HOME > Chowhound > Mexico >


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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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: http://www.losdanzantes.com/eng/oaxac...

        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 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.

          2. If we're only having one upscale/splurge meal in Oaxaca, should it be Casa Oaxaa, Los Danzantes, or somewhere else?

            1 Reply
            1. re: OakTownHound

              If you end up doing Casa Oaxaca... at least check out Los Danzantes Mezcal/Wine Shop.

            2. Casa Oaxaca (the original location in the hotel of the same name), hands down.

              1. I must third or fourth, Casa Oaxaca, in the hotel, as the best single meal in Oaxaca. Danzantes is way over rated. The Caminio Real has a nice restaurant, which can be pricey.

                1 Reply
                1. re: zorba

                  3 or 4 years ago I stayed at the Camino Real for a week. It's a very nice hotel with nice amenities. Their (served) breakfast buffet was better than anticipated. I think it's a splendid place to go and at least have a drink.

                  Another nice hotel is the Hosteria de la Noria, which is 3 or 4 blocks off the zocalo. The inner courtyard there is a pleasant place to meet for drinks and the hotel dining room does a good job with breakfast at very reasonable rates. One of the people in my group ordered the fruit and yogurt for breakfast and got this enormous dinner plate of perfectly ripe, thinly sliced tropical fruits and an equally large cereal bowl full of yogurt, all of it for about 35 pesos or about $3.50. As I recall, we all kind of helped her eat the plate.

                2. I was in Oaxaca on the weekend and things are quite calm. My two restaurant recommendations are both located in the square and are about 20 metres from each other: Casa de la Abuela and Como Agua pa' chocolate. They are both higher end (about $150 pesos per plate). At Casa, all the moles are really good my personal favour ite is the mole coloradito.
                  Oaxaca is known to have 7 different moles (one for every day of the week). Make sure to give a couple a try. As for street food, garnachas are always a hit in my world and tlayudas are classic. If you like fish, try the fish tacos. Yummy!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: danielita

                    Are the fish tacos Baja-style or a unique preparation?

                  2. Thanks for all the replies. We leave tonight, and we'll be back in a week -- I'll be sure to post a report.

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: OakTownHound

                      Very helpful thread! We will be going to Oaxaca in a couple of weeks and will take these suggestions into account. I'm making my way through the archives, but please add any updates for Oaxaca City here.

                      How was your visit OakTownHound?? I don't remember seeing a thread on your report back...

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        Just got back last week and had a tasty time. Los Danzantes is lovely and contemporary, but service was inattentive. Food was very good. I recommend the markets--we had an excellent chicken tamale with mole negra. I would like to go back and try the barbecue aisle.

                        1. re: indcgirl

                          Thanks for your reply. I have Los Danzantes on my list as well as thorough exploration of the markets. Other recs based on archives on this board:

                          Restaurante Los Pacos - moles
                          Tacos Alvaro - lengua, al pastor
                          La Biznaga
                          Casa Oaxaca
                          La Olla
                          Cafe Antigua - coffee, tres leches
                          Marco Polo (Llano Park) - seafood
                          Casa de la Abuela - chapulines
                          Tlayuderia Las Reliquias or Tlayudas Dona Martha

                          Any updates or feedback on the above are appreciated!

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            Carb Lover, based on previous posts of yours that I've read in other CH boards you are going to adore Oaxaca :-). I had a very good meal at El Che which is an Argentinian steak house very close to the Santa Domingo church. Go late as the place is like a tomb earlier in the evening. Service was impeccable. Not trendy but a very nice if you need a break from traditional food or a bit of pampering. Next door to El Che (or very nearly next door) is a restaurant serving traditional Oaxacan food, unfortunately, now that I need it, I can't remember the name, and it's right on the tip of my tongue. I had a quite good mole amarillo there among other things.

                            Also if you can swing it, you really need to go out to Teotitlan del Valle and eat at Tlamanalli which is Abagail Mendoza's splendid restaurant. It's not open every day, your hotel can call and find out if it's going to be open. He mole negro is outstanding as was a sopa loaded with chipíl.

                            The abastos is a must visit as is the 20 de Noviembre market. The abasots is open 7 days a week and market days are Tuesday and Saturday which is when the market swells to evenlarger proportions as people bring their goods in from outlying areas. The abastos has a lot of clay vendors on one side and a growing number of them are firing their products with unleaded glaze. Comals are inexpensive and abundant here. If you're considering bringing one back, buy more than one because breakage can be high. At the 20 de Noviembre market try the nieves at Chiguitas. They are made with purified water and are safe to eat. Lots of weird and wonderful flavors. 20 de Nov. covers 2 buildings, the 2nd building houses most of the fondas as well as breads. Abuelita serves tasty pan de yema and chocolate. They open early, so if you are interested in having a bite to eat it's a delicious morning wake up call. A block or so away from the market is one of the primary chocolate factories (and I use that term loosely) for Mayordomo. You can stop by and watch chocolate formulations being made from scratch, plus you can purchase chocolate and mole pastes.

                            Enjoy your visit and have fun.

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              Thanks so much, DD! I had Tlamanalli in my notes (probably an archived rec from you), but wasn't sure what it was exactly. Looks like it has received some good press online, although I'm not sure if we have time to make it out to Teotitlan del Valle. The hand-woven rugs sound incredible though!

                              I'm so excited to visit the markets; I've heard they are dizzyingly delightful. What are the rules for the type of food I can get through US customs? For instance, is mole paste or anything sealed fine? What food items are you usually on the look out for to bring back for your own personal cooking or as gifts?

                              I don't think I have time for a cooking class and it's possible they are all booked during my stay, but I'm curious what cooking classes you highly recommend. There seems to be a number of options out there...

                              Thanks so much for your help, and I'll be sure to take lots of photos and report back!

                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                Tlamanalli is a restaurant and a very good one, well worth the trip out to T de V, which is really only about 20 mintues or so from Oaxaca City and on the way to Mitla. Do make it a point to visit Monte Alban, and hire a guide to explain the place to you. I found it much more fascinating with a guide than without.

                                In addition to the 2 main markets in Oaxaca, there is also the Friday market in Ocotlan and the Sunday market in Tlacolula. There is also another market in Oaxaca that's been written about on this board, perhaps by RSW. The post is probably 2-3 years old, but it's got some really great info in it.

                                You can bring back almost anything dried. Fresh meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables are generally not permissible. Here's a list of things I have declared and taken through customs.
                                - Dried Chiles
                                - Dried Beans
                                - Mexican Oregano
                                - Vanilla Beans
                                - Mole Paste
                                - Corn husks with the "belly button"
                                - Chocolate
                                - Candies
                                - Canela stalks
                                - Jamaica flowers (dried). Look for jamaica labeled "criollo", this will be Mexican product and not imported
                                - Chapulines and gusanos (i.e. dried bugs)
                                - Tlayudas
                                - Tequila
                                - Mezcal

                                I have cleared customs at SAN, LAX, SFO, SLC and IAH (Houston) when returning from Mexico. I always declare my food products and the customs officials always ask what specifically I'm carrying. When I tell them, I am usually just waved through. However, I am always diverted for secondary inspection at IAH. This has consisted of a 2nd customs officer asking what I was carrying and then putting my bags through an x-ray tunnel. My bags have never been opened. I think that IAH diverts for secondary inspection anyone who checks that they are bringing ag products back into the States. The secondary inspection has never taken more than 5-10 minutes tops.

                                As for classes, Susana Trilling's Season's of My Heart are excellent. I've nto taken a class from Pilar at La Olla but I know several people that have and all of them have been pleased. You also might want to check out Casa Cerro Sagrada to see if they're still offering classes, I think they are. They been kind of repositioning themselves after the conflict last year. Here's their web site - http://www.casasagrada.com/welcome0.s...

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Thanks for your tips, DD! I am leaving lots of room in my luggage to collect goodies. Sounds like Monte Alban and Tlamanalli are musts.

                                  Here is a Saveur article that mentions Tlamanalli and Abigail:

                                  Note all the links to recipes on the left-hand margin.

                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                    Yep, Abigail Mendoza and Tlamanalli were on the cover of the very first edition of Saveur Magazine. Mimi Sheraton named it as her favorite restaurant of all time. I took a class on how to make Mole Negro from Abigail 3 or 4 years ago. Terrific experience.

                                  2. re: DiningDiva

                                    How did you take tlayudas home? What does that mean? It was cooked and then you folded it up and stuffed it in your bag?

                                  3. re: Carb Lover

                                    By the way, for mole paste I REALLY recommend buying your paste from Mole de Oaxaca's stand in the 20 de Noviembre market. The seller is incredibly friendly, has so many options for sale and lets you taste them all! He also enjoys sharing cooking tips. They also have another stand in the other big food market--blanked on the name, starts with an "A", near the second-class bus station--but this is more convenient.

                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                      It's really not very hard to get to Tlamanalli. I wandered around nearly all the pueblos taking colectivos by myself, leaving either from the Abastos market or from north of the Centro near the baseball stadium, and I was a single woman alone. I generally concur with everyone else but would also suggest Zandunga, the isthmus restaurant on Garcia Vigil, and also the street empanada seller on Garcia Vigil outside the Iglesia de Carmen Arriba. The mole amarillo! The only chile relleno I've ever really loved! Seriously, it is so good. I was told by locals the stand is "muy limpia," and I never had any problems, though I have a very strong stomach. I am really really jealous.

                                  4. re: Carb Lover

                                    Any specific comments at dining at La Olla?

                                    Marco Polo sounds great to me. It may seem a bit odd to eat seafood in inland Oaxaca, but Mexico seems to rapid freight its seafood from the coast to wherever it's wanted.

                                    1. re: Anonimo

                                      The first link will take you to a map of Oaxaca state, including its long coastline. Oaxaca the state capital is only about six hours by car from Oaxaca's coast. Not so far inland.


                                      Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                                      1. re: Anonimo

                                        I had breakfast at La Olla about 4 years ago and remember it being extremely good and very fresh.

                                        IIRC, the owner of Marco Polo is originally from the ismthus and has his fish flown in by special arrangement. I've eaten at Marco Polo several times and love it. Not only is the fish good so are the plantains for dessert that are cooked in the blistering hot beehive oven and served with crema, rompope and raw sugar.

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          I'm putting Marco Polo on my want list.
                                          As we'll be staying at La Casa de Los Sabores, and taking a class, I wonder if it's worth going to La Olla as well, or to use our somewhat limited dining opportunities elsewhere. But, not Casa Oaxaca, thanks. That's just not my style.

                                          1. re: Anonimo

                                            Would strongly suggest you eat at Casa Oaxaca over Marco Polo. Minimal cost difference with comparable meals, in my opinion one of my 10 bests of all time (yeah - right up there with the Babbo, Le Bernadin, and The Quilted Giraffe). BTW this is all casual dining at it's best, no reason to change out of your jeans in this town.

                                            Here's a tip - one way or another, after you've had a fhearty breakfast and HUGE meal in the early or mid afternoon, you may not feel like eating until until 9 or 10 PM. Head over to the El Camino Real and have a heavenly plate of market tomales for less 750 pesos and a beer.

                                            1. re: Anonimo

                                              They're totally different concepts. Casa Oaxaca falls more towards the alta cocina category and is extremely good. Marco Polo is far more casual. When I was there several years ago Marco Polo was also a lot more reasonable.

                                            2. re: DiningDiva

                                              We ate at Marco Polo the day before yesterday, and it was very enjoyable. I started with some tostadas de jaiba, which were merely good, but not that distinguised. My wife aha a fabulous Sopa Vitaminas Al Vapor: a foil wrapped package of a picante caldo and loaded with delicious seafood. Her second course (which was really, too much food), Huauchinago a la Verona, was baked with sweet corn, sweet peppers and more, but spoiled with a thick cape of melted chese. The latter wasn´t in the menu description.

                                              I had a filete de Huachinango a la Talla, coated in a medium picante adobo and tomato, and baked. It was quite good.

                                              I was the only one to have dessert. I didn't feel that the dessert list was as imaginative as the rest of the menu, but the Plátano al Horno con Rompope, as mentioned by Dining Diva, was very satisfactory. Costs ran about $20 USD a person, including a few drinks.

                                              THere is another marisquería, called Las Neireidas, on Calle Xicoténcatl. Among the pecialities advertised in the window are "Cucarachas AL Mojo de Ajo". On our scond pass, I went in and asked about these creatures. They showed me a cooked one, something like a small lobster tail. I'm sure they´re delicious, but we'll probably go to La Olla for today´s comida or cena. I took a private class in Mole negro with Pilar Cabrera, and I'm impressed by her restrained good taste, so I'd like to try more of her cooking before we leave.

                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                Perhaps a crazy question, but do they serve non-seafood options there? I'm traveling with a picky eater 6 year old who only eats hamburgers and chicken. (My nephew and sigh...), and I want to go there, but wondering if there are options for him.


                                              2. re: Anonimo

                                                I've been to Oaxaca several times, and always make a point of eating at La Olla. The food is fresh, unpretentious, and beautifully prepared, and their menu del dia is invariably terrific. Ambience is lovely, too

                                              3. re: Carb Lover

                                                Would you stick with your Oaxaca list or modify it? We leave for there tomorrow.

                                                Restaurante Los Pacos - moles
                                                Tacos Alvaro - lengua, al pastor
                                                La Biznaga
                                                Casa Oaxaca
                                                La Olla
                                                Cafe Antigua - coffee, tres leches
                                                Marco Polo (Llano Park) - seafood
                                                Casa de la Abuela - chapulines
                                                Tlayuderia Las Reliquias or Tlayudas Dona Martha

                                                Any updates or feedback on the above are appreciated!


                                        2. JUST BACK from 4 days at Oaxaca this past Sunday. This is foodie paradise. You simply can't go wrong here. This is where Rick Bayless get's his recipes. Casa Oaxaca siesta mid day dinner was one of our top 10 dining experiences of all time at any price -for under $100 for two and we were really pushing the tab with extras because it was our last meal in Mexico. We met one couple who ate there 3x in the course of a short visit. I'd give it a 28/30 using the Zagat formula. Los Danzantes spartan ultra contemporary decor and top notch food was also memorable. The service was a bit slow, but hey, it's not like you're on the time clock in this town. Very cool place, too. Marco Polo was wonderful for a late lunch under the trees, had fabulous grilled mariscos, but this is not in the league of the other two restaurants. Street food at 20 de November Market looked terrific, but we were too full after taking the cooking class with Pillar at La Casa de los Sabores B and B - highly recommended- we shopped at the organic market and cooked mole negre from 30 ingredients, and a complex 4 course wedding meal from scratch. I took about 200 photos, the best of which I will be posting eventually.

                                          In answer to your question, there are many inexpensive restaurants in town as well as the markets that have very good food. You really can't miss here. Just be sure that you drink bottled water, beer, or some of the excellent (and cheap) Mexican wines

                                          The major tourist area is safer than Mexico City in my opinion. Tourists are back, but I suggest you stay on the beaten path. Don't miss a trip to the pyramids, Mitla and craft villages,especially see the weavers and Ask a cabbie to take you to Xochimilco neighborhood in town where the textile people live and work. No storefronts there. We bought a large custom cotton dining room table cloth and 12 napkins for 50 bucks and were able to pick our colors and pattern. Just what you'll need when get home.

                                          I certainly won't be eating any "Mexican Food" in this country for the forseeable future.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: atievsky

                                            Thanks for your report! I def. have Casa Oaxaca on the list. I noticed that you inquired about El Naranjo prior to your trip; did you end up going?

                                            Was the cooking class w/ Pilar an all day venture? I'd love to take a class but my husband probably wouldn't be in to it and we are only there for 3.5 days so I don't know...

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              Cooking class started at 9:30 with a visit to the organic market. We finished eating at about 1:30 PM. Pillar has provision for non cooking guests, such as your husband, who arrive at noon or so, for a very reasonable fee. However, everyone had a truly great time, and I 'm sure he would love making tortillas by hand, under Pillar's guidance. Please see my two videos posted at youtube.com/atievsky

                                              Pilar teaches family mole negre recipe:

                                              Pilar demonstrates rice with tomatillos, peas, tomatoes garnished with habaneros

                                          2. Also ate several light meals and breakfasts at El Camino Real hotel. Really excellent, with terrific atmosphere in a 16th century mission/convent.

                                            What ever you do, don't miss Casa Oaxaca. I think this is one of the places where Rick Bayless gets his stuff.

                                            1. You would also want to make it to Soledad Diaz' restaurant El Topil - traditional Zapotec cuisine. It is small and cozy, Sol is usually there. It is heart and sould and edible anthropology.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: theabroma

                                                Thanks for this rec. In searching about El Topil, I found this helpful resource on Oaxaca and vicinity: http://www.tomzap.com/coaxaca.html

                                              2. Mostly everything has been covered but there is a place really worth it called la Teca the garnachas are sublime favorites of chef Alejandro from casa Oaxaca he took me there don't miss it . The owner is a woman I can't remember her name she is from the Itsmo region she makes a dish called estofado that makes people crazy . I will find out the adress and post it

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: bigotes

                                                  I'm not keen on eating market foods at elevated prices in upscale venues, when I can get the *real thing* in the fondas at realistic market prices.
                                                  Fancy atmosphere, especially when coupled with "fusion cuisine" does not ignite my attention.
                                                  "No me llama la atencíon."

                                                  You may call me "codo" if you wish, but I've had enough of unsatisfying, pretentious meals in upscale restaurants, I know I'm more pleased by a well-made platillo de barbacoa at a roadside stand.

                                                  1. re: Anonimo

                                                    Next time you are in the Oaxaca area, check out Las Granadas "B&B" in Teotitlan del Valle. It's not the usual B&B, you have to walk across the patio to the bathroom, but the rooms are light, pleasant and comfortable AND Josefina's cooking (mostly done under a granada tree) is regional, authentic, and healthy. Unless the prices change, you'll spend less to stay & eat there than for a meal at most of the Oaxaca places under discussion. Breakfast is included in the Las Granadas price, comida or cena, 50 pesos extra. I found it through Newfoundland2 on Thorntree but Las Granadas has a website you can google. // I'd be delighted to meet you and your wife when you're in Gto if I'm in town.

                                                  2. re: bigotes

                                                    Hi bigotes,
                                                    Do you have an address for 'La Teca'? I have also heard great things about Deyanira Aquino, the woman who own and cooks in the restaurant and am dying to try it. I've been googling but can't find an address anywhere so if you have one it would be much appreciated!

                                                  3. We spent a week in Oaxaca, Feb 3 to Feb 10. The first night, we had a not too aberrational craving for pizza*, so we went to Pizza Rústica, up by the Andador Turístico. We'd been there years before and remember it fondly. Our salads were fresh and the eponymous Pizza Rústica excellent. There's a much more extensive menu of Italian specialties that we didn't try.
                                                    *As decent Italian restaurants are hard to come by where we live in Michoacán.

                                                    The next morning, we walked all the way from Casa Arnel to the Mercado 20 de Noviembre, to Fonda Abuelita's, where I enjoyed a big plate of Huevos Revueltos con Chorizo Oaxaqueño; and my wife attempted to eat a Tlayuda con Cecina. She found it a bit dry and wasn't able to finish it. I didn't have any significant problem in helping her eat it.

                                                    I took a private class mid-week at La Casa de Los Sabores, in Mole Verde. It was very interesting and the dishes were delicious and memorable.

                                                    My wife developed a cold, so I went out from Los Sabores in search of comida para llevar. I found a great spot about a block from the B&B, Super Cocina Lucía's, on Pino Súarez at Morelos. Great fresh food, absolutely clean, different specials every weekday and low prices. All orders are to go. Open 12:30 to 4:30 M-F.

                                                    We had a luncheon date with friends at Marco Polo. we enjoyed the casual garden atmosphere, the apps were ok, the main courses ranged from the deliciously simple (Huauchinango a la Talla) to an overly rich, overly elaborate Filete de Pescado Verona my wife ordered, which was fish covered with shrimp covered in a creamy sauce, covered with cheese. If she'd known about the cheese, she wouldn't have ordered it. I think I mentioned all this on another thread.

                                                    We had a good meal at La Olla: two different salads, both excellent, an order of very nicely prepared Camarones a la Diabla and an order of Huachinango a la Hierba Santa, steamed, I think. Presentations and plating are high points. We were rather puzzled when offered the dessert menu, only to be told that the only desssert available was Pay de Requesón with fruit sauce. Then I saw evidence of a good supply of flan available, which is what I'd requested. But in the end, no great loss.

                                                    I just started to work on my blog covering our visit in more detail. Meanwhile the photos are viewable at http://picasaweb.google.com/doncuevas...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Anonimo

                                                      I've made two blog entries, so far. Much of the material is covered here, except I go into more detail on the blog.


                                                    2. Has anyone mentioned Biznagas on Garcia y Vigil. Had a wonderful meal there a few weeks ago, great trad stuff in a modern environment

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: bikerider56

                                                        We had dinner at La Biznaga about a month ago and really enjoyed it. The courtyard setting was very nice.

                                                        1. re: bikerider56

                                                          I mentioned it on a different Oaxaca thread. It's a great place, beautiful decor, extremely attentive staff and delicious food for a reasonable price. I could really go for a bowl of their cheese soup right now...

                                                        2. I was just in Oaxaca. I thought the food and drinks were generally good, better than U.S. norms at 1.5X to 2X the price.

                                                          Casa Oaxaca (the one across from Santo Domingo) was tops. Everything I had there was good. Particularly excellent were the tacos de chapulines and the seabass and creamy rice studded with shrimps. There is a laid-back bar with four tables outside the restaurant that is also a must. Great tapas, including pulpo tostadas with a light guacamole spread and grilled tuna sandwiches with a thick, spicy salsa verde on toasted bread oozing with olive oil. Outstanding innovative cocktails, including excellent mezcal-based drinks. A bartender was nice enough to give me a tasting flight when I asked for his mezcal recommendation, and showed me the Oaxacan custom of eating a wedge of citrus sprinkled with sal de gusano--salt with dried chilis and caterpillars (worms)--before sipping. (Also try Casa de Mezcal near the zocalo for mezcal tasting). Superb interior design. Especially at these prices (maybe $40-$50 after a 20% tip for a four course meal with wine), there is no question that Casa Oaxaca would be a Chowhound favorite in every city in the world.

                                                          La Olla is another strong recommend. I had both breakfast and lunch/comida there. Everything was high quality and excellent for the price. For breakfast I had Oaxacan hot chocolate, fresh fruit, and folded soft tortillas in a red mole sauce with crumbled queso fresco, accompanied by a grilled, herbed chicken breast. I wish I could get such a wholesome, interesting breakfast in the U.S. Comida was just as good. I was particularly pleased by a large mixed salad with a delicious Italian-like vinaigrette.

                                                          Another highly recommended restaurant is Vieja Lira, an Italian trattoria and pizzeria. The meal started off with complementary bread and, oddly, very spicy salsa roja. Both were good. I would definitely have preferred an olive oil or some panela with the bread, but it seems that these seriously spicy salsas are to Mexicans what salt and pepper are to Americans. A salad of salmon carpaccio with rocket leaves tasted very Italian. I didn't love it, because it was dry and leafy, but I have eaten several similar salads at authentic restaurants in Italy. What was really excellent was the pizza. The flavorful crust was almost as thin as flatbread, yet not completely crispy. The toppings were delicious. Great tomato sauce, cheese, and fresh tomatoes, artichokes, and other vegetables. Were it in Los Angeles, the pizza would compete for best of LA, and I think I would give it the nod. The panna cotta with a dark-chocolate and raspberry sauce was also exquisite.

                                                          Marco Polo was decent, but slightly disappointing. The red snapper a la veracruzana, though simple, was well-prepared, and the fish was very fresh. But the deep-fried stuffed shark tacos were almost flavorless.

                                                          I found all the coffee (espresso and drip) in Oaxaca just OK, and much worse than what I drink at home (typically Intelligentsia). But I recommend the cafe de olla (spiced coffee) at Cafe Los Cuiles. The cafe is a hip, cosmopolitan place for coffee and chocolate drinks and free WiFI.

                                                          The Camino Real breakfast buffet is pretty good.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: aventinus

                                                            We've enjoyed the pizzas at La Rústica, but I'll give Vieja Lira a try. Do you have a street adress for it? We'll be in Oaxaca for the first 2 weeks of January.

                                                            1. re: aventinus

                                                              Which Marco Polo did you go to? The one downtown is to be avoided. The one by the Llano is, in my experience, quite good.

                                                              1. re: PAO

                                                                We've been to the one by El Llano twice.

                                                            2. Casa de la Abuela, El Biche Pobre (botana surtida, 10 items, 66.00 mx pesos). We have stayed at Casa de los Frailes and San Miguel or Pablo ? Very nice small hotelitos. We went to Don Pensamiento to buy mezcal, the mezcal they offer costumers to try is very good but the quality of the bottles they sell is not the same. On our way to Hierve el Agua we found a small mezcal factory and it was the best.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Xacinta

                                                                We were at El Biche Pobre yesterday afternoon, and although the price of the botana surtida has gone up to $85 pesos pp, it's still a tremendous deal. It was more attractive and tastier than that we had years ago, on our first visits. There were small bowls or "molcajetes" of salsas on the table, but for me, the best condiment was the pickled dried red chiles. They tasted a bit like chipotles but not as picante.

                                                                I found the address for Vieja Lira: Pino Súarez # 100, Centro.

                                                              2. I just returned from 4 months in Oaxaca. Here's my very condensed best-of.

                                                                DESAYUNO - TACOS: 2 taco stands setup on the sidewalk here starting at 8:30:

                                                                Get a tinga taco from the southern-most one (in the corner), then walk on to the northern one on the sidewalk. If the northernmost one isn't there that day, get 1 tinga and 1 chorizo :-) It's actually on Fourquare: https://foursquare.com/v/tacos-de-cho...

                                                                DESAYUNO - MUFFIN: the Cafe Brujala on Garcia Vigil bakes berry muffins every morning. They come out at about 9: http://cafebrujula.com/index.php?lang... Most pastries in Mexico are little more than sugar and flour. These muffins are amazing and the venue is nice for wifi. Skip the banana loaf thing if that's all they have.

                                                                COMIDA - TOSTADAS: Tostadas at a stand about 3 meters into Parque El Llano (off of Avenida Juarez). There are a handful of stands throughout the park, so I've attached a map with an X where this one is. At least as of this writing, it has a green awning and is run by 1 woman and sometimes a man. They're around every day. Recommend 1 or 2 tostadas with tinga, tasajo, or whatever she's got.

                                                                COMIDA - TORTA: Every Friday, there's a mercado at Parque El Llano. At the southernmost street bordering the park, there's a taco stand called. Chitos Tacos or Chatos Tacos It's across the street from 100% Natural, facing north into the market. Get a torta Hawaiana and a taco.

                                                                CENA - TLAYUDA: after 8:30 or 8:45 PM (which is not late for dinner in Oaxaca), get a tlayuda con tasajo from Cenaduría Doña Gloria:


                                                                If I picked one must-have meal in Oaxaca, this is it. The food is amazing, uniquely Oaxaqueñan, and you're eating on her front porch.

                                                                It's great with friends, and if you're so inclined, bring a beer poured into a Coke bottle. Ask for cebollas on the side and she'll hand you a Tupperware of awesome.

                                                                The map is dead-on accurate. You'll see this sign on the sidewalk of Río Amazonas: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Tla....

                                                                Many of the streets in Xochimilco/La Cascada are dead-ends, but if you're lost, ask someone and they're likely to know where she is.

                                                                The walk from El Centro is really nice, too, and leads past where Mercado El Pochote happens every Friday and Saturday: http://oaxaca-chapulines.blogspot.com...


                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: troyd

                                                                  I will be at Casa Oaxaca for a week in November. Have read various reports about dinner there.....wonder if this is a "safe" place oriented only towards gringos; should I add it to my just-evolving list(??)

                                                                  1. re: erica

                                                                    I don't know Casa Oaxaca specifically. Most of the expensive restaurants and hotels are either oriented towards vacationing Mexicans (for whom Oaxaca is popular) or gringos/extraños. The usual hints apply, like what language their Web site is in and how good the staff's English is. Those hints don't mean the food or the experience can't be amazing, though.

                                                                    OTOH, if you're most interested in the most quintessentially Oaxacan or Mexican experience (rather than necessarily the best food, though it can be that too), walk around in El Centro and Xochimilco, or visit any of the surrounding "etlas" (http://www.vangabonds.com/why-the-etl...) and you'll know immediately whether it's representative.

                                                                    1. re: troyd

                                                                      Addendum: I was thinking of another restaurant. I'm familiar with Casa Oaxaca and DiningDiva's comment below matches my experience (though my experience was limited to 2 visits - one for food, one for the rooftop bar).

                                                                    2. re: erica

                                                                      Casa Oaxaca is not a cheap ticket, so those that eat there are going to be those that can afford it. It is oriented towards the contemporary interpretation of Mexican cuisine. The cooking is solid and the food is good. Unless things have changed recently, I wouldn't say it's a restaurant oriented towards the tourist trade as much as I'd say it's a restaurant oriented towards showcasing the food of Oaxaca in a non-traditional way.

                                                                      I was in Oaxaca last November and will be there again this year for Muertos. There are lots of things to do, places to see and food to try. Don't over think your choices; that tends to put limitations on the experience and set unrealistic expectations. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to Oaxaca planning to eat at specific places but didn't because other options popped up that proved to be really good.

                                                                      In general, the food in Oaxaca is good to very good and the options can be staggering. Don't box yourself in by thinking you have to eat at certain restaurants, or even certain foods. You'll also discover that people pretty much live outside; the street scenes - and food - are a lot of fun. Sure you'll see tourists and ex-pats but you'll also see as many,if not more, Mexicans, out and about. Sometimes it's more about the experience than the food.

                                                                      Typically when I'm in Oaxaca I eat at a mix of places. Some cater to locals, some to the tourist trade and some to a combination of both. It's possible to have good meals at all of them. This trip I am looking forward to trying the 2 breakfast places Cristina has mentioned as well as a new-to-me tlyuda place out in one of the colonias. I may make it up to Itononi...or not, but I will for sure hit up the nieve stand in market off the zocalo. I may end up at Casa Oaxaca, or Casa Crespo...or both, or even neither. Just go with the flow and don't stress about where to eat, in Oaxaca that always seems to work itself out one way or the other.

                                                                      1. re: erica

                                                                        The restaurant at Casa Oaxaca mostly serves cocina de autor (food designed by the chef), or what I like to call "tweezer food". Think big bucks. If you want traditional Oaxaca cuisine, there are so many better places to go. In addition, chef Alejandro Ruíz recently opened an even higher-end restaurant (Gozina) in Mexico City and is very often not in the kitchen at Casa Oaxaca.

                                                                        First and foremost, La Teca--you'll take a quick taxi to get there, but it will be SO WORTH IT.
                                                                        (http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico...). Sra. Deyanira, the owner, is a national treasure, or should be.

                                                                        A nothing-like-it-back-home not-to-be-missed experience is the carne asada building at Mercado 20 de noviembre. Order your meat by the kilo (or half-kilo, or whatever amount you need), order your sides from the vendors who sell those, and don't forget the grilled onions. (See photo) This place is spectacularly fun!

                                                                        Mercado de la Merced (corner Calles República and Murgía) has several great fondas. Try Fonda Rosita for great chilaquiles or enfrijoladas, or both--since there are two of you. Ask your wait person to bring you fresh-squeezed orange juice from the juice stand next door.

                                                                        Try Restaurante Origen, on Calle Hidalgo. Chef Rodolfo Castellanos is tops in my book--IMHO Origen is head and shoulders above Casa Oaxaca. Not cheap, but really fine.

                                                                        And by all means make the half-hour trip to Teotitlán del Valle. Go in the late morning, visit the rug makers and see a demonstration of wool production and dying, then go to Restaurante Tlamanalli for a mind-bogglingly delicious traditional Zapotec main meal (restaurant is open 1PM-4PM (closed Monday). Go on a day when Abigail Mendoza, one of the two best traditional cooks in Mexico, is at the restaurant. Photo #2 is her famous segueza de maíz. Have your hotel make a reservation for you. Phone is (951) 524-4006. There is inexpensive cab service to and from Teotitlán, the hotel can tell you where to find the cabs.

                                                                        I'm heading for Oaxaca on Sept 4 and will be back the 10th. If I find anything new and exciting, I'll post back. Meantime, you'll find more Oaxaca information on Mexico Cooks!.

                                                                        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                                                                      2. re: troyd

                                                                        A hundred million yeses, retweets and "this"es to your recommendation for the street food next to Carmen Alto. Here's a picture of the other one, where you can get tacos de chile relleno as well as memelas and quesadillas con quesillo. troyd posted the photo of one of them, here's a photo of the other one (the one in the corner).