, the dining room sits underneath a tall open ceiling, the light filtered by hanging baskets. Walking further into the café the kitchen window is underneath a ceiling-high mural of two topless women. Flashes of white chef coats and hats move below. Inside a private dining room old wood and twig brooms hang from the wall.
Michoacán is the agricultural powerhouse of Mexico, and a lot of the produce you see in the States is from this area. To explore regional ingredients, the Mercado Independencia is the place. Outside along a faded mural wall is the live animal section, where men holding subdued roosters wait on the sidewalk. On certain days women come from towns nearby to set up blue tarps and sit on crates selling goods: sometimes blue corn tortillas wrapped in embroidered napkins, bright squash blossoms and shiny calabacitas, blackberry tamales, or peeled nopales cut and packed in tied plastic bags. It’s with these vendors where I always learn the most. Inside there are hot food stands, places for snacks and market bags, and down the way a clothing and shoes section.
The food court phenomena has also arrived to Morelia. At Mercado Don Lucas small glass pods with mini retail stores are downstairs, and upstairs, open air kiosks house craft beer and mezcal. There are food stands and tiered seating areas among the exposed brick, hanging plants and crisp white walls. There are clues though that this isn’t Portland: beautiful blue and yellow hand painted tiles downstairs, Huichol beaded wall hangings, and prices that aren’t inflated. I initially anticipated overpriced trendy food but the first thing I ordered cost the same as it would at any taco stand.
We ate two tacos from Flor De Canela downstairs, a bistek in chile negra and chile capon, with freshly made corn tortillas. We also enjoyed a juice from the stand next door with orange, lime, pineapple, ginger and guava. The tortas ahogadas upstairs were just ok, you can definitely find better here.
To get a glimpse of the art scene in Morelia, head to El Museo Contemporeana Alfredo Zalce, a small museum along the former aqueduct, which hosts a permanent collection of his work and rotating exhibits. When we were there modern sculpture works by a group of local students were on display.
There are a few things that make a hotel memorable and one of those is an epic rooftop. This four-bedroom boutique hotel is a few blocks from the plaza central and each room is thoughtfully decorated with artesania. On the rooftop enjoy the outdoor kitchen and lounge, a fireplace, and views of the cathedral peaking above the layers of tropical plants (like mango and papaya trees). Breakfast, enjoyed at a large dining table in the kitchen, is included: a variety of fruit, cereals, and yogurts were available and the owner will make eggs upon request. A full review here.