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Oaxaca, Oaxaca Recs

My girlfriend and I will be going to Oaxaca for 2 1/2 days and I want to make the most of the 5 lunch/dinner meals we'll have. Reviewing past posts the places I'm considering checking out are the following

- Itanioni
- Casa Oaxaca
- La Teca
- Pitiona
- La Olla
- Mercado 20 Noviembre

Any thoughts about either these places or any which I haven't listed but merit a visit would be greatly appreciated!
Also any suggestions for very good, simple comedor corrida places in el centro would be welcome

Thanks in advance

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    1. We went to Oaxaca for Dia de los Muertos last year and will be going again this year. The food was wonderful, from cheap to expensive we only had one disappointing meal in a week. I am a chef and the food in Oaxaca alone is reason to go back again.

      Itanioni -
      It is simple, plastic chairs under a open but covered patio.
      I think everything was al a carte. It is too far of a walk from the Zocolo, we did it but regretted it, so take a taxi. It closes early so check the hours.
      I had the single best tamale of my life at Itanioni. I still get misty thinking about. It is worth the trouble to get to.
      I think what the owner is doing, corn theme, having farmers grow heirloom, almost lost varieties is so interesting. Alice Waters said it was her favorite restaurant in Oaxaca or all of Mexico. Something along those lines.
      They have a strict no photo policy, with signs around the place. But if you ask they will bring you a disclaimer for you to sign and then they will let you take photos. I assume it said you will not publish any photos, they are for your own use.

      La Olla-
      We went for breakfast. I was impressed with how much of their items are made in house. Jam, granola etc. They clearly are cooking with love and care. We would go back for dinner. The chef/owner is a woman and gives cooking classes and has a B&B behind the restaurant.

      Pitiona and Casa Oaxaca were full when we inquired so during DdlM reservations are a must. CO was even booked for the next two nights when we asked. Other people we spoke to said it was wonderful. Expensive but worth it.

      I loved La Biznaga. It was modern, artsy and really great food. It is in the center of a courtyard with some shops and galleries on a few sides. We ate there three nights in a row. I would have to say the appetizers were better than the entrees though. The have a bar on one side of the restaurant that can get loud at the end of the night.

      We went to Los Danzantes in Coyocan (suburb of Mexico City.) They have one in Oaxaca as well. The food was beautiful, the whole place was very glamorous and hip. Everything we had was spectacular. They had a great bar and serious drinks. I assume the one in Oaxaca is the same.

      We had a mid-day snack at one of the restaurants along the Zocolo and it was surprisingly good for being a tourist trap. We even went back another day because I was craving their corn poblano soup and the people watching was great.
      It had Jardin in the name but I think more than one on the square does and one sucks (warned by someone we met) but the other one is the one we liked. I will have to look at our photos for the correct name.

      Do not miss the markets and chocolate shops. The Mercado de Abastos is the largest we went to in Mexico. It was overwhelming and luscious with amazing goods. It is organized by types of things close together. Meats, vegetables, flowers, coffee/chocolate, spices, live animals, housewares, clothes, they have everything. The neighborhood is a bit sketchy if you walk from the zocolo and I have seen warnings of pickpockets at the market. I took at least a hundred photos it was so much fun but exhausting, it goes on for blocks and blocks.

      Have a great time and post and update any finds and suggestions!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Got Cake

        Wow thanks for the thorough review! Will certainly prove very helpful.

        1. re: Got Cake

          The Abastos market is, IIRC, the 2nd largest open air market in Latin America. It is huge. Market days are Tuesday and Saturday when it swells in size and it becomes positively gigantic around major holidays like Muertos, Independence Day, Semana Santa and so forth. I don't think it is particularly unsafe but my Mexican friends, and Mexican acquaintances that live in Oaxaca City, are all a little leery of it. If your hotel room has a safe, just leave the bulk of your valuables there. Don't take anymore than you are willing to loose to a pick pocket.

          There are ceramics vendors around the outer part of one side of the Abastos. On Saturday their numbers swell. A lot of them do the green pottery Oaxaca is famous for and a number of them *are* doing lead free ceramics. You may need a bit of Spanish to determine which ones are lead free (sin plomo). This part of the market also has multiple vendors sell good quality comals. They're fragile, so if you decide you absolutely have to take one home with you, buy more than one so that if one breaks in transit, maybe the other one won't ;-)

        2. Here's a link from fall 2012 that might prove helpful:

            1. re: bronwen

              El Naranjo has been closed for a few years now.

              1. re: hankstramm

                El Naranjo--the Oaxaca restaurant owned and run by Chef Iliana de la Vega--has re-opened to rave reviews in Austin, Texas. The food is still marvelous.

                In Oaxaca, don't miss La Teca. It's been the best meal of their trips for many CH posters.

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

            2. Has anyone been to Tlamanalli, the zapoteca resto in Teotitlan del Valle? Is it as good as they say?

              2 Replies
              1. re: LRS

                I have been twice.

                Yes, it is good, but it is quirky.

                1. re: LRS

                  Talmanalli is good but nothing worth writing home about. It's an experience worth trying. Also, it's probably the only decent restaurant in TdV.

                2. Casa Oaxaca is great as is Itanoni (very different). One of the best places we tried was a relatively new spot call Origen.

                  Biznaga is good too.

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: hankstramm

                    Wondering if there are any great places to try barbacoa for Sunday lunch..maybe in the surrounding countryside? Not sure if this is a tradition in this region of the country (??).

                    I've done very limited reading so far, but from that, it seems as if many restaurants are closed Sunday evening. True?
                    Any place that attracts lots of local families for great food at Sunday lunch, in or near the city?

                    1. re: erica

                      La Capilla in Zaachila, about 20 minutes outside Oaxaca City.


                      Weekends are a good time to go to La Capilla. I've had their barbacoa twice, both times it was good.

                      This is a big, open air, restaurant. The kind of place families go and spend the whole afternoon eating, drinking and hanging out.


                      This guy calls it "off the charts, unbelievable, great food". I don't think I'd go that far :-). I like La Capilla because it is a fun, relaxing setting. I've been 4 or 5 times at least and only once has the food not been pretty good, tho' it can be uneven...some things are definitely better than other. Be sure to get an order of the frijoles con hierba conjeo, they are wonderful. They have a large open kitchen that you are invited to observe. You'll see lots of cazuelas bubbling away, cold items being prepped and tortillas and tlyudas being cooked...but you usually can't take photos. La Capilla is known for it's chile rellenos and it's barbacoa de cordero (lamb), which they cook on the grounds in deep pits.

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        La Capilla is exactly the place I had looked at online (did a lot of Googling)...and the fact that they offer barbacoa de cordero places it at the top of my list! Do you happen to know if this is a Sunday-only dish or might is be also available on Saturdays? Best time to arrive for lunch?

                        Many thanks for your input. I am hoping to spend about a week in the city this winter, and food is the primary interest. It's been so long since I've been in the area..I am beginning to salivate just thinking of the deliciousness in store.

                        Also: What makes the Saturday Abastos food market in the city different than the normal main daily market? More vendors, probably, but for a tourist, would it be more or less the same during the week when I assume the crowds might be less? Does Abastos offer more or less the same experience as Benito Juarez market? (These appear to be two different entities, correct?)

                        Again, many thanks!!

                        1. re: erica

                          I think the barbacoa at La Capilla is both Saturday and Sunday, but I am not 100% certain on that. I'd call, or have your hotel call if you need help in Spanish, and verify on which days it is served.

                          Azucena Zapoteca also does barbacoa occasionally. I like AZ and have never had a bad meal there. Cristina's experience was different. So you've got one nay and one yea, if you go, you can form your own opinion

                          The Abastos and Benito Juarez markets (aka 20 de Noviembre) are 2 different markets. Benito Juarez is only a block off the zocalo, the Abastos is further away near the 2nd class bus station. The market days for the Abastos are Tuesday and Saturday when the market swells with additional vendors around the perimiter. Not all the shops are open all days, but almost all of them are open on Saturday. I think the experience is different no matter if you are a tourist or not. If you go on one of the non-market days, I would recommend going in the morning when the market is more active. The Abastos is big and covers a lot of ground. You can find every thing from ceramics with non-lead glazes to jumbo shrimp to saint candles to shoe laces and bras to a chocolate factory to dried chiles. The selection is bigger and more diverse at the Abastos than it is at Benito Juarez, but Benito Juarez is much more managable and be sure to visit the building devoted to fondas and panaderias. Personally, I would go to both if I've got the time.

                          During my last 2 visits to Oaxaca I was warned by locals (natives, not ex-pats) not to go to the Abastos. I went anyway. My friends were afraid that I would be either robbed or assaulted. I was neither. Dress very low key, leave your valuables at home, be mindful of where you're walking and who is around you.

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            I took great photos at Abastos on a Saturday. I would heed others' advice about being as low-key as possible. As a foreigner, you will already be high-profile. Leave the valuables in a safe where you're staying. There were a lot of bodies pushing to get past in the narrow aisles. Fortunately for me, most people were distracted by my tiny dog. He received far more attention than me or my iphone.

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              Thank you, yet again. I will certainly visit both of those markets in the city; never bring valuables while traveling, but will take care just the same.

                              Maybe visit Azucena on the Friday after Ocotlan market--both the chiles en nogada and the costillas look amazing in the online photos!

                              As time grows closer, will attempt to put together a list of restaurants--already have these two, and will also want to sample La Teca.

                          2. re: DiningDiva

                            I was disappointed with La Capilla last time I was there--they serve on Sat & Sun last time I checked. It's worth trying, but I prefer the market in Tlacolula. You don't have to go on a market day. There are some sisters near the main from entrance that I always buy from--they look almost South East Asian, their barbacoa is the best.

                            1. re: hankstramm

                              I was last at La Capilla in April 2012. The dish I had was essentially inedible and our waiter had the audacity to tell me that's the way it was supposed to be. Ummm. . .no, pork loin should not be drier than sawdust. Two of the people I was traveling with ordered the barbacoa de borrego and were quite pleased with it. I managed to get a couple forkfuls and thought it very good as well.

                              I think one goes to La Capilla for the experience, especially on the weekends. I also think it is fair to say the food can be a bit uneven. I've been there 4 or 5 times over the last 8 or 9 years and some meals have been more successful than others, but other than the truly dreadful pork loin on the last trip, it's usually been reliable.

                              1. re: hankstramm

                                Would I generally find someone making barbacoa de borrego at all the main markets? Is it then feasible to just take the meat and tortillas and find a table nearby, or do people just buy and take home?

                                Ever since I sampled this iconic dish in the area near Amecameca, more than 20 years ago, it has been on my "foods that haunt me" list.

                                Any other sources that might be more dependable than La Capilla?

                                1. re: erica

                                  In almost all the markets, you'll find a barbacoa stand. I prefer to eat it there (although they aren't the cleanest places). I really like the consomme they serve and what they call panza--which is a stuffed stomach with the organs--sounds gross, but it's usually the best part.

                                  1. re: hankstramm

                                    Is it easy to find barbacoa de borrego?

                                    What is the procedure after buying? Do you buy the tortillas at that stand, or do they give them to you with an oder of meat? What about condiments (sauces, herbs, lime, etc) ? Do some of the stands have adjacent tables?
                                    It's been a long time, as you can tell from my questions.

                                    Thanks for your help!

                                    1. re: erica

                                      If the market stall from which you're purchasing is a fonda, chances are good that it will have a table or two and condiments and what you're served will come with tortillas. The 20 de Noviembre market has an entire building comprised of food stalls. I don't remember seeing a barbacoa stall, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were several of them.

                                      If you're buying directly from a vendor selling only barbacoa, chances are you'll have to go the DIY route and find all the accompanying items and a place to sit.

                                      Market sanitation varies from market to market and vendor to vendor. Since you're on a quest, just be sure you're clear with yourself what your thresholds are for market dining so you don't get seduced into trying something you may regret later. In general, I think the market stalls at the Etla, Ocotlan, 20 de Noviembre and Abastos markets are pretty good from a food safety standpoint. The sanitation at Tlacolula has improved greatly over the last 5 years but I still think you need to use a little care when choosing a market stall there.

                                      Just go and have a good time. Ask around about where you can find good barbacoa de borrego and you'll probably end up with more suggestions than you can try in one visit.

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        20 November has a hall with one wall being wood fires of different stalls, and seating areas for each across the room. You typically get slabs of arrachera, knife and fork, a pile of tortillas, and some veg. You will be sitting on coke cartons and the like. This is some of the best eating I've had in my life. Warning: this was about 7 or 8 years ago, not sure if still current.

                                      2. re: erica

                                        We used to eat barbacoa de borrego on the corner of Calle Aldama and Alianza, Colonia Jalatlaco, Oaxaca. The family who made it did it only Sunday mornings. It's close to the Hotel Casa Arnel. It was pretty good barbacoa, though I wouldn't make a special trip out of my way to have it.

                                        Another good plate of barbacoa was at a stand at the Friday tianguis in Parque Júarez (El Llano.)

                                        But the best barbacoa I've had was not in Oaxaca, but at Grutas de Tolantongo, Estado de Hidalgo, early on a Sunday morning. The consomé alone was fantastic. I admit that the scenic view, the outdoor setting, and seeing the pit uncovered lent a lot to the experience.

                                        1. re: Anonimo

                                          Hidalgo is famous for their barbacoa. Personally, I find much better barbacoa (than Oaxaca, not Hidalgo) in Estado de Mexico. Tlalnepantla and environs.

                                          1. re: hankstramm

                                            I certainly had great barbacoa de borrego in Amecameca. (estado de Mexico)

                                            So great, in fact, that I would return there solely to savor it again.

                                            I am probably on the wrong track even looking for this in Oaxaca, but I will give it a try and certainly report back. In addition to the recs on this thread, I will ask around once I arrive and see what turns up.

                                            1. re: erica

                                              Oaxaca is not shabby for barbacoa, it's just not their specialty. I had a wonderful and succulent barbacoa in Teotitlan del Valle several years ago, but it paled in comparison to the moles in the same village. Oaxacan barbacoa may not end up being the nirvana you experienced at Amecameca (cool market there) but it may satisfy what you are jonesying for.

                                              Oaxaca has so much interesting food anyway you may decide to forget about finding barbacoa and focus on what is readily available.

                                              Have a great trip and eat well (which is not hard to do in Oaxaca)

                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                Thanks every so much for all of your help here, DD. You've not heard the last of me..I will return to ask for help closer to my date of travel, when I begin to compile the list of restaurants to sample..hoping to be there in February.

                              2. re: erica

                                The best BBQ I have had is the grilled BBQ chicken in Llano park's market on Fridays only. On the north side of the park, he makes only one product BBQ chickens, oregano or chili, and they are both great. Eat there on benches or take home.

                            2. From blog post about salads in Oaxaca:

                              Gorgeous greens, so incredibly fresh they taste as though the kitchen just harvested them from a rooftop garden.

                              Not the stereotypical first food post from Oaxaca, but the salads in this capital of respectful fusion of ancient cooking traditions and contemporary presentations are that good. Long-gone are the days when traveling Americans need feel constrained in vegetable consumption, and Oaxaca is about more than mole.

                              Among the salads we have sampled recently are:
                              •Mounds of fresh watercress – berros - with pears, Roquefort and honey and another one with roasted nopales, asparagus and smoky quesillo at La Biznaga
                              •Spinach salad with a round of goat cheese and crispy adornment at Los Danzantes
                              •An organic salad with strawberries and crispy strips of sweet potatoes and one layering fresh nopales and roasted baby kale topped with luscious enormous shrimp covered with chapulines, toasted grasshoppers – a Oaxacaan delicacy – at La Olla
                              •Spinach salad topped with pomegranate seeds and a stone-ground mustard vinaigrette at El Morocco Café
                              •An abundance of arugula and pears at Mexita

                              Have posted photos of most of these salads at http://postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpr....

                              From blog about Los Danzantes:

                              Only taking you out to one place to eat today because it was one of our favorites on our last trip and remains so. We keep returning, but not for the same dish.

                              Everything is well executed and beautifully presented, and there are so many things on the menu at Los Danzantes still beckoning us to try. Even something as small as complimentary jamaica (hibiscus) and crumbly cheese tostadas presented to us the other day are perfect. The deep red, richly flavored chilpachole, a soup stocked with crab, fish and vegetables should not be skipped, and chile ancho relleno filled with huitlacoche (large kernels of mushroom-like corn mold) atop a puree of roasted platanos and coconut with goat cheese, chapulines (more in a coming post) and caramelized piloncillo (unrefined sugar) is memorable.

                              Not surprisingly, we encountered some of the country’s best-known chefs slipping into Los Danzantes during the midst of and celebrating at the end of the recent Festival Gastronomico El Saber del Sabor.

                              To see food photos related to this post, please visit my blog at http://postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpr....

                              Will be back soon with more updates…..

                              1. Thought you might be interested in insects on the tables in Oaxaca. This is from a recent post on my blog:

                                Given the way grasshoppers can leap, wonder how anyone catches all the mounds of grasshoppers, chapulines, the vendors offer for sale in the markets of Oaxaca.

                                Debbie Hadley points out on about.com:

                                "If you’ve ever tried to catch a grasshopper, you know how far they can jump to flee danger. If humans could jump the way grasshoppers do, we would easily leap the length of a football field or more. How do they jump so far? It’s all in those big, back legs. A grasshopper’s hind legs function like miniature catapults. When it wants to jump, the grasshopper contracts its large flexor muscles slowly, bending its hind legs at the knee joint. A special piece of cuticle within the knee acts as a spring, storing up all that potential energy. When the grasshopper is ready to jump, it relaxes the leg muscles, allowing the spring to release its energy and catapulting its body into the air."

                                Plus, they can fly.

                                Since ancient times, people in the hills and valleys of Oaxaca have consumed insects of various kinds. They are a widely available source of protein.

                                Grasshoppers, small locusts, can do an incredible amount of damage, the sort of damage resembling the plagues of the Bible. If a grasshopper consumes half its body weight in plants everyday, imagine what swarms can do, the kind of swarms that blocked out the sun in parts of the Midwest during 1931.

                                In the United States, 2010 was a worry-some year once again in the Midwest. But farmers have a superhero helping them fight such invasions. Charles L. Brown is the American czar of grasshoppers, the national policy manager for Grasshopper Control for the United States Department of Agriculture. And among his arsenal of weapons is metarhizium acridum, a mycoinsecticide. This is regarded as a form of “natural” control using entomopathogenic fungi to invade the grasshoppers bodies, take them over and kill them.

                                Sounds like your worst nightmare, body-invasion-type of horror film to me. Attack of the Fungi.

                                Makes the Mexican solution much more palatable as an intelligent form of insect control, perfect for organic gardeners everywhere.

                                Suppose all of those grasshoppers in the marketplace had been left to hop wherever they wanted, ravaging crops along the way? Instead they are being eaten. After being toasted on a comal with chiles and garlic and seasoned with salt and lime, the crunchy treats can be gobbled up by the handful like popcorn or wrapped in tortillas.

                                Although I never cared much for the greasy version offered in bars to accompany mezcal, I’m totally open to consumption in more upscale eateries. The enormous shrimp atop a nopal and roasted kale salad at La Olla were crawling with them, and they swarmed the ancho chile relleno at Los Danzantes.

                                And, true confession, we’ve consumed more insects than just grasshoppers. The Mister’s plate at El Origen was sprinkled with tasty ground black ants, chicatanas.

                                Oh, and you remember the nasty squirmy-looking worm in the bad bottles of rot-gut mezcal people used to bring home from Mexico as more of a joke? Well, he’s come out of the bottle and onto plates as well. A maguey worm, gusano del maguey, is actually a caterpillar that feeds on the heart of maguey, or agave, plants before emerging as an Aegiale hesperiaris butterfly. The more common red worms, chinicuiles, larvae of a moth that inhabit agave, are ground up with salt and chile to accompany a glass of mezcal, which has gone upscale as well.


                                To view more photos, hop on over to the original post at http://postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpr....

                                1. Still eating our way through Oaxacan restaurants. This is from a recent blog post about La Biznaga:

                                  La Biznaga was our favorite place to head to for meals five years ago, and it remains so on this visit. Comfortably casual, contemporary Mexican cuisine.

                                  No matter what our food moods are, the menu has something on it to fit. Salads are stunning (see this earlier post); soups are interesting and flavorful. Menu del dia offerings are generous, and now the kitchen even makes smaller dishes from the “deli” available to order in the restaurant.

                                  If that were not enough, we think La Biznaga hands-down makes the best margarita in town – tart, deep and potent. And we’ve sampled many.

                                  To see more photos from La Biznaga, please visit by blog: http://postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpr....

                                  1. We almost skipped Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante this trip. Don’t. Five years ago, we found it a little boring and stuffy compared to newer places. But the rooftop setting is spectacular; the service standards are resort-like; the stuffiness has evaporated; and the overall experience transcends any minor quibbles.

                                    The salsa is made tableside to customize the heat, and the crumbly cheese tostada arriving with it was a perfect accompaniment. Our two salads (read more about Oaxacan salads here) came with diverse cheeses and interesting fresh ingredients. They were, however, horribly over-dressed; definitely ask for the dressing on the side.

                                    Casa Oaxaca’s shrimp tostada was mounded high. The turkey mole was a rather straightforward, traditional presentation – good but not over-the-top memorable. There are more inventive sounding, and more expensive, entrees available. Go for an extremely pleasant, worth-lingering-over experience.

                                    Things the kitchen turned out in the tiny inner courtyards of Origen amazed me. Cold dollops of beet granita contrasted well with roasted beets and pillowy mounds of foamed goat cheese in one salad. An interesting mixture of celery leaves, squash blossoms and purslane actually grabbed more attention then the tender pulpo topping it. A grilled romaine salad was overpowered a bit by the rich sauce, but every bit disappeared. More lima beans in it next time, please.

                                    A poached egg was perched in a soup bowl before the toasted garbanzo soup was ladled atop it. Another cooling granita, this one with hints of rose, topped a shrimp and fish ceviche. Medallions of smoky pork had been wrapped with lean bacon and hoja santa leaves before a mole colorado was added. Oh, and the the flavors of a huitlacoche risotto ringed with foam were incredibly good. Go to Origen at least twice.

                                    Buen provecho!

                                    To view more photos from meals at this restaurants, please visit my blog: http://postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpr...

                                    1. We'll be in Oaxaca Oct 27-Nov 2nd and I'm so thankful for this thread. I have a few questions about the restaurants mentioned. Is the midday meal when people are going to these places or later? If later, what time? Also, do we need to make reservations at any of these places? I'm trying not to over-plan this trip. Thanks!

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: adomatic

                                        The main meal (called comida) in Oaxaca is eaten around 2-4 pm roughly. Many restaurants are open from roughly that time until 8-10pm. Many places, like Origen, Danzantes and Casa Oaxaca would warrant a reservation around the normal comida hora.

                                        Have fun, be adventurous, but be careful. I've been visiting Oaxaca for 20 years or so, and more often than not, people get ill from the food/water.

                                        1. re: hankstramm

                                          Thanks for the help. What do folks eat in the evening? Does being careful mean avoiding salads and ice in all restaurants? The food there sound so amazing!

                                          1. re: adomatic

                                            In Mexico, supper is called 'cena' and is generally eaten anywhere between 9PM and midnight. If you're going to a special cena--for example, a cena-baile (dinner dance), the meal will be similar to what's normally eaten at comida (the afternoon main meal of the day). If you're having cena at home, it might be a taco or two of leftover something-or-other from comida, or a couple of tacos of frijolitos refritos, or something as simple as a pan dulce and a hot chocolate. It's a very small meal. OR--if you want to hit the street for something to eat for cena, tacos at a taco stand are wonderful! A couple of tacos (or more) and a soft drink or beer are just the ticket.

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

                                          2. re: hankstramm

                                            Unlike hankstramm, I've only been visiting Oaxaca regularly for the last 11 years :-)...and I've never...ever...gotten sick eating in Oaxaca or the surrounding towns and villages, including the markets.

                                            I agree with the have fun and be adventurous, but don't stress out about thinking you'll get sick from what you eat. If you use good common sense (i.e. along the lines of hot foods hot, cold foods cold, clean surroundings, busy puesto, etc) and wash your hands you can avoid a large portion of the germs out there.

                                            In the last 14 months I've sent several friends and their significant others to Oaxaca. They've all eaten well, explored and had fun, none of them got sick.

                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                              Lucky for you DiningDiva, this hasn't been the experience for many people--my wife worked at the Oaxacan Ministry of tourism and worked with people visiting. She encountered more people getting sick, that she just assumed people from abroad got sick for the first few days when the visited Oaxaca--she herself didn't and still won't eat in a market.

                                              Most of my Oaxacan family and friends don't eat anywhere outside of very sanitary restaurants. Most wouldn't even step in to a market stand and eat. After having severe food poisoning which is VERY VERY common in Oaxaca, most don't return to the eat at markets. Please ask Oaxacans when you are there, if they don't warn you, the next tlayuda is on me.

                                              I have a pretty iron gut and I've been sick 2-3 times (and I'm talking high fever sick from food poisoning). My mom ended up having to take Cipro for what the doctors diagnosed as e coli, she was ill for roughly 1 week. Again she's an older woman, but we don't know who we're telling here it's safe to eat in Oaxaca.

                                              I've seen similar things happen to tourists and locals just the same. Amebasis (amoebic poisoning), parasites (worms that you have to take severe chemicals to get rid of), E-coli, salmonella, guardia not to mention general non-descript

                                              You can not be cavalier and tell people not to worry about severe food poisoning when visiting Oaxaca. You need to be very careful. Health code is severely substandard as are farming practices (as are becoming more common in the US) which require all vegetables to be soaked in an Iodine solution prior to eating--that cilantro sprinkled on your taco can give you salmonella, ecoli etc.

                                              Nearly every family (that can afford to) in Mexico sanitizes their produce in a solution before eating anything uncooked. The stand you buy your taco might be well meaning and very popular, but the farmer that uses aguas negras to irrigate/fertilize his cilantro crop might have you in the hospital with e-coli. And that's no joke.

                                              1. re: hankstramm

                                                HS, either I've been very, very lucky, or you and your family have been very, very unlucky. I don't think it's a given that eating in Oaxaca will lead to food borne illnesses. Certainly, the risk exists, but it's not a given.

                                                I am not a novice to traveling and eating in Mexico and strongly suspect that over the years I've eaten enough throughout the country to the point where Mexican bacteria and flora has taken up permanent residency in my gut ;-). I've also been in the food industry for 35+ years and have been Serve Safe certified to the train the trainer level, so I am acutely aware of food safety and sanitation. And, yes, many of the restaurants and puestos in Mexico do leave a lot to be desired with regard to food safety and sanitation. That said, the one of the cleanest, and best run restaurant kitchens I've ever been in or toured was at Las Mañanitas in Cuernavaca. IIRC, the property was German owned at that time and the exec. chef German. The precision and attention to detail for which the Germans are known was certainly evident!. I am also well aware of Microdyne and have even used it myself. Did you know that a dilute Clorox solution will accomplish the same thing?

                                                My objection to your comment was the blanket statement that, essentially, reads that if you eat food or drink water in Oaxaca, you'll get sick. The risk is, of course, always there, but it is not a given that visitors will get sick. Some of the other factors that need to be considered include:

                                                * Oaxaca (and much of Mexico) is at elevation and often that elevation is higher than the highest points in the U.S. The body needs a day or 2 to adjust. Eating too much or drinking too much before the body has fully adjusted causes problems.

                                                * The fruit in Mexico is usually dead-ripe because it's usually allowed to stay on the tree, vine, stem longer than in the U.S. Because it tastes really good and is really sweet, travelers sometimes tend to over indulge and the body can't deal with what the ripe fruit does to it. Moderation on the fruit intake over the first few days does help to prevent annoying problems.

                                                * The mezcal in Oaxaca can be a revelation to many, as can the cheap, and drinkable, beer. Both tend to dehydrate the body and cause problems.

                                                * Washing hands or using a portable hand sanitizer can also greatly reduce the opportunity for harmful bacteria to be introduced into the body.

                                                That said, any traveler needs to exercise good common sense. Market dining is not for the faint of heart and a good dose of discernment is needed. The first time I visited Tlacolula (10 years ago?) I was appalled, and other than some bakery items, it was pretty clear - even to an untrained eye - that eating there would be a pretty risky proposition. My last visit to the Sunday Tlacolula market was 3 years and things had improved substantially. I purchased some quesillo that was not only homemade, but delicious. 4 of us ate the 1/2 kilo I'd purchased and not one of us had an issue, and cheese is usually a fairly risky food item for food borne illness, particularly lysteriosis or brucilosis.

                                                I've purchased cut fruit at Ocotlan (and markets in other areas) and never had an issue. The puestos in the market at Etla have generally not caused me, or my traveling companions a problem.

                                                In the market at Metepec a barbacoa vendor stuck a hunk of lamb in my hand attempting to entice me into his stall. I ate the hunk, it was good, nothing happened to me and the 2 women I was with were horrified.

                                                I've eaten tacos from the curb, in markets and even in restaurants all over Mexico, and other than some bad fish tacos in a bar in Loreto 7 or 8 years ago...no problems. Those chile relleno tacos in the Mercado Hidalgo in Veracruz made a darn fine breakfast :-)

                                                I've eaten tamales in remote towns in the hills of Veracruz and standing by the side of the highway in Baja (which really does have better sanitation than most of the rest of Mexico). I've eaten mole all over from tiny towns in Tlaxacala, by the roadside in Michoacan and even in the courtyard of the home of la famosa Abigail Mendoza. Haven't experienced a single problem.

                                                Will I sip an agua fresca through a straw from a plastic bag? Not on a bet. Will I try the cocoa flower beverage (blanking on the name. Tejada?) from the many vendors around Oaxaca? Nope, not on a bet there either.

                                                I would prefer not to do the many buffets around Mexico but one of my prime traveling companions LOVES buffet. He has never gotten sick from one, nor have I (thankfully, and I don't do buffet in the U.S. either).

                                                When traveling, one has to use some common sense. If a food stand doesn't look very clean, doesn't smell good, doesn't have very many customers...why bother. Most of the mainstream restaurants in Oaxaca are just fine, and so are a lot of the smaller ones. Eating can be a risky business anywhere in the world these days, even the U.S. Our food chain is far more at risk than most realize or understand. A blanket statement that if you eat and drink in Oaxaca it will most likely result in getting sick, unduly scares the traveler.

                                                Unfortunately, the CH powers that be generally frown upon extended discussions about how to safely eat in Mexico, so I will stop here :-)

                                                In 2 weeks I'm off to the Tuxtepec and Chinantla regions of Oaxaca. These will be new to me and I'm anxious to see what the food is like. I'll post back whether we survive our meals unscathed or not ;-D

                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                  I too from probably 1993 to about 2006-2007 went without any major issues in Oaxaca other than mild food borne issues. I guess it must have been the flora in my gut. That changed abruptly. Even during that time of my fortunate flora, I was routinely around by people getting sick. Australians, Chilangos, Poblanos, English, Germans, Estado Unidenses etc. Believe me, it wasn't altitude sickness or too much ripe fruit.

                                                  FYI, the Hospital Molina en el Centro near the Museo Rufino Tamayo, is a good place to see a doctor fast with a high fever etc. Costs about $300 NP and they have pretty good doctors. That's where I've gone as well as numerous other people I know visiting Oaxaca.

                                                  BTW, Tlacolula is my market of choice for barbacoa. I always eat at the same stand--a few sisters right at the entrance (I know there's more then one). They always serve some nice mezcal out of a coke 2 litre bottle.

                                                  Listen, I love Oaxaca and spend a month there every summer. I'd really like to say the place is wonderful in all ways and it's just a really safe place to travel, but in many ways it's not. Water purity (especially because of serious shortages in some months) is some of the worst in the whole country. That same water is often used to rinse veggies that end up uncooked in your food.

                                                  Caveat Manger!

                                              2. re: DiningDiva

                                                That said, I still eat in a few market stands, but I avoid most. I have a few places in Oaxaca where I eat tacos (El Fogoncito is a Chilango chain that's very clean and reliably good, but not Oaxacan).

                                                Half my meals I cook, since most Oaxacans are very happy to eat my home cooked Italian, French,Thai and Indian dishes.

                                                1. re: hankstramm

                                                  Just reading through the comments about hankstramm and his talk about the number of people getting sick and I wanted to pony up my comment.
                                                  We have been going to Oaxaca for 8 years for an extended period, and I am talking groups of 4-10 people each year, and can only think of one case when one of us got sick, and that lady was forewarned you don't eat mayo on the elote at a street stand when they pull out the big Costco jar of it, from right under the BBQ.
                                                  We eat in markets, street food, small towns around Oaxaca, small comedors, fancy upscale restaurants, late night tlyuda joints, and we have all been fine. We ask all the time, even in markets if they disinfect with the drops, and invariably they know what we are talking about, and proudly pull they out and show them to us.
                                                  We have noticed too, a big improvement progressively each year, hygiene seems to improve, washrooms seem to improve, and cleanliness, even at Abastos market, which most would agree was not so good years ago, has had a huge facelift, and looks way better kept than years ago.

                                                  All that being said, you still have to be cautious, and we still pack our Cipro. But don't avoid the best eating in all of Mexico because of what "might" happen.
                                                  Happy travels!

                                                2. re: DiningDiva

                                                  I'm with DiningDiva. Sorry Hankstramm is just way, way off base. use common sense. don't drink tap water, eat at decent places, etc etc.

                                                  1. re: Geoff

                                                    OK, I'm way off base. Good luck.

                                              3. re: adomatic

                                                We were there during a low period so did not need reservations anywhere except to reserve the 90-peso lunch special on Wednesdays and Fridays at Los Danzantes. You will be there during prime visitor time, so probably need reservations. Neither of us have been sick in Oaxaca in the past five years or so, and, as you can see from my salad post, we certainly did not avoid them in the nice restaurants.

                                              4. Finally finished our restaurant roundup from our trip to Oaxaca, but mainly through photos: http://postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpr.... The photo here is grilled seafood at Epicuro.

                                                1. Sorry, if I'm just missing it, but realized I never included a link to additional photos from La Biznaga - our favorite place to go to in Oaxaca. Not only is the menu extensive, but they make the best margaritas we found in town. Lunch specials definitely are worth checking out on the blackboard by the sidewalk. The photo below is of mero fish topped with mole. To see more photos go to: http://postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpr...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: postcardsfromsanantonio

                                                    Thanks! Still planning visit to Oaxaca (OAX) in February...so interested in any and all food reports.

                                                    Considering a stop in DF and wondering where to base in upscale hotel near good eating spots (??) (Have spent many months in the city but have not returned in more than 20 years!!)