Eating In Mexico’s Culinary Capital

Your guide to food in Oaxaca. | By Lee Ann Wong  
Mexican markets are full of comedores, or food stalls selling grilled meat and other Oaxaqueño delights. Photo: 81 John & Lisa Merrill/Getty Images
Mexican markets are full of comedores, or food stalls selling grilled meat and other Oaxaqueño delights. Photo: 81 John & Lisa Merrill/Getty Images

Known as “the land of seven molés” for its diverse, complex cuisine, Oaxaca has become Mexico’s foremost foodie destination. This region in southwestern Mexico also brims with history, art, and culture. Head to these four top dining spots to capture the spirit and unique charm of Oaxaca.

Mercado 20 De Noviembre

You can find any number of meals in this busy market that takes up an entire city block. It houses numerous comedores (food stalls) offering Oaxaqueño eats for a few pesos. Arrive early for the freshest food of the day. Purchase meat and sausages by the kilo at the meat stalls, select your choice of veggies and chilies, and then have it all grilled for you while you squeeze into a small booth nearby and sip a cold beer.

La Teca

The kitchen for this tiny restaurant located in the quiet Reforma neighbourhood is actually in the home of chef/owner Deyanira Aquino. The restaurant space is small and cheerful, but if the weather is good you can sit in the garden out back—the perfect atmosphere to feast on Señora Aquino’s garnachas (small fried masa cakes traditionally topped with a combination of meat, beans, cheese, salsa,and cabbage), sweet corn tamales, and saucy birria stew served with warm, handmade tortillas.

Casa Oaxaca Restaurante

Chef Alejandro Ruiz creates some of the best modern cuisine in town. The restaurant is an open-air, bi-level space shared with an art gallery next door. Popular dishes include the sampler plate (botana oaxaqueña), jicama and grasshopper tacos, the traditional sopa de guías (squash blossom and corn soup), snapper with tomato marmalade, and tamales with the fragrant hoja santa leaf. During the warmer months, dine on the rooftop with its view of the historic Santo Domingo Church across the street and the busy plaza below.

Tlamanalli

About 30 minutes from central Oaxaca, the small town of Teotitlán del Valle is well-known for its traditional Mexican weavings. In a Spanish colonial–style building along the main road toward the center of town, the Mendoza sisters cook classic Zapotec cuisine. The ornately tiled open kitchen is a sight to behold with the sisters dressed in multi-hued Zapotec clothing. Order the sopa de flor de alabaza (squash blossom soup), the mole negro, and the daily cazuela (a one-pot stew or soup).

Appeared in the January 2014 issue as “Oaxaca Hotspots”.

Mezcal Festival

Every year the Feria del Mezcal (Mescal Festival) offers visitors an opportunity to taste this heady local liquor. Distillers from around the country showcase the varieties of mezcal in Oaxaca city’s El Llano Park. There are also informative lectures and, in 2013, a mockup functioning distillery was set up. The festival is part of the larger Guelaguetza festival an annual event of indigenous folk music and dance.

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