Crave readers travel with verve and you never know where one of our readers might pop up. We are traveling with you and are creating some simple guides to the best hotels (all budgets) and restaurants (again, we span the budgetary lines).
Today we visit Oaxaca. Oaxacan food is no secret. Even if you’ve never been to Mexico, you’ve probably heard that the food in Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka) represents some of the very best in traditional Mexican cuisine. Like Puebla, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Merida, Oaxaca is one of the top food destinations in Mexico.
Together with the gastronomic meal of the French, traditional Mexican cuisine was the first to receive UNESCO culinary heritage status in 2010. What that means is that the culinary traditions of Mexican cuisine are worthy of preservation.
Mexican food is excellent throughout the country, but considering its reputation as the foodie capital of Mexico, I can’t help but think that the food in Oaxaca had a lot to do with that.
Oaxacan dishes like mole, tlayuda, and memela are among the many delicious reasons why food-obsessed travelers flock to Oaxaca City every year. If you’re one of those people and planning your first trip to Oaxaca, then you need to weave these traditional dishes into your food itinerary.
Where to Dine
This cart has been a staple for more than 25 years on the corner of Jardin Conzatti, where it prepares puffy, loaded tortas in every combination you can imagine: quesillo, picadillo, pork milanese, tasajo, ham and pineapple, plus breakfast versions with egg and chorizo. The pickled peppers and fresh vegetables put each sandwich over the top. Grab an agua fresca and find a spot at the nearby park to enjoy it. Cheap Eats.
Tacos De Comal Plaza Del Carmen
This is one of the most famous street stands in all of Oaxaca City and a perennial favorite among local chefs and cooks. The family-run operation cooks up unparalleled versions of empanadas de amarillo (big corn quesadillas filled with tomato and chicken stew) and tacos de chile relleno, among other cooked-to-order bites. Start your morning with traditional tacos and empanadas prepared with fresh corn dough and cooked on the Oaxacan clay comal (large pan) while the chorizo cooks beneath. Cheap Eats.
Jesús Carranza 110, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000
This Oaxacan coffee mini-chain started in 2006, with the goal of working exclusively and directly with small, local coffee producers around the region of Pluma Hidalgo near the coastal town of Puerto Escondido. So far, the founders have not only kept their promise, but their business has thrived while doing so, expanding to five locations throughout Oaxaca City. Aside from excellent coffee, Brújula carries what might be the city’s best sugar cookies. Or skip the coffee altogether and try the Pepe Limón, a fresh lime juice smoothie, or anything else from the large roster of drinks and pastries. Cheap Eats.
Almú is a hidden smoke kitchen near Cerro María Sánchez, the sacred mountain in the Ocotlán district of Oaxaca, about 40 mins away from the city center. Located inside a copal tree reservoir, Almú serves homemade food prepared daily by cooks from the region, including delicious tortillas, quesadillas, and empanadas from the comal; black mole with rice and chicken; grilled veggies with quesillo that are melted under the comal; and the most delicious salsa de carne frita (pork ribs fried with a lot of garlic, and served with tomatillo sauce and frijoles de la olla). Medium Price.
The chef at Origen, Rodolfo Castellanos, might be a bona fide celebrity for his win on Top Chef Mexico, but you’ll still find him here at his restaurant almost every day. If you’re lucky, you may also spot Castellanos’s mom, Eve Fuensanta, stirring the giant black or red mole pots on the floor of the prep kitchen, as she does a couple of times each month. Rodolfo learned the trade from her, and you can taste the heritage in some of the specialty dishes like the chichilo mole with beef tongue — the dish that won him the title of Top Chef México. Bring the Pesos.
This place is a Oaxaca classic. Fresh salsa mixed tableside and warm Mexican hospitality are the trademarks of this critically acclaimed restaurant from chef Alejandro Ruiz, who celebrates the traditional flavors, recipes, and heritage of his home state with a menu that soars from start to finish. Find mole negro, coloradito, and manchamanteles (three of Oaxaca’s most iconic dishes) cooked from scratch with ingredients sourced from eight of Oaxaca’s own distinct culinary regions. Make sure you try their mezcal cocktails, also known as Mezcalinis. Bring the Pesos.
More mezcal library than bar, Mezcaloteca offers curated tastings hosted by in-the-field experts, who guide guests through the rarest and most representative expressions of Mexico’s most beloved spirit. Reservations are a must, and a prix fixe tasting, which includes samples of three different mezcals, is a perfect introduction to the spirit — as well as a great warm-up to dinner. Mild Pricing.
We selected a few very nice boutique hotels that are beautiful and cozy with a spectrum of prices.
Escape from the center of Oaxaca and check into the Hotel Hacienda Los Laureles. It’s only a few minutes from the city center but sits pretty on an expansive plot of land with lush gardens and views of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountain range. The building itself is an 18th-century colonial-style hacienda. Each of the 23 rooms and suites is spacious and has wooden and wrought-iron elements, while the common areas feature antiques and colorful alebrijes. About $50/night
Quinta Real Oaxaca, a boutique hotel that occupies a prime location in the heart of the city, just one block from the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán. Once a 16th-century convent, it’s now a luxury boutique hotel with an outdoor pool, a sun terrace and a mini gym. The corridor walls retain ancient frescoes from its former life. Choose a room with views over the interior garden and courtyard. About $250/night
In the heart of the historic center, this 18th-century mansion has 21 comfortable rooms and suites centered around an open-air patio with semicircular stone arches. It also houses an onsite gym and a restaurant, but the ultimate treasure is the rooftop swimming pool and solarium, where you can take in sweeping views of the city and surrounding Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains. About $100/night
Seven blocks from the main square, or Zócalo, and even closer to other city attractions, such as the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Marialicia Suites has 10 spacious rooms designed for convenience. Many of the modern suites have kitchenettes, living rooms and private terraces, and some even have multiple bedrooms or floors. After a full day exploring the vibrant streets of Oaxaca, relax in the peaceful, open-air courtyard – designed to remind you of a Zen garden. About $100/night
Sights and Sounds of Oaxaca
Let’s show you a few attractions to this beautiful city.
Get to know several places of interest in a single tour. First we visit the legendary tule tree, then we visit a rug workshop in Teotitlán del Valle. To then go to the archaeological ruins of Mitla, the petrified waterfalls of hierve el agua and finally a mezcal distillery. Monday and Tuesday they do not visit Mitla because it is closed. $35
Monte Albán, Arrazola, Cuilapam y San Bartolo Coyotepec
From the mountaintop pyramids of Monte Alban to the Cuilapam Convent on the valley floor, learn all about the rich history of Oaxaca Valley on this guided full-day trip by coach. Discover the Zapotec pyramids and excavated ruins of UNESCO-listed Monte Alban, admire the mystical woodcarvings of San Antonio Arrazola and meet resident artisans in San Bartolo Coyotepec, a town known for its beautiful black pottery. Hotel pickup and drop-off from Oaxaca included. About $35
On this food tour in Oaxaca, we’ll get an edible crash course on the ingredients and techniques that are a bedrock of traditional Oaxacan cooking and meet some of the people in the kitchen protecting those traditions. About $115
In this all-day tour we will visit the widest tree in the world, the Tule tree, we will visit a mezcal factory and enjoy a tasting of the different types, we will visit the prehistoric caves of Mitla, the Tlacolula market, the Church from Tlacochahuaya dating from the 16th century, the house of an artisan in Teotitlán del Valle to learn about natural dyes, the archaeological zone of Mitla, we can enjoy a Oaxacan meal. San Martín Tilcajete is the land of alebrijes, Monte Albán is the most important archaeological zone in the city and in San Bartolo Coyotepec we will meet a family that is dedicated to making the famous black clay. Your visit to Oaxaca will be a great experience. About $200