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Dec 27, 2006 06:40 PM

Oaxaca for dummies

It seems that things have calmed down, so we've changed are plans and the girlfriend and I will be going to Oaxaca in mid-January.

There's a lot of overwhelming information about eating in Oaxaca out there, so can anyone provide (or point me towards) a simple, straightforward guide to the best eats in Oaxaca? We'll have about four days in the city, and our main interest is in rustic, traditional food, although we'd certainly try some "nueva cocina" (if that's the right term) if folks think it's worth doing. Street food as well.

As far as our budget... US$20-30 per person (not incl. drinks) for a meal would be a bit of a splurge, although we could do it once or twice during the trip.

So, break it down -- where do we need to eat, and what do we need to try?

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  1. Have you searched the board here? Any specific questions?

    I can recommend the 30 de Noviembre Market for food. Don't miss the barbeque hall.

    1. I think it's actually the 20 de Noviembre market, which is in 2 buildings and the building with the food stalls is definitely worth a visit.

      Things in Oaxaca have simmered down considerably. Unfortunately, many businesses have suffered due to the recent unrest and violence. You may have to do some hands-on research to determine what's still there and what isn't. One thing that isn't in Oaxaca right now are tourists, and tourism plays a big part in the local economy.

      Casa Oaxaca has 2 locations, one in the small, boutique hotel of the same name and the other in an art gallery across from the Santo Domingo church. I have eaten at the Santo Domingo church location and it was a delightful meal. I understand, however, that location has slipped over the last year or so, but that the original location in the hotel is still very good.

      Find a way out to Teotitlan del Valle and Tamanalli (which I've spelled wrong I'm sure). This is Abigail Mendoza's landmark restaurant serving a traditional Mexican and Zapotec menu. If she's got Mole Negro on the menu do not hestitate to order it; Abigail is a master of this dish. The restaurant is not hard to find, the taxi drivers in Oaxaca can find it. It is open only for comida, but not always every day. Have your hotel call to verify. Abigail and her sisters (and brothers) are also skilled weavers and a lot of their output is on display and for sale in the restaurant. They do take credit cards (though they don't prefer that mode of payment) but will give you a discount for cash. There are weavings in all sizes and price ranges; do not expect to find steals or deals on the weavings, they know they are good. I think you can expect the meal to be at the top of your price range, but it is a splurge you won't regret.

      There are 2 Marco Polo restaurants in Oaxaca, the one by Llano park is the better of the 2. But Llano park was also close to where a lot of the recent conflict took place. This restaurant may or may not be open. If it is go for comida. The bulk of the restaurant is an open air courtyard and is an extremely pleasant place to dine. In the courtyard are a couple of beehive-style ovens built with salt in the walls. These are fired to unbelievably hot temperatures. Fish is the specialty here and various kinds are butterflied open, slathered with different seasoning pastes and then quickly cooked in the ovens. It is delicious and healthy. They also do a tasty dessert with plantains that are split, caramelized with raw sugar and then served with crema and rompope. This meal might come close to the top of your price range, it's been a couple years since I've seen their menu.

      By all means eat at the food stalls in the 20 de Noviembre. Have a nieve from Chaguita in the front building. You'll also find a MayorDomo chocolate factory on a corner a block or so away from the market. Visit the Abastos market, check out some of the larger food vendors there and eat. Also, there are many street vendors that come out at night. I think if you search this board going back 2 or 3 years you'll find some good recommendations for the location of some vendors where you can safely eat.

      Enjoy your trip and please report back on what you've found is still open. Oaxaca needs tourists, go and have a good time.

      1. Oaxaca is a place where a hound can't really go wrong... snoop around look for places that are busy on side streets etc.,

        For upscale Oaxacan cuisine definitely give Los Danzantes a shot if they are still open:

        1 Reply
        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Ten of us had dinner at Los Danzantes last Wednesday evening. It was the highlight of our week in Oaxaca. I doubt you could go wrong with anything on the menu. We had a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, drinks, and desserts. All were thoroughly enjoyed. Our total check, before tip, was under 2400 pesos.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. The absolute must in Oaxaca ia the Casa Oaxaca which is part of the small hotel of the same name. Chef Alejandro is the owner and chef. He is a very engaging man who will even give you one of his recipes for the evenings offerings. The restaurant is a little high priced but worth every peso.

            2 Replies
            1. re: E.Kantro

              What counts as high-priced? Can it be done, with drinks, for less than $30? There is no menu on the hotel website...

              1. re: NancyC

                It might be a stretch at $30 including drinks, but I think, depending upon yoru selections, the number of courses, and how many drinks, you'd get close. I think $35 - 50 is probably a more realistic price range for Casa Oaxaca, particularly if you want to have multiple drinks and 4 or 5 courses. It's been a couple of years since I was last there, but the meal was a good value for the price and worth every bite.