The list that I sent to Freda Moon, The New York Times travel writer who created the feature 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico, included some of my favorite places to eat in two categories: 1) Where to eat that won’t break your budget, and 2) The GaGa Dining Experience.
Where to Eat That Won’t Break Your Budget
El Gran Gourmet, Av. Independencia #1104, between Juarez and Pino Suarez, clean, quick, delicious local food joint, 3-4 course lunch about 50-60 pesos, including beverage. This doesn’t look like much from the street, but believe me, the food is delicious and a definite bargain. If you are watching your pesos, this is the place! Can’t find it in any guidebook. Where my pals from the Museo Textil de Oaxaca eat lunch.
Casa del Tio Guero, 55 pesos for a fixed-price, 3-course lunch. Offers vegetarian, typical Oaxaqueña comida (lunch), sandwiches. Av. Garcia Virgil #715, continue uphill 2-3 blocks past the corner of Av.Jose Carranza. Tel. 951-516-9584; known for Puebla’s quintessential treat–chiles en nogada (available as vegetarian). Incredible flan. Great folk art plasters the walls. Lots of visuals to keep you occupied.
Café Los Cuiles — Cafe with a Conscience! Av. Abasolo between Alcala and 5 de Mayo, across from the outdoor artisan market. Plazuela La Bastida #115. Ex-pat heaven with locals who love it, too! Comfy little spot with great omelets, waffles, and traditional Mexican fare, free Wi-Fi, which means that sometimes it’s difficult to find a table. 50-80 pesos. Office away from home.
La Zandunga, Av. Garcia Virgil at the corner of Jesus Carranza, cater-corner to La Biznaga, traditional Isthmus of Tehuantepec cooking, delicious mole negro, tamales steamed in banana leaves, moderate $$ 80-120 pesos; maybe 10 tables; extensive mescal tasting assortment; Aurora Toledo owner is from Juchitan. Telephone: 951/516-2265
Terranova on the Zocalo, outdoor café, moderately priced. Excellent tortas made with whole grain rolls and great people-watching. There are many restaurants that ring the Zocalo where you can dine alfresco. I particularly like the Micheladas here — made with spicy tomato and lime juice and beer of your choice.
Where to Eat for the GaGa Oaxaca Dining Experience
Pitiona—Cocina de Autor, NEW Calle 5 de Mayo #311, (951) 514-4707, across from swank Camino Real Hotel. Try the sea bass with ginger crystallized sugar, red chard, spinach, salsa Amarillo and fresh blue corn tortillas. When I had dinner here soon after they opened, the wait staff was warm and friendly, and the culinary masters of the kitchen loved having their picture taken!
Los Danzantes: Even though The New York Times mentioned Los Danzantes in their 2007 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico feature, the restaurant has staying power. The food is still extraordinary. The coconut shrimp I had recently was over the top, adorned with “tuna,” the fruit of the agave cactus, peeled pink grapefruit and orange sections, and cucumber, topped with a pineapple salsa with candied ginger and red pepper flakes. Macedonio Alcala#403 Interior Courtyard #4. Telephone: (951) 501-1184, (951) 501-1187. Enter next to El Oro de Monte Alban. Also, they distill their own mescal. Muy rico!
La Biznaga, Ave. Gargia Virgil, #512, between Allende and J. Carranza, eclectic atmosphere with open sky dining and great recorded jazz on a good sound system, innovative food preparation and presentation. Try the black bean soup and anything with squash blossoms. I especially love the salmon salad and trust the lettuce-washing here. Quintessential SLOW FOOD, which says more about how quickly it comes out of the kitchen than its origins. The red Malbec wine from Argentina is especially delicious. You can dine here for between $7-25 USD, depending upon your menu choices.
Please feel free to add your own recommendations for your favorite eating spots in Oaxaca in the comments section.