Tag Archives: dining

More Than 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico–Favorite Restaurants

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.

Budget Oaxaca Restaurant El Gran Gourmet is Fabuloso

Keeps your eyes open, you might miss it!  El Gran Gourmet budget restaurant restaurant is tucked away in a narrow space at Avenida Independencia, No. 1104 in Oaxaca’s Centro Historico.  It’s about four blocks away from the Zocalo past Fiallo beyond the tourist areas (walking towards the Periferico).  Simple, clean, delicious and a bargain!  Who could ask for more?

My local friends eat there and I always like to join them because the food is reasonably priced and delicious.  Yes, you can eat great food in Oaxaca for under $5 USD per person — and that’s a three-course lunch that includes soup or salad, an entree and dessert.  If you want five-courses, it’s a little extra.  The aguas (fresh fruit juices mixed with water) are yummy.  Try the Agua de Sandia or Agua de Melon (watermelon or cantaloupe).   They use purified water and I’ve never gotten “the revenge” here.

Plus, there’s always a daily special.

Here’s the routine:  look at what the daily fare is that is displayed behind the glass serving area.  Choose your first course and entree from among the choices along the buffet.  But it’s not really a buffet, since you tell your waiter what you want to eat and drink.

Entrees can be pozole or enchiladas, or quesadillas, or chicken with mole, depending on the day.  There are rice and black beans.  Usually there is a tasty vegetable, garbanzo or tortilla soup.  Dessert might be flan or rice pudding or jello.  Everyone in Mexico loves jello.  If you don’t, this is a good place to learn how to enjoy this dense, not as sweet dessert treat!

Buen provecho! and be sure to leave a tip.  Ten percent is expected.

El Gran Gourmet, Avenida Independencia, No. 1104, Centro – (68000) Oaxaca de JuárezMéxico, Tel. +52 951 516 7822

Frida Kahlo Food Fest This Weekend at Tortilla Flats, Soquel, California

Mexican food at its finest!

Tomorrow I’m flying to Santa Cruz, California to visit family.  My sister just sent me notice of a grand fiesta in her neighborhood and I intend to check it out and see if I can conjure up the recipes to post.  Maybe between swallows, I’ll be able to take a few photos of the intact dish before starting to gobble, gobble.

California is about as close to Mexico as one can get without crossing the border so I feel justified in including this here!  I can’t wait to get there to sample these incredible dishes.

Notice from Tortilla Flats proprietress Cheryl Marquez:

Frida’s Favorites are back at Tortilla Flats. Starting Thursday and continuing through Sunday the recipes of Frida Kahlo will be featured. Frida’s role as wife to the great muralist Diego Rivera included that of hostess to their many friends and admirers. She loved to prepare meals, the presentation as well as taste were important to her. In accordance with her and Diego’s Marxist beliefs, their meals relied on traditional recipes. Much of her knowledge came from her favorite cookbook Nuevo Cocinero Mejicano the equivalent of this country’s Fanny Farmer or Good Housekeeping. Below is our Menu.

Tortilla Flats is Located at 4616 Soquel Drive in the village of Soquel. Open from 11:30 until closing seven days a week.   Reservations are accepted for parties of six or more only. Directions are available at our website.   Contact us at 831-476-1754


Fresh picked squash blossoms, mushrooms and Oaxaca cheese in handmade crepes with aji limo sauce. (Organic from Yerena Farms)


Beautiful presentation of baked basa and eastern scallops served in scallop shells with lobster saffron cream sauce.


Deep, rich peanut and chipotle mole served with chicken


Tender pork carnitas steamed in a banana leaf, served with achiote pepper sauce


Mexican style meatballs in a spicy chipotle sauce, served with fried plantains and beans.


Literally “tablecloth strainer”. Fragrant with roasted ancho, pasilla and chipotle chiles. It draws it’s sweetness from plantains, raisins, figs, mangoes and pineapple. Served with pork carnitas.


Wild caught salmon served in handmade Spanish smoked paprika crepes with chipotle cream sauce.


Made with fresh corn, New Mexico hatch chile and cheese. Served with Santa Fe green sauce.


Grilled jumbo Prawns with prickley pear lime sauce.


Nopales paddles in fluffy egg batter, pan fried and covered with Oaxaca cheese and poblano sauce.


Carnitas in rich tomatillo sauce with cactus strips.


Fresh, wild caught red snapper pan fried, served with traditional vera cruz tomato, caper sauce.


Pumpkin pie tamale. All the flavors of fresh pumpkin pie served with house made caramel sauce and ice cream.


Tortilla Flats is now on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube!

Become our Fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Soquel-CA/Tortilla-Flats-Restaurant-Santa-Cruz/294521924343

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Oaxaca Gallery-Hopping, Shopping + Dining Expedition with Norma Hawthorne

Oaxaca Gallery-Hopping, Shopping and Dining Expedition with Norma Hawthorne, Wednesday, February 1 to Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Collectors, foodies, shop-a-thon pacesetters and novice wannabees are invited to join me for an all-inclusive adventurous foray into the back streets, alleyways, and dirt paths of indigenous villages and cobbled city streets to discover the best of Oaxaca.

First, we will set out on an urban hiking expedition by foot to explore the fantastic art and crafts galleries of Oaxaca city (bring your most comfy shoes and your largest tote bag).  You’ll see examples of the best textile designs and weaving, contemporary art, ceramics, and folk art.  On another day, we’ll climb into an air-conditioned (this time of year, it’s not really needed) van to go out into the villages of Ocotlan, San Antonino, and San Martin Tilcajete to visit the finest artisans who are exemplars of their craft:  pottery and sculpture, back strap loom weaving, and carved and painted wood figures.  You’ll visit the studio of silversmith Brigitte Huet who uses the lost wax technique to cast extraordinary jewelry.  I’ll take you up the Crespo Hill to an antique gallery that sells outstanding old Mexican jewelry and displays a fine museum collection of the same.

Each day will be punctuated by a great meal — I will take you to a mix of four-star dining rooms and little cafes where food is prepared with love and served fresh by a local chef.  You’ll savor and sample some of Oaxaca’s famed seven moles, dine al fresco, toast life with a fresh mango margarita (or traditional squeezed lime one, if you prefer), and perhaps sprinkle a bit of chapulines on your chicken tamale made with just ground organic corn masa.

We will take a respite in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle where I will introduce you my favorite weavers (including Federico Chavez Sosa) who work only in 100% wool and natural dyes.  You’ll meet another friend who creates large-scale canvases with paint colors made from natural plant materials and beeswax.  There will be plenty of time, too, to go to the Tlacolula regional market or take a side excursion to the archeological site in the weaving village of Mitla where flying shuttle looms whip up fabulous, colorful tablecloths, napkins, bedspreads and curtains.

Hmmm. Have I said enough?  Are you on-board yet?  I promise this will be lots of fun — with enough down time to catch your breath for the next activity.

Arrive Wednesday, February 1, Depart Tuesday, February 7

Wednesday — Check in to our hotel, overnight Oaxaca City

Thursday — Orientation and urban hiking in Oaxaca City (B, L, D), overnight Oaxaca City

Friday — Shopping excursion to Ocotlan and surrounding crafts villages (B, L, D), overnight Oaxaca City

Saturday — Morning free and lunch on your own or optional morning trip to Arrazola or Atzompa, afternoon travel to Teotitlan del Valle and check in to bed and breakfast (B, D), overnight in Teotitlan

Sunday — Excursion to Tlacolula regional market (B, L, D), overnight in Teotitlan

Monday — Meet the weavers and artisans of Teotitlan del Valle who work in natural dyes, final celebratory dinner with show and tell (B, L, D), overnight in Teotitlan

Tuesday — Depart after breakfast (B).

Lodging and Costs:

To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations in Oaxaca City and in Teotitlan del Valle.  In the village you will stay at a woman-operated bed and breakfast inn that is part of the family compound.  Josefina, along with her mother-in-law Magdalena and daughter Eloisa, prepare delicious meals from scratch.  (If you desire luxury travel, please consider a different experience.)

Base Cost: $975 per person double occupancy with shared bath facilities.  Single rooms are available with a single supplement. A limited number of double occupancy rooms with private bath, and single occupancy with private bath are available. Please write down your preference below.

[  ]  Option 1: I will share a room, double occupancy with shared bath, $975 per person.

[  ]  Option 2:  I prefer a single room with shared bath for a total of $1095 per person.

[  ]  Option 3:  I will share a room, double occupancy, with private bath for a total of $1095.

[  ]  Option 4:  I prefer a single room with private bath for a total of $1395.

Option A: Arrive early, on January 31, and take a 5-hour cooking class on February 1 with a famed Oaxaca chef, $225 (includes cooking class, one extra night lodging, breakfast and lunch)

Option B:  Stay a day longer and take a 5-hour cooking class in Teotitlan del Valle with an accomplished Zapotec cooking teacher on February 7, $135 (includes cooking class, one extra night lodging, breakfast and lunch)

Option C: Add on more days in Teotitlan @ $45 per night per person (includes breakfast).

Option D:  Add on more days in Oaxaca city @ $125 per person per night (includes breakfast)

Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

The trip includes most in-country meals and transportation. It does NOT include airfare, taxes, gratuities, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation to and from Oaxaca city.

We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit based on your preferred options is required to guarantee your spot.  The last payment for the balance due (including any more costs) shall be postmarked by December 1, 2011.  Payment may be made by check or PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

Please see our cancellation policy in the “Register Today” section of the home page.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To get your questions answered and to register, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com or call (919) 274-6194

Please make checks payable to Norma Hawthorne, OCN-LLC, and mail it to: Norma Hawthorne, 110 Blue Heron Farm Rd., Pittsboro, NC 27312.  Thank you.

This program is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

Dos Perros, Durham, NC, Mexican Restaurant Oaxaca Rug Decor

Durham, NC is the destination for dining, named among the top 10 locales in the U.S. for great restaurants and urban redesign.  The downtown is renewed, gentrified and electrified.  It is more than charming.  It is full of spunk and sizzle.  Turn the corner, discover another great dining room and bar with kick-A ambience. One of my favorite Durham eateries is Dos Perros–A Mexican Place. I’ve written about their fresh mango cayenne margaritas and tasty, reasonably priced wine list and knock-your-socks-off pozole with chicken and salsa verde.


Federico Chavez Sosa at his loom



Yesterday, I dropped in for a visit with Charlie (owner) and Raul (manager) who selected four fantastic hand-woven and naturally dyed wool rugs made by our friend Federico Chavez Sosa for permanent display on the walls of the restaurant.  The rugs are beautiful and add a cozy, authentic decor to the brick walls of the renovated historic building that houses the dining spot. Federico is thrilled, too.  There have not been as many visitors to Oaxaca since the fear of drug violence has kept Americans and Canadians from traveling south.   So, we are grateful to Charlie and Raul for wanting to support Federico and his family while adding this special ambience to the Dos Perros restaurant decor.