Oaxaca’s food and drink culture is globally renowned. From smoky artisanal mezcal, to pre-hispanic mole, there is no shortage of delicious and unique culinary offerings. While there are several fine dining options, food carts and market stalls can satisfy just as much. I recommend following your nose and your intuition to seek out the food that intrigues you, but here are a few of my faves:
BEST FINE DINING
*reservations required or recommended for all.
Casa Oaxaca - Perhaps the most consistently delicious fine dining experience in the city, Casa Oaxaca offers original interpretations of traditional dishes. The rooftop tables offer a to die for view, the service is excellent (which is somewhat of a novelty in Oaxaca), and the mezcal cocktails are among the best in the city.
Origen - Chef Rodolfo Castellanos is one of the hottest up-and-coming chefs in Oaxaca, if not Mexico (he won Top Chef Mexico in 2016), and the menu leaves no question as to why. Every dish honors the Oaxacan culinary tradition, while somehow expressing something undeniably new, with flavors that consistently surprise and impress. Origen creates its menu around what’s seasonal and works with the best local purveyors, creating a sort of farm-to-table experience.
Danzantes - Danzantes might be a tiny notch below the others mentioned here in terms of consistent excellence, but it makes the list because it offers an extremely enjoyable dining experience. The stunning space, great menu, and value for the quality and service, make it well worth the visit.
Criollo - Criollo offers a tasting menu-only experience created by renowned chef Enrique Olvera (of Pujol and Cosme fame). The chef's choice seven-course meal features traditional Oaxaca ingredients and dishes, made with superb technique and plated to perfection. Some might say the traditional nature of the menu lacks in imagination (that someone would be me). There is nothing particularly exciting about these dishes if you're familiar with Oaxacan food, and you might be left wondering why you didn't just buy a tamale in the market, or a mango with chili and lime on the street. However, the space is gorgeous, the service excellent and if you’re any type of serious foodie, you'll want to form your own opinion.
Pitiona - Pitiona is perhaps the only place in Oaxaca that explores molecular gastronomy. If you want to enjoy Oaxacan ingredients in a futuristic fashion, this is a spot you cannot miss.
El Destilado - A contemporary take on Oaxacan cuisine, the chefs hail from the US but have mastered the local ingredients. The tasting menu is highly recommended.
Lunch @ Origen
Boulenc - Hands down the best bakery in the city, Boulenc also offers excellent brunch options. Enjoy an espresso drink and fresh baked pastries to start, and then share an avocado toast and a shakshuka with a friend, for the best of both worlds.
Chepiche - A gem in the heart of Xochimilco, the menu perfectly reflect the Oaxacan-US husband and wife team who created it. From classic dishes, to internationally inspired plates, this is a great way to start your day.
Ancestral - Also located in Xochimilco, Ancestral has a spacious garden patio that feels worlds away from the bustling city. They offer excellent traditional Oaxacan breakfast dishes like chilaquiles and huevos divorciados.
Fonda Rosita @ Merced Market - One of my favorite chilaquiles in town, this market stall serves ‘em up tasty AF and bubbling hot. You probably can’t eat the entire serving.
Casa Oaxaca Cafe - A great option for Sunday brunch (a day when most restaurants in the city shut down), the sister cafe of the Casa Oaxaca restaurant is located in the Reforma neighborhood, and is well worth the trip. Lots of great breakfast options in a lovely space.
Itanoní - Perhaps the most ardent user of heirloom corn, every kernel is ground in-house and the taste of each tortilla or memela proves it. Inexpensive, traditional Oaxacan street food, made the old-world way. I’d call this more of a lunch spot, but it’s only open 7AM - 4 PM, and it does serve eggs, so I’ve included it here.
Brunch @ Chepiche
BEST CASUAL LUNCH OR DINNER
La Popular - A favorite for locals and visitors alike, La Popular lives up to its name. Owned by the unofficial governor of the city, “El Gober,” who makes everyone feel welcome, La Popular feels like the “Cheers” of Oaxaca. Expect to be crammed into shared tables and to have to yell over others at night. But with the excellent and affordable menu, local art-lined walls, and convivial atmosphere, this is the best spot for for a bite, a mezcal, and a michelada, any time of day or night.
Biznaga - Biznaga's beautiful patio, strong margaritas, and an extensive and affordable menu make this a popular option. I prefer the starters, soups and salads to the main dishes, which can feel quite heavy. The service is infamously poor, but somehow I keep coming back. They also offer a good comida corrida (set lunch menu) for a reasonable price.
Cabuche - Created by one of the former partners of Biznaga, this perfect lunch spot is located near the Zocalo. Excellent posole and taco options.
Boulenc - Boulenc makes the list again for its excellent wood-fired pizza available after 2PM, and until 11 PM on weekend nights.
La Teca - The Istmo (or isthmus) region of Oaxaca has its own distinct and vibrant culture, including its cuisine, and La Teca is a great example of this. Enjoy excellent garnachas and estofada in an intimate tucked-away garden.
Posole @ Cabuche
Brujula - With several locations, excellent house-roasted coffee and passable Wifi, Brujula is Oaxaca’s most popular spot to grab good, strong coffee.
Jaguar Yuu - Great organic coffee options, in a modern space with good breakfast dishes to round out the experience.
Nuevo Mundo - Another house-roaster with good coffee and coffee-house vibes.
Coyote Maestro Tostador - For the true coffee aficionado, Coyote offers a range of beans and roasts. A small space, Coyote is best for a tasting and buying fresh-ground beans to make at home, as opposed to staying to work or chat.
Coffee @ Boulenc
BEST MEZCAL BARS
Mezcaloteca - Mezcaloteca offers perhaps the most respected original Oaxacan mezcal tasting. This is the first recommendation for someone who wants a thorough and high quality educational experience.
Mezcalería Los Amantes - The tiny tasting room of the Amantes mezcal brand is located across the street from their hotel, just in front of Santo Domingo. It’s absolutely beautiful, with Oaxacan antique mezcal bottles, art and other aesthetically-pleasing tchotskies. On mosts nights you’ll be serenaded classic Mexican ballads by the dearly beloved Don Zenón.
Archivo Maguey - A great selection of mezcales in a beautiful space, with a unique mezcal tasting experience that relies on your own senses, as opposed to sitting through a mezcal lecture.
In Situ - A small straightforward mezcal bar with tons of high quality variations to try. The owner Ulises is a renowned local mezcal expert, but the service is hit or miss. Perhaps a better place to go if you want to try great mezcales, as opposed to learning about them.
Mezcalería Cuish - The tasting room of the locals-favorite Cuish brand of mezcal. They have a large selection of wild agave mezcales, which have distinct flavor profiles. Cuish has a chill atmosphere and is a great place to buy a bottle or three.
(Pro tip: You’re allowed five liters of alcohol per person when flying between the US and Mexico. The bottles have to be sealed (plastic around the lid). Anything over this amount has to be declared and taxed by customs.
For full disclosure, Oaxaca isn’t really known for its thriving nightlife. However, these are the best spot for a little late-night action:
Archivo Maguey - A great spot for cumbia, often featuring live bands and DJs, Archivo Maguey tends to have a great crowd and energy on weekend nights. Wander upstairs and you might find the “secret” room where the music gets a bit more electronic, the air gets smokier, and the party gets a bit wilder.
Txalaparta - I’m decidedly not a fan of this sprawling complex of a bar, but it is probably the best spot if you’re looking for a party, or to meet people. It has a ton of different spaces and vibes spread out on two levels. On a given night you’re likely to have an OK cocktail in the fancy bar in front, catch a jug band in the main room downstairs, sip a romantic mezcal in one of the small sides rooms, and/or dance to Biggie on the rooftop patio.
Sabina Sabe - A more mature option, this beautiful, intimate bar, has excellent cocktail options, and it can get a bit raucous from time to time. However, with great food offerings, it makes for a better date-night or drinks with friends, than for a party spot.
Candela - Beloved in Oaxaca, partially because it's owned by local legend Don Chalo, this beautiful old colonial home is THE salsa bar in town. An excellent live band on the weekends, you can dance salsa and cumbia, or just take in the serious dancers doing their thing.
Aloha Oaxaca - A totally charming tiki bar that has recently popped up in town, it offers a perfect tiki vibe including a thatched roof and seriously good [albeit sugary] cocktails, with all the juices made fresh in-house.
La Popular - A favorite watering hole to start the night, with affordable-priced mezcal and boisterous crowd.
COMING SOON Creciente - As of writing this, Creciente will be a premier electronic club created by a local tastemaker known for high quality events and parties. It should open in April 2019, we have high hopes.
Did you miss Part 1: Planning your Trip & Where to Stay?
Questions or suggestions? Please let me know in the comments!