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Oaxaca City recommendations needed

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I'll be in Oaxaca mid-November and will be looking for some places to eat. Market stands are fine as are full-scale restaurants as long as they prepare local dishes made with real ingredients and aren't outrageously expensive. I am also thinking of attending a cooking class. I'd appreciate any recommendations. Gracias!

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  1. I'm sure that there are many prior posts on this topic, but I wasn't able to find them using the Chohound search tool, located just above; at least, not in the short time I devoted to it.

    Restaurants of note that come to mind are Casa Oaxaca (I've not eaten there), La Olla (good), María Bonita (good), Marco Polo (grilled seafood from a wood burning oven (good); Mercado 20 Noviembre for comida casera (good); El Biche Pobre 2 for botanas (good); La Toscana for upscale Italian (good, but pricey), the Friday Tianguis at El Lllano for antojitos and aguas frescas (good, and cheap; depends what you eat and which stand); Mercado El Pochote, Fridays and Saturdays for organic and artesanal foods.

    There's lots more.
    For starters, have a look at these blogs:
    http://oneforkonespoon.wordpress.com/...
    and
    http://mexkitchen.blogspot.com/2008/0...
    (part two, three and four follow; also, "Un Paseo Por El Llano".

    1. I am currently in Oaxaca. We have been coming here for 14 years or so, usually for a month or more. I agree with anonimo on la Olla ( comida corrida is good value), Marco Polo ( the one on El Llano park not the one further downtown). El Pochote market no longer exists, I have heard there is a new incarnation in Barrio Xochimilco but haven't tried to find it. We have tried a couple of new ( to us ) places in the last week both of which I would highly recommend. The first is called Fuego y Sazon and is located on Cinco de Mayo in Barrio Jalatlaco. It is an easy walk from our hotel in Calle Pino Suarez near el Llano Park. ( about 3 or 4 blocks) The food was outstanding and the prices were much lower than Casa Oaxaca ( which is good but expensive ). We had excellent Oaxacan sopas and since we'd been in town and were slightly overdosed on molés we ordered steaks ( only 110 pesos - less than 1/2 of most places in town) -among the best I've ever had! We will be going back to try their Oaxacan specialties which were very reasonably priced at about 70 pesos. Also had very nice ambience. The second place which we were taken to tonight by friends who live here year-round was called La Teca. It is a small place on La Violetta in Colonia Reforma north of the centre. Our friends had a car - you might want to take a taxi, it would be a fair walk. The food is istmeño and is said to be the best example of this style. It was very delicious. The garnachas were wonderful, as were the tamales, and the relleno ( we had a large selection of items tapas-style among the 4 of us and all were excellent )
      Among other favorites of ours would be Itanoni for wonderful organic corn tacos de cazuela - on Belisario Dominguez in Colonia Reforma ( a long but do-able walk from the centre.) It is very inexpensive and is our daughter's favorite restaurant in the world. We like El Topil on Plaza Labastida for Sopa Azteca, Crema Garbanzo, enchiladas, etc. They are open quite late if you've been to some event. Mayordomo on the Alcala has great hot chocolate. There are several good Italian/Pizza places - Nostrano across from Santo Domingo is our favorite. La Biznaga on Garcia Vigil, and Los Danzantes on Alcala are a couple of other places that have somewhat more modern takes on Oaxacan food. La Crepe and Flor de Loto are good for lighter meals. I could go on and on. You will probably find your own favorites!

      1 Reply
      1. re: kerrydawn

        We were in Oaxaca in August and particularly liked Biznaga.

      2. We were in Oaxaca recently and stayed at Casa Oaxaca, so ate dinner there several times. It was absolutely outstanding - though expensive by Oaxaca standards, as noted. FWIW, we were a bit disappointed by our meal at La Olla - but perhaps that was an off day. Food was just average (for Oaxaca, which is admittedly a high standard) and service was surprisingly brusque and unfriendly.

        7 Replies
        1. re: DC in DC

          Is El Naranjo still going?

          1. re: bronwen

            Iliana de la Vega closed the restaurant a few years ago during the teachers unrest and strike. She is currently teaching for the Culinary Institute of America at their San Antonio branch. She sold the restaurant at least a year ago to an American ex-pat and it re-opened to fairly decent review.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              El Naranjo is closed. The American guy who bought it from Ileana kept it going for a bout a year or so, but it was never the same as when Ileana had it. I heard she has a food truck in Austin area too! saw it online. She didn't leave because of the teacher's strikes, which did drive her mad as all of us, but because of some health care issues in her family. WISH SHE'D COME BACK! it was my favorite for years! and she is sooo nice.

              1. re: insideroaxaca

                Iliana is really nice. Not only does she have a food truck in Austin - El Naranjo - they're in the process of converting it to a brick and mortar restaurant. Have no clue when they're planning to open, but she's been posting pictures on her FB page recently

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  thanks for the update, i'm going to look her up right now! and also tell my friends in Austin to visit her!

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    i cannot find Ileana on facebook under either her name or EL NARANJO, can you help please?

                    1. re: insideroaxaca

                      I think you've spelled her name incorrectly. She's on FB as iliana de la Vega. Try that and see if that gets her

          2. Make your way to the Central de Abastos - the city's largest and principal marketplace - where you'll find scores of small "fondas" / restaurants operated by families and at which you can sample some of the best of what Oaxaca has to offer. Breakfast and lunch, until late-afternoon, only - don't wander about the marketplace after dark. ;-)

            1. Here's what you're gonna do. Get in a collectivo on a Thursday. Go to Zaachila. At the right side of the market (facing there from the cathedral). Eat at one of the empanada stands (they are large corn tortillas doubled over a filling of flor de calabaza, tinga, amarillo, verde, or champinones). Gorge yourself on empanadas and memelitas. Now go to Nieves Siboney in the middle of the market. Get a cup of leche quemada con tuna. Enjoy :D

              And in Oaxaca City (alla en la ciudad hay mucha gente mala jaja) be sure to go to the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. There are a lot of food stalls with cheap and delicious eats.

              And remember, Oaxaca isn't just mole. There is so much more. You just gotta go out and explore

              1. I just returned from 10 days in Oaxaca. In the past I've always seemed to end up somewhat disappointed in the food, it never quite lived up to it's hype. While nothing on this trip knocked my socks off and was a sure-fire, out of the park home run, we did have quite a few meals and dishes that rated in the good, very good and excellent range.

                LA OLLA
                The most consistent and well done meals. At only $80 pesos, the comida corrida is an excellent value for the quality of the meal presented. Some of the dishes that stood out for my group of 6 were 2 of the soups, a velvety corn and calabacita mixture topped with just the right amount of rajas, and a rich chicken consume with perfectly cooked (i.e. not mushy) vegetables. The salpicon and chile guajillo sauce (mole de olla?) on a chicken dish were outstanding, as were the salads, each with fruit and a light hand with the dressing.

                ITANONI
                Itanoni is located in Colonia Reforma, is best reached by taxi and is a breakfast and comida place only, closing late afternoon. They specialize in antojitos made with "maize criollo" (native corn) from various regions in Oaxaca. Two of us went there for lunch one day and had - 2 tacos, one costillas (pork ribs) in salsa rojo and the other pollo in salsa verde, a memelita con pollo al chipotle, a quesadilla stuffed with quesillo and asiento (the dark, tawny fat left at the bottom of the pot when lard is rendered) and 3 tetetlas, one simply with black beans, quesillo and crema, another with chicharrone and the last with hongos (mushrooms). The tacos, though good, were our least favorite only because the others were so remarkably good. The pollo al chipotle on top of the memelita was extremely good, but the real stars were the tetelas, with the chicharron and hongos being absolutely spectacular...okay, maybe "they" did knock my socks off <g>.

                Masa is made fresh daily at Itanoni and you can watch as the items are being made and fired on a large clay comal set atop an adobe horno (oven) fired by wood. There are an assortment of guisados and other fillings that you can use to customize your order. Beverages are served in small bottles resembling old-time milk bottles. My friend and I both had jamacia and we each had 2. Our tab (minus tip) was $173 pesos. Taxi from the Santo Domingo area and then back to the zocalo was $40 pesos each way...almost as much as the meal.

                I would urge anyone seriously into the Mexican corn kitchen and antojitos to seek out Itanoni, perhaps my favorite meal of the trip. It's located at 517 Bellasario Dominguez (tell the taxista it's next to El Che in Colonia Reforma)

                LA CAPILLA - Zaachila
                I've been a fan of La Capilla for a while and was delighted to return on this trip after a visit to Monte Alban, which is one of my favorite ruins in Mexico. This is a big open air barn of a place with an open kitchen that the staff encourages you to visit and check out before placing your order. Their speicality is chile relleno and they are very good. I've also had (lamb) barbacoa and grilled chicken at La Capilla that are very good. Be sure to try the black beans as they use hierba de conejo which gives them a different, but enticingly tasty, flavor. Also try the horchata. Ours came with chunks of melon (cantaloupe) and was utterly delicious and refreshing. La Capilla is packed on weekends and holidays with Mexican families enjoying a day in the country.

                SAN MARTIN TILCAJETE
                San Martin Tilcajete, on the road to Ocotlan, is a small town famous for it's wood carvings. The turn into the town is on the right, immediately opposite the turn off is a large restaurant and gift/workshop. The restaurant was the brainchild of Jacobo Angeles, one of the premier carvers in San Martin Tilcajete. If driving between Oaxaca and Ocotlan, this is a good option for a meal. I had tasajo stuffed with squash blossoms and blanketed with a sauce redolent of hierba santa that I would rate as good to very good. Others had the mole negro (too sweet and a little imbalanced), costillas in salsa rojo were tender and very good as were the two cecina dishes. We also ordered a tlayuda which went down way too easily. Gift shop has good pieces at fair prices. The day we were there, there were 4 or 5 artesans painting alebrijas and larger carved pieces and it's interesting to see the process and the detail inovlved.

                RANCHO ZAPATA - km 42 marker on the way to Mitla (around the Matatlan area)
                Tourist mezcal joint but surprisingly good for being out in the sticks. Most of us had some version of carne asada, although one member of our group ordered the mole negro con pavo (turkey) and another vegetable brochettes. The mole was the surprise hit. The sauce was well balanced, not overly sweet or over loaded with chocolate. The carne asada was available 3 different ways, the differences being mostly what accompanied the meat. I ordered mine with grilled nopales and was not disappointed. Portions were ENORMOUS. To end the meal we had flambeed plantains done tableside. Our waiter melted butter with a slice each of orange and lime, added plaintain slices and then caremalized them with sugar and finally hit the whole thing with a good dose of mezcal. After the flames subsided we virtually inhaled them they were that good. Probably the best dessert of the trip. Inlcuding drinks (beer) and dessert, this meal was aobut $200 pesos (about $16 USD) per person, and one of the more expensive meals.

                EL FAMOSO - on the road to Mitla
                Mitla is a fascinating site and, though small, well worth the trip out. Options in town didn't appeal so we stopped at El Famoso on our way back for a rustic Mexican buffet. Buffets are not my thing but there were some good (and not so good) choices to be found. The 4 soups were all excellent as was the spread of cold salads and fruit. The moles and guisados were average to good depending upon what one chose. There was a grill with tasajo, cecina, chorizo and chicken available. The tasajo was forgettable, but the cecina and chorizo were pretty decent (no one tried the chicken). Desserts were average. The limonada (made con gaso, with sparkling water) was outstanding. Tortillas hecho a mano were absolutely divine and hard to stop eating. We watched the senora make them, cook them on the comal and then come to our table...YUM.

                HACIENDA SANTA MARTHA - Etla
                Buffet 2 days in a row, I was not in food heaven. But Hacienda Santa Martha is the largest buffet in the state of Oaxaca and there were some real hits here. The first being the beverage for which they are regionally famous. It's an addicting concoction of pineapple juice and Carnation milk augmented by coconut milk and canela. I don't know how many pitchers we went through but it was oddly refreshing. Kind of like a virgin pina colada but a lot less cloying than the pina colada. There was a huge array of cold salads including a very good ensalada de nopales. Once again the costillas in salsa rojo were a real winner, the salsa very flavorful and the pork ribs fork tender. 6 out of the 7 moles of Oaxaca were represented at this buffet. I tried the chichilo and was disappointed. The beef ribs in it were wonderful but the flavor profile was really off (not bad, just not properly balanced). The tacos al pastor more than made up for the faulty chichilo.

                Hacienda Santa Martha is popular venue for weddings, quinceaneras and other functions. The grounds are beautiful and well maintained. There is a private palapa complete with it's own kitchen, staff and restrooms. Oh, and I should mention the fully restored WWII era plane on the grounds that is open for inspection. Mariachis and marimbas competed for attention. The marimbas won. After all, it's hard to ignore a marimba medley of White Christmas, Jingle Bells and Feliz Navidad.

                I mention the 2 buffets because they are in areas not particularly on the usual tourist routes and they are viable options for meals if in those areas.

                LAS QUINCE LETRAS - Oaxaca City
                I am not enamored of Las Quince Letras but most of our group was. I *can* say, however, it served the best mole negro of the trip. The sauce was very well balanced and flavorful. Also good was the Sopa Oaxaqueno. I had lomo (pork loin) en salsa poblano. The pork loin looked more like a shoulder chop than loin and one end of it was pretty tough. The poblano sauce on the other hand was heavenly and actually saved the dish for me. Their chile rellenos were stuffed with a wonderful mixture of chicken, turkey and beef, large raisins, olives and a few almonds. Unfortunately, the capeado (egg batter coating) was heavy and soggy. Las Quince Letras is on Absolo and I think the cross street is either Benito Juarez or Pino Suarez and is open late.

                DEL JARDIN - on the zocalo in Oaxaca City (below Las Abuelitas)
                The surprise snack of the trip were the tacos dorados de pollo at this popular (yes, tourist spot) on the zocalo close to the cathederal. They were hot, crispy and delicious. Three to an oder, they came with a light black bean sauce draped over the top, shredded cabbage, some crema and cotija and were the perfect dish for cena; just enough to take the edge off but not enough to make you feel stuffed. At $30 pesos ($2.35 USD) it was also a very good value. Del Jardin also serves crepes. 3 of us split the crepas bananas foster. 2 large, folded crepes with sauteed bananas, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and lots of whipped cream. The 2nd best dessert of the trip and easily big enough for 3 people.

                Anyone looking for a good salad, try the terrace restaurant of the Hotel Marques facing the zocalo. I had a mixed green salad there for cena one evening that was very good and way bigger than we thought it would be. A 9" dinner plate loaded with an assortment of greens, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers and hunks of queso fresco. Served with oil and vinegar. It was actually a nice break from mole, mole, mole.

                I've tried to list places not previously mentioned in this thread to add to the options. If market fondas are on the agenda, be sure to make your way out to Ocotlan for the Friday market. There is a fonda in the permanent covered market run by a woman who is a dead-ringer for Frida Khalo and the food at her stall is supposed to be pretty good. Can't speak to the food as I didn't try it, but she place was crowded and she really does look like Frida.

                3 Replies
                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Thanks for the great report, DD. I'm filing away it for a future visit.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    I've finally gotten around to downloading some photos. Here's the link to some photos of La Capilla in Zaachila

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45502961...

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      El famoso moved down the road a piece and changed it's name to LA CHOZA DEL CHEF, same owners as El Famoso. they have a webpage at www.insideroaxaca.mx/restaurants/lach... see you there someday! i love their buffet cuz where else in Oaxaca can you get so many different types of vegetables!

                    2. just got back from two week eating tour of oaxaca. thanks for all the good information on these boards!

                      i ate mostly local style (at markets, tlayudas libres, empanadas at el tule; delicious pork fat drizzled tostadas, estofado and other moles in etla; goat barbacoa in tlacolula; loved breakfasts and tetelas at itanoni

                      but did a few fancy meals:
                      casa oaxaca (good but nothing blew me away in my one meal of duck breast - i asked for rare and it came medium, and the tamale was dry)

                      la biznaga (i loved the space, vibe, scene - i tried to comida corrida twice and both times the salads were borderline disgusting with the way they were dressed - trying to be overly capricious in my opinion) and beef filet entrees were only marginal.

                      i think my favorite thing i ate was menudo in the markets, and a great costillas tlayuda made in some residential part of oaxaca.

                      also had an itsmeno comida at la teca (reforma), and seafood at marco polo in el llano, seafood cocteles and micheladas at juan camaron (in reforma), all good meals.

                      also tried several nieves (in the park by the cathedral to the west side side of town) and paleteria popeyes were great.

                      bummed i missed el biche pobre.

                      one thing that was interesting, is i can't remember a trip where i felt so full all the time. i did an eating tour of DF, baja and yucatan and i can't remember being this stuffed constantly!

                      there is way more but i'm at work and this is just off the top of my head

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: modernist

                        Spent mid January to mid February in Oaxaca and benefited from lots of chowhound suggestions. Glad to see the rec for Itanoni above. We were doing intercambio with a local Oaxaca guy and he took us there, saying it was his favorite breakfast spot. We later went back again we loved it so. When I mentioned to him that I was a big fan of posole, he recommended another restaurant I hadn't seen mentioned here: La Gran Torta. Thinks it's over on Porfirio Diaz a few blocks north of zocalo. A very casual place (plastic tables etc), but posole is its specialty. Several different varieties. We tried the house special which was just chock full of great stuff (well. . except for those chicharones, sorry, I just don't get) radishes, hominy, onions, just thick and delicious. A really big bowl too for about 70 pesos. Could definitely be a meal.

                        We went to Biznaga a few times as always because we love the atmosphere and alot of the food. Had two great meals at Casa Oaxaca (upstairs outside is a gorgeous setting)
                        Some excellent ceviche and really good tuna - though the fire barely grazed that fish and it made me a tad nervous - but I was none the worse for it. . . . Blah meal at Los Pacos.
                        Had my seond really excellent meal at Temple (first was a couple years ago). A very good dinner and very good service at a reasonable price at Biche Pobre. Sadly only made it to La Olla once. Consistently very good. We stayed across from the SD church and so several times ate just around the corner at the little Italian place (Spaghetteria? someone mentioned here). Cozy, good food, good prices, reliable, sometimes a little slow. Went to Via Liera (sp?) and came out a tad underwhelmed. Pasta was good I don't know, maybe we were just lonely. We can't seem to stay up late enough to eat dinner at 9:00 instead of 7. what fogies we are. .

                        1. re: glover

                          $70 pesos is a lot for pozole. I'd expect to pay half that much, or maybe $40; but then, I wasn't at La Gran Torta.
                          Chicharrones: I like them with pozole, as long as I do'nt put them into the broth, where they get slimy; but instead, eat them as a crunchy accompaniment.

                          "Went to Via Liera (sp?)"
                          Probably "Lira Vieja".

                          Saludos,
                          Anonimo

                          1. re: glover

                            Cool! Thanks for the update. I am going for 4-5 days mid April and Itanoni and Biznaga are the only two places I am sure about checking out.

                            1. re: kare_raisu

                              Strongly recommend Casa Oaxaca Cafe, which is the third of of Casa Oaxaca's restaurants. See www.casaoaxacacafe.com. I still need to post on a short trip in January - we had a lovely comida here - it's in Colonia Reforma, so you need a short cab ride to get there. Lovely neighborhood setting, beautiful outdoor hacienda-style space. Go.

                              1. re: Geoff

                                I would love to hear about your recent trip Geoff - thanks for the Casa Oaxaca cafe recc - adding it to my notes!

                                1. re: kare_raisu

                                  Wow, it's two years later and I have no idea why I never replied to your note. So sorry! My wife and I are headed to Oaxaca mid-March for a short visit. Looking through these posts for reminders/suggestions, and I promise to report back this time. As of now, good chance we'll visit both Casa Oaxaca and Casa Oaxaca Cafe.

                            2. re: glover

                              i actually went to that crossstreet to look for la gran torta too but i never saw it.
                              i also had some street pozole south of the zocalo by the markets...

                              1. re: glover

                                Temple is gone! viejo lirio is in that spot now, italian. haven't tried it yet.

                            3. Thanks to all who posted on this thread. Wife, daughter and I are traveling to Oaxaca next weekend for a week, and will definitely visit some of these spots.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: NYCTechy

                                La Gran Torta is across the street from the Alameda's Northwest corner, near the Post Office. Unless they've moved since I was last there. The Alameda is the big square immediately north of the zocalo, where the Cathedral is. Their pozoles (rojo, blanco, y verde) are outstanding. They make excellent licuados as well.

                                1. re: PAO

                                  La Gran Torta has moved! It's still downtown, at Porfirio Díaz No. 208 Centro Histórico, Much nicer digs! Same great pozole.