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Jun 12, 2010 06:21 PM

Oaxaca Trip Report

This was the first real trip to Mexico for both my GF and I. We spent most of our time in Oaxaca City and went to a few of the surrounding villages.

Oaxaca City:
Itanoni – This was our first meal in Oaxaca and probably one of the favorites. We actually enjoyed it so much that we came back here a second time. It was an easy cab ride from near the zocalo, though I had to give the taxi driver the address because he hadn’t heard of it. I found this to be one of the best values of the trip as most items on the menu were between 10 and 20 pesos. Our favorite drink here was the limon con hierbabuena, which was amazingly refreshing. Over the two trips we tried several things on the menu including tacos, memelitas, tetelas, quesadillas and tamales. Nothing disappointed. My favorite was the chicharron taco. To my surprise the chicharron was crunchy, and overall the taco was really tasty. I’d recommend getting anything here filled with chicharron. You also can’t go wrong ordering any of the dishes filled/topped with mushrooms or beans here. The memelita clasica with refried beans was really good and so was the tetela de hongos. Also, while we ate quesadillas with flor de calabaza every single day, the one here was extra good. It may have something to do with their really good cheese.

Tlayuda/Quesadilla Stand at Bustamante and Mina – This stand was a pretty quick walk south of the zocalo. It was only open at night and was always busy. We enjoyed the tlayuda and the quesadilla with flor de calabaza.

El Alex – Decent spot for breakfast. Both chilaquiles and enfrijoladas were tasty. Though we had better versions of the same dishes for a lower price at other places.

Mercado Organico – We had a really hard time finding this market, but eventually we found someone who knew where it was located. I think it is in a new location because it wasn’t where our books said it would be. It is now north of the Periferico (Heroes) in the courtyard of a church. There were a few food stalls here, but the food was really good. One stall served really nice tostadas topped with different flavored cheeses and vegetables. I really enjoyed one topped with cilantro flavored cheese and greens. There were also a few stands making memelitas and we had some with potatoes and chicken.

Las Quince Letras – We came in the evening and it was deserted. We tried the mole negro and the estofada. Both dishes were tasty, but neither really blew us away. Given the price we wouldn’t return.

Empanada stand in Llano Park – Empanadas with mole Amarillo and mole verde. Both were filled with chicken, mole sauce and some greens. Both were interesting and unique compared to most of the street food we came across.

Mayordomo – My new favorite drink is called Manteada, which is a sort of chocolate milkshake.

Casa Elipidia – Small place for comida corrida several blocks south of the zocalo. 50 pesos, no options. We had good flor de calabaza quesadilla and decent flan but the main course of beef stew with green beans was dreadful.

La Biznaga – We came here for dinner twice. It was one of the few places where you could go after 7pm and not be the only ones in the restaurant. The food was great and actually priced reasonably compared to most other dinner menus in town. A big plus here was the large beer selection. Finally found something that wasn’t a light lager. They make really great soups here. The soup with mushrooms and bacon was amazing. The black bean soup was also really great. We tried two of their chicken moles and enjoyed both.

Cocina Economica Isabel – Great spot for breakfast near Llano Park. Great chilaquiles and enfrijoladas for a good price.

El Olivo – Cool bar with tiny rooftop patio. Very laid back. Good beer selection including some Belgians. We had an amazing (but tiny) huitlacoche empanada and amazing stuffed mushrooms for snacks.

Pizza Nostrana – right by Santo Domingo. After a few days we were ready for something other than Mexican food. But we ended up not being able to resist huitlacoche pizza. Unfortunately the flavor of the huitlacoche was dominated by caramelized onions The pizza and the brushcetta were both good. Tried the famous nochebuena beer that is released once a year.

Tlayuda/Memelita Stand at Fiallo and Guerro – Came here several times. On the side of a church, open during the day. Best memelitas of the trip and had most wide range of toppings. Enjoyed the papas con rajas, papas con chorizo, salpicon, mushrooms. This was our favorite stand for tlayudas and memelitsas on the trip.

I never expected how many stands would be selling burgers in Oaxaca City. Once it got dark, all of the ice cream carts left and were replaced with carts cooking hamburgers to order. After being there for several days my GF broke down and ordered one. I was impressed by the number of ingredients they managed to get on the bun. The burger consisted of: small slice burger, fried slice of ham, melted cheese, lettuce, pineapple, chiles, ketchup, mayo, mustard, fresh onion and cooked onion.

Teotitlan de Valle:
Tlamanalli – Made it here for lunch. Began with the complimentary guacamole with blue corn tortillas and the house mescal. We had the mole zapotec, which was chicken in a mild red sauce thickened with masa. Very good, the mole wasn’t spicy at all, but had subtle earthy flavors. We also had the sopa de calabaza with squash soup served with a small quesadilla de flor inside it. For dessert we like the zapote negro nieve better than the rose nieve. The women who worked here were really nice and we were glad we ate here. Not cheap, the most expensive meal of the trip.

Mitla: La Zapoteca – Our second try and comida corrida and really disappointing. Food was underwhelming and the portions were tiny.

Tlacolula – Came here for Sunday market. Lots of good food stalls.

Overall, besides Itanoni, the highlight for us was the street food. Most of the meals we ate in restaurants weren’t as tasty as what we had at the street stands.

While researching for the trip I read previous chowhound posts, other blogs (oneforkspoon) and several guide books including Moon, Rough Guide and a small book called Viva Oaxaca. The recommendations from here on chowhound were great. The recommendations from Rough Guide and Viva Oaxaca were also really useful and consistent with chowhound. The Moon Oaxaca book, however, is completely worthless. It only recommends restaurants that aren’t recommended by chowhounds, blogs or any other guide book. While this could have been great, if these places were hidden gems, it wasn’t. Whenever we tried recommendations from the Moon book, we were disappointed.

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  1. Very nice report; thanks.

    Am I assuming correctly that the new Mercado Orgánico is the replacement for the Mercado El Pochote?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Anonimo

      Yes that is correct. It may move again, but here are better directions. To get there from the center: walk north on Garcia Vigil, cross Ninos Heroes, walk up stone steps on left and go west on first street and about a block and a half up there is an entrance on the south side of the church courtyard .

    2. Great report! We may be making a short side trip to Oaxaca this summer while in Mexico, and I'll definitely use this

      1. Thanks for writing this! I am SO excited to be going to Oaxaca in July with my husband. Printed this as a reference!

        1. Thanks for the excellent report. I'm impressed, as well, because you actually did some independent homework on your own ... the guidebooks, forums, etc. It seems most travelers posting to these forums (generally) don't do that. Itanoni sounds like a real winner. I'm disappointed to read your remarks about the Moon Guidebook to Oaxaca ... because Bruce Whipperman, editor / author, is so highly regarded and the rest of the book seems so on-target. Could be that these books are written two to three years apart and recommendations for restaurants and hotels are impacted by market changes ... one year a place is good, the next it closes or is sold, etc. Again, thanks for taking the time to provide such detailed information.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gomexico

            Itanoni is very much worth the taxi far from the zocalo/main touris area. The easiest way to find it is to tell the taxi driver you want to go to the El Che on Bellasario Dominguez. There are 2 El Ches in Oaxaca, one by the Santo Domingo church and the other on B. Dominguez. Itanoni is 1 or 2 doors down from that El Che (BTW, El Che is a pretty good place for steak, but eat late. The place (Santa Domingo) is dead much before 8:30 or 9 pm)

            The tetelas at Itanoni with chicharron are delectable, melt in your mouth, especially when you split them open and add some of the salsa verde and crema. Tetelas with mushrooms salsa rojo and crema are also exquisite.

            The pickings are pretty slim in Mitla, but there is a buffet place on the way into Mitla that's pretty decent. The cold selections are usually very good, soups are usually very good (tho' could stand to be hotter), the guisados and moles aredecent to good depending upon what you chose. They also grill meat to order outside on the patio. Some items were more successful than others. Next to the grill station is where they make tortillas a mano. Their version of limonada is really good. IIRC, it's called El Famoso. I don't think anything they serve would really make it famous, but they are a notch or two above most everything else in Mitla

            1. re: gomexico

              My pleasure. This was the first Moon Guidebook I've used and it could be that I would enjoy his recommendations for other parts of Oaxaca more.

            2. Thank you for the report. We plan on returning to Oaxaca after a 6 year absence so this is helpful. Am pleased to hear that Itanoni is still around. Quince Letras is primarily a comida place, so that's why it's almost deserted in the evenings. The things to have there in the evening are the stuffed avocados and the sopa Azteca--both very good. I can also highly recommend the empanadas at La Guerita @ Mercado Merced, Los Jorges seafood (part of the Marco Polo branch) at the LLano (don't try the one downtown), and La Olla, and the nieves at Malena's outside the Basilica. And if La Gran Torta is still there on the northwest corner of the Alameda, it can't be beat for pozole, rojo, verde and blanco. The licuados at La Gran Torta are also excellent.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PAO

                Those sound like great recommendations. Hopefully I'll make it back sometime soon. I wish we would have had more time to try some of those places. The only time we made it to Mercado Merced was right when everything was closing down for the day unfortunately.