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Sep 13, 2012 09:39 AM

Dia de los Muertos 2012 - Oaxaca

I am very excited to be going to Oaxaca City from 10/26-11/4, this year. I assume this is a very busy time in Oaxaca, and, perhaps, some restaurants keep different hours and/or close(?). Reading older posts it looks like Casa Oaxaca and La Olla get many nods.
My Question - what should I not miss or miss?
What time are restaurant "hopping" in Oaxaca during DdLM?
Where do I need to reserve in advance and where can I walk in?
Any recs on Cooking Classes?
Thanks so much,

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  1. Ciao Bob ~
    I am thrilled to be going too! I will be there from Tuesday - Saturday after several days in DF and San Miguel. Any other Chowhounds going? Shall we plan a group dinner? I am still planning the restaurants etc for DF and have not started researching Oaxaca yet. Keep me posted as to your final list.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Got Cake

      I am going to Mexico City for the prior weekend, 10/26-10/29, but have not started researching there yet - it seems a little overwhelming - what have you got on your radar?
      Just going with my girlfriend, no other hounds. Might be fun to meet up either DF or OC

      1. re: Ciao Bob

        Send me an email and we can swap details.
        Anyone else who is going to DF or Ox at that time feel free to post here and we can plan a chow get together.
        gotcake at cox dot net

        1. re: Got Cake

          I live in DF and have never been to a Chow get-together, so I'd be interested in hearing about the details :)

          1. re: veryconsumista

            Me too!

            Ms. Veryconsumista, even if it were just a few of us who live here (for the first get-together), let's make a plan.


              1. re: veryconsumista

                OK, let's make a plan. I am busy till mid-week, but after that I'll have time to talk about when and where. Be thinking about it and come up with something!


    2. As you have no doubt read, the best food in Oaxaca is not in the restaurants, Casa Oaxaca and La Olla are very good.
      Try to get to the Etla market on Wednesday. Collectivos leave often from the abastos market area. The cost is about 15 pesos - you can buy more than one space if you don't want to be really crowded. At the market especially look for the tamales. There is a lady with some of the best in the valley. If you are standing with your back to the meat area she is in the far left corner. All of her's are wonderful - I mean tamales one dreams about - but especially good are the flor de calabasa and the mole coloradito.. Her tamales dulce are wonderful - full of pineapple. Also look at the foods directly in front of the meat area - the greens there are serving are quintoneles or amaranth greens - delicious. They will sell you a small bag of them. Also the cheese - quesillo or queso fresca -is the best in the valley - Pay for a few tastes and you will notice the differences. Also great ice creams - always try the leche quemada with the "tuna". If you can still eat -the barbacoa - usually goat - is wonderful there. Look for the stand that is the most crowded and wait for a seat..
      I really recommend Itononi in Col. Reforma - you will probably have to take a taxi - Calle Belasarius Domingo - close to Calle Amapolis. The owner does great things with the local corn - Amado, the owner, also has an article in Diane Kennedy's new Oaxaca cook book.
      Not be missed is the pozole and of course tacos de pastor. . My favorite is on the main street across from the ADO bus station - the stand to the far left when your back is to the bus station. Great tacos and pozole and Atole con leche (drinkable rice pudding).
      A great trip would be to La escondida - again a short taxi ride - there will be no other gringos there. It's a giant buffet where famillies go a lot. Sunday afternoons there should be birthday and other celebrations. Usually a whole pig, then all the moles, grilled meats and it is great fun. The food is really good.
      i think the best Oaxacan food is a Palaypa de Raul. The original is about 2 KM before getting to the tule tree. Very nice place. comeda only. There is a new one closer to town, but I don't know it. As fancy as it is, I'm addicted to their black beans cooked with "rabbit herb" and also their sopa de guias.
      Going to tule try the empamadas and quesidilla and everything in the little market next to the handicraft market. If you go to the friday market in Ocotlan, do not miss the empanadas de mole amarrillo. Much better than the ones in town.
      Coming back from Ocotlan is a restaurant called Azucenas at the entrance to San Martin. they have great chilis en nogada.
      I would reccomend Casa de sabors cooking school, but she will fill up quickly that time of year.
      I am taking a tour to some of these places while you are here, I may have a couple of empty places on the van. Write to me if you are interested -

      1 Reply
      1. re: chocolateidea

        I will second Chocolateidea's rec for the Wednesday market in Etla. However, when I was there in April the vendors were really not nice at all about photos. This is the first time I've run into issues with photos at Etla. I was with 2 Mexicans and we were not being gawky tourists. But other than the photo thing, I've always liked this market. Very easy to combine it with a trip to the paper factory and art school.

        Chcocolateidea, are your recs for the food vendors in the upper, more permanent part of the market, or down on the street level. We got just a taste from a couple of the ladies in the upper part of the market as we were hurrying to meet up with other friends, but boy were those few bites good :-). Also, if you like buffets, have you tried the one at the Hacienda Santa Martha de Barcela in Etla? Love the grounds, particularly the DC3 in the jardin...shades of Howard Huges :-)

      2. I didn't know about the problem with the photos but usually i am there with a woman from Etla.
        The buffet you mentioned is owned by the same people as La escondida - i litke La escondida better only because it is usually more full of families. I think the food is the same at both.
        Another restaurant I didn't mention is in town on Garcia Vigil. Case de tio guerro. It very close to the benito juarez house. they serve comida style all day long and it is a good place for vegetarians.

        7 Replies
        1. re: chocolateidea

          I've been to the Etla market multiple times and this was the first time I've ever had a problem with photos, and I've learned to be pretty discreet at it over the years. It wasn't just one or two vendors but fairly universal. The minute they saw the camera, they were all scolding us and telling us it wasn't allowed. The market was especially crowded as it was the Wednesday before Easter, and it was HOT, so maybe those were contributing factors.

          Didn't know Santa Martha and La Escondida had the same owners. I'm not big on buffets, but the one at Santa Martha always amuses me, between the setting, the dueling musical genres, and the sheer volume of food, it's a great people watching scene.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            I am dismayed about the no photo rule. I was scolded in a dulceria in Rosarito the other day. So of course I left with out buying anything I would have bought. At the time I really wished that my Spanish was better so I could have a conversation with them about it. Does anyone know why they would be against it? Considering that I have read in several places how dependent Oaxaca is on tourism it seems odd. Would asking first and offering a tip go over well? Or just buying something be better?

            1. re: Got Cake

              This is a very touchy subject. IMHO, many craftspeople and vendors begin to feel like animals in a zoo and don't WANT to be photographed. Some have spiritual beliefs that involve the stealing of spirit from both food items and their own images. The tactful act would be simply to take no for an answer. After all, how much would it take for YOU (not you personally, just you generally) to sell your spiritual beliefs?

              And a word about 'discreet': again IMHO, taking a 'discreet' photograph without asking permission is an assault on the person whose photo is being taken. IMHO it is dishonest and invasive.


              1. re: cristina

                Thank you Christina. I completely understand if it is a cultural/emotional/spiritual thing not to want your photo taken by a tourist. As it is in many countries.
                I only take photos of food and never take photos of people. Photos of fruit and anything in the markets seem innocuous to me and is what I am most looking forward to on this trip. Even at home I can take a few dozen photos every time I go to farmer’s market.
                I had no idea the soul stealing could extend to fruit. I hope it is just this one market that has a no photo policy. I live in an extremely touristy town so I am used to Europeans taking photos everywhere here. I am sure asking first and being respectful will go a long way anywhere in the world. I just did not know if offering to tip them would offend some.

                1. re: Got Cake

                  I have experienced the 'no photos' request from vendors in all kinds of places, from the Mercado la Merced in Mexico City to the 20 de noviembre en Oaxaca to the indigenous market in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Very few vendors want photos taken of themselves and some request that no photos be taken of their produce and other edibles.

                  I agree with Dining Diva that 'no photos' is not a rule, but it is imperative that the vendor be greeted, asked permission, and bid goodbye. I ALWAYS show the vendor the photo I have taken so that he or she will know that I have not misrepresented the photo(s) I have asked to take.


                2. re: cristina

                  This discussion is really interesting. I am Mexican, grew up here and everything, and so I feel very self-conscious photographing things or people when I visit markets or shops anywhere. I didn't realize it probably comes from living in a culture where photographs aren't taken so lightly, yeah.

                3. re: Got Cake

                  GC, it's not really a rule. The market at Etla is not very large and it doesn't get a lot of tourists. It's probably 95%+ locals most of the time and it *is* a working market for the community, not the tourist trade. Every other time I've been there the vendors have been very open to photos, so it was just a little startling that things had changed.

                  Every market it different with regard to photos. Some markets have vendors that are very open to it (Campeche certainly was) others aren't. You always ask if you can take the photo and if the vendor says no, you just move along.

                  Which shop were you in, in Rosarito? Could be they thought you were a spy from the competiton their to steal their trade secrets. I had that happen to me in U.S. and I hadn't thought about it that way, but I could see their point.

            2. I would think that buying something and having a conversation with them before asking for a picture would probably help. Perhaps comment about how attractive their dress is, or how terrific her hair. this of course means you have to have some basic spanish or go with a local guide. The vendors in the Etla market certainly don't make much if any money from the tourist trade. They don't want to feel like they are "on show". If they say no, I'm sure your memories will be enough to remember the day. Please remember we are visitors only and the kinder each of is, the better all of us are treated.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chocolateidea

                Please see my post above. Unless you are of the same gender and about the same age as the person you are complementing, your complements can be seen as VERY OFFENSIVE, as a come-on or sexual advance, etc. You could be in for a really unpleasant run-in with a husband or wife.


              2. I'm a long time part time resident of Oaxaca, here are some of my favorites: Casa Oaxaca is usually excellent, expensive (comparatively) and lovely, reservations a must. If you want someplace that is hopping, try La Biznaga for a late snack or dinner. No reservations are taken, and you might have to wait. Fridays and Saturdays there is an organic market in Xochimilco, in the churchyard, walking distance from Centro. Great market food, tacos, tlayudas, etc, with the extra bonus of many interesting vegetarian options and all organic. Inexpensive. You can also buy crafts and small producer's organic mezcal there. If you go out to Tule or beyond, have lunch at Caldo de Piedra, on the highway btwn Oaxaca and Tule, where fish and shrimp soups are cooked using a prehispanic technique with heated rocks that boil your soup. Order some quesadillas and guacamole and you have a great lunch. You can bring your own beer, they don't sell it. No reservations.
                In re Muertos activities specifically, don't miss:
                - the Muertos Market at Mercado Abastos. Everything for the home Muertos alter; mountains of flowers, candy skulls and clay skeleton figurines dressed and representing almost every profession, plus other Muertos-only items. Open every day, try not to go on Saturday, the main day, it's too crazy. Pick pockets are definitely active here so watch your wallet and camera/cell phone.
                -Oct. 31st: The old and new Pantheons in Xoxochitlan, go about 9 pm. A taxi will be the cheapest way, there are usually plenty of them, and it is not far. The guided tours are more expensive and you don't really need them, just follow the crowd flowing between the two cemetaries.
                -November 1st: The Comparsa in San Augustine Etla. You might find a tour or hired car and guide useful here, it's a bit of a drive out there, and things don't get started until after 9 pm and go all night. If you are up for it, it is an amazing performance, costume party, and all night mezcal fueled dancing by ritual dancers and who ever wants to join. You can follow the dancers through the streets to different houses, where you will be offered hot chocolate or more often, mezcal. There is plenty of street food available to soak up the booze if you have overdone it. Go home before 4 AM as things get a little out of hand later.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: emmejota

                    got to try Caldo de Piedra this recent visit to Oaxaca - here are some pics. it's an interesting procedure and it's well executed. we got the seafood combination - shrimp, fish - the resulting soup/broth is very flavorful. the quesadillas and guacamole were good and you can watch all the preparations and take pics.