25 Oaxaca Restaurants You’ll Want to Fly For | Will Fly for Food

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When you think of the best food cities in Mexico, Oaxaca is at the top of nearly everyone’s list. If not at the very top, then it’s right up there with cities like Puebla, Mexico City, Merida, and Guadalajara. Even people who’ve never been to Oaxaca know that Oaxaca City (and state) is home to some of the best food in Mexico.

It’s hard to find bad food in Oaxaca but it’s even harder to find the best. Discovering the best and most authentic local food is what we enjoy most about trips, so we scoured the internet, combed the city’s streets, and broke bread with opinionated locals to come up with this list of 25 must-visit markets, roadside stalls, and restaurants in Oaxaca.

If you’re visiting Oaxaca and love to eat traditional local food as much as we do, then this list will be very useful to you.

Contents

OAXACA RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS

If you’re staying long enough and want to do a deep dive into Oaxacan cuisine, then we highly recommend joining a food tour or taking a cooking class.

  • Food Tours: Oaxaca Food Tours
  • Cooking Classes: Oaxaca Cooking Classes

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Memela and seven moles of OaxacaMemela and seven moles of Oaxaca

WHAT FOOD IS OAXACA FAMOUS FOR?

Oaxaca is often referred to as the “foodie capital of Mexico”. It’s home to one of the richest pre-Hispanic culinary traditions in the country. Oaxaca’s unique climate and mix of indigenous cultures help make Oaxacan cuisine one of the most varied and interesting in Mexico.

Regional food prepared in the most traditional way is what interests us most about any destination. In this article, we feature some of the best restaurants in Oaxaca City to try regional dishes like mole negro, mole coloradito, tlayuda, memela, and caldo de piedra. Oaxaca is home to many delicious dishes but Traveleaters with limited time can start with those five.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with what to eat in Oaxaca first before learning where to eat, so be sure to check out our food guide for a list of 25 must-try traditional dishes and drinks in Oaxaca.

THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN OAXACA CITY

To help organize this list of Oaxaca restaurants, I’ve categorized them by type of establishment. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.

Street Food Stalls

We love all kinds of food but street food is what really makes us tick. There is so much delicious food to be had in Oaxaca and much of it can be enjoyed on a sidewalk or street corner like memelas, tacos, tamales, empanadas, and tlayudas.

1. Memelas San Agustin

The humble but delicious memela is one of Oaxaca’s signature dishes. It’s a popular snack made with toasted or fried masa discs topped with refried beans, queso fresco, quesillo (Oaxaca cheese), and other ingredients.

Memelas are a popular snack or breakfast dish that you can find at Oaxaca restaurants, markets, or roadside stalls. Personally, I think they’re best when enjoyed from a mobile cart on the side of the road.

We enjoyed memelas at many different places in Oaxaca and the Memelas San Agustin stall was one of the best. Pictured below was my tasty trio of memelas topped with chicken tinga (tomato and chicken stew), chicharron, and pico de gallo.

What makes Memelas San Agustin special is their variety of toppings. Many places make them with just simple toppings like refried beans and cheese, but you can get them with different kinds of toppings at this stall.

Trio of memelasTrio of memelas

Don’t you just love the ambiance of a roadside stall? It feels so much more authentic and immersive than restaurants. Not only is the food cheap and delicious, but you get to rub elbows with Oaxaca locals as well. In spite of the language barrier, there’s an instant connection when locals see how much you enjoy their food.

Memelas San Agustin is located on C. de Manuel Fernández Fiallo, between Colón and Vicente Guerrero. You can check the location map at the bottom of this guide to see exactly where it is.

Memelas San Agustin stallMemelas San Agustin stall

Memelas San Agustin

Address: C. de Manuel Fernández Fiallo 309, Zona Feb 10 2015, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-5PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Memelas
Expect to Pay: About MXN 15 per memela

2. Empanadas del Carmen

We’re huge fans of the Street Food series on Netflix so visiting Empanadas del Carmen was a priority for us. As their name suggests, they specialize in empanadas de amarillo but they make good quesadillas and memelas as well.

Oaxaca is famous for seven types of mole, one of them being mole amarillo (yellow mole) which is the kind used in this Oaxacan empanada. It’s made with mole amarillo, shredded chicken, and hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf).

To be honest, mole amarillo was my least favorite of Oaxaca’s seven famous moles so empanada de amarillo wasn’t my favorite Oaxacan dish either. However, Empanadas del Carmen makes damn good empanadas. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a fan of the show. This was easily the best empanada de amarillo we had in Oaxaca.

Empanada de amarilloEmpanada de amarillo

Here’s an inside look at the empanada de amarillo. If you’re familiar with Latin American empanadas, then you may find this Oaxacan empanada to be a little different.

I’m used to smaller empanadas that are pinch sealed and then baked or fried, but this one is more like a quesadilla. A large corn tortilla is topped with ingredients and then folded in half before being toasted on a comal.

Inside an empanada de amarilloInside an empanada de amarillo

This is a quesadilla. See what I mean? It’s very similar in form to the empanada de amarillo except it’s made with cheese, hence the term “quesadilla”.

We tried a few of their quesadillas and they were all delicious. This one was filled with flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), Oaxaca cheese, and salsa verde (green salsa).

Quesadilla with pumpkin flowersQuesadilla with pumpkin flowers

This quesadilla was filled with mushrooms, Oaxaca cheese, and salsa rojo (red salsa).

Quesadilla with mushroomsQuesadilla with mushrooms

This one was filled with chorizo, Oaxaca cheese, and salsa verde.

Quesadilla with chorizoQuesadilla with chorizo

As you can tell, we had a street food feast at Empanadas del Carmen. We tried all their offerings in one meal, including these memelas. Unlike the offerings at Memelas San Agustin, the memelas at Empanadas del Carmen are pretty basic – just refried beans, asiento (unrefined pork lard), salsa verde, and queso fresco.

MemelasMemelas

Empanadas del Carmen is located in a busy part of downtown Oaxaca, about a block away from Santo Domingo Church. They’re open from 5-10PM daily and set up right next to a similarly named stall called Tacos del Carmen. Don’t worry about going to the wrong one. The latter closes at around 3:30PM.

Empanadas del Carmen stallEmpanadas del Carmen stall

Empanadas del Carmen

Address: Jesús Carranza 102, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Centro, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 5-10PM, daily
What to Order: Empanadas, quesadillas, memelas
What We Paid: MXN 240 for a street food feast

3. Tlayudas La Chinita

Like memelas and empanadas de amarillo, tlayudas are among the most popular street food dishes in Oaxaca. It consists of a large, partially fried or toasted corn tortilla topped with refried beans, asiento, Oaxaca cheese, and other ingredients. You can think of it as a type of Oaxacan pizza.

Depending on the restaurant or stall, tlayudas can be served folded in half (see below) or open-faced like a pizza. You can enjoy them with some type of roasted meat, usually tasajo (thin dried beef), cecina (chili-crusted pork), or chorizo.

You can find tlayudas everywhere in Oaxaca. One of the best places to try it is at Tlayudas La Chinita, a popular roadside stall about a few blocks east of Mercado de Abastos. Like Empanadas del Carmen, it was one of the stalls featured on the Netflix series.

From what I can tell, the main difference between tlayudas served at different restaurants or stalls is in the texture of the tortilla. Some are thin and crispy while others are thicker and chewier, like a true pizza. This one was somewhere in the middle. It was delicious.

Tlayuda with tasajo and chorizoTlayuda with tasajo and chorizo

Don’t let this picture fool you. I came shortly after they opened so it wasn’t that crowded yet, but Tlayudas La Chnita is popular. By the time I left, this alley was packed with both locals and tourists.

Customers around Tlayudas La Chinita stallCustomers around Tlayudas La Chinita stall

Thankfully, Tlayudas La Chnita is very organized. They keep track of customers by handing them a number as they arrive. That way no one gets their tlayuda out of turn. A tlayuda melee around hot coals would be dangerous.

Tlayudas La Chinita ticket stubTlayudas La Chinita ticket stub

Unlike the other tlayuda restaurants we visited, La Chinita offers two sizes – small and large. This was a small and more than enough for me so I assume the large is enough to feed 2-3 people. The radish comes standard but I got mine with an extra side of tasajo and chorizo. You can see the chorizo just barely peeking its head above the tlayuda in the picture below.

Unlike American-style pizzas where the toppings are evenly distributed, tlayuda vendors will give you the roasted meats on the side. Taking bites of the meat after bites of tlayuda is the perfect way to eat this dish. You can really taste the smokiness of the meat that way.

Small tlayuda with chorizo and tasajoSmall tlayuda with chorizo and tasajo

Tlayudas La Chinita is open from 8PM till midnight. They usually set up on this spot, at the corner of 20 de Noviembre and C. de Nuño del Mercado. But for some reason, they set up shop in an alley about a block away on Wednesdays. You can see a befuddled pair of tourists in the picture below. “But Google Maps says it’s supposed to be right here!”

If you decide to go to Tlayudas La Chinita on a Wednesday, then just walk west on C. de Nuño del Mercado after getting to this corner. You’ll see them set up in an alley on your left side (see the next picture).

Tlayudas La Chinita locationTlayudas La Chinita location

This is the alley. Just look for the number 405 on the wall and the Tlayudas La Chinita stall will be right around the corner.

Tlayudas La Chinita alleyTlayudas La Chinita alley

Tlayudas La Chinita

Address: Corner of 20 de Noviember and C. de Nuño del Mercado, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 8PM-12MN, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Tlayudas
What We Paid: MXN 103 for one small tlayuda with two sides and a drink

4. Tlayudas El Negro

Tlayudas El Negro was one of my favorite tlayuda restaurants in Oaxaca. Aside from the usual offerings, they have interesting variations like tlayudas topped with mole negro (enmolada) and chapulines (grasshoppers).

I was excited to try the enmolada but unfortunately, they were out of it that day. I went with a regular tlayuda topped with a side of chorizo instead. It was delicious but if you go to Tlayudas El Negro and enmolada is available, then I suggest trying that. We went to several tlayuda restaurants and this was the only place that had it.

Tlayuda with chorizo and herbsTlayuda with chorizo and herbs

If you’re used to eating American-style pizzas, then you may be tempted to chop up the chorizo and evenly distribute it on the tlayuda. Resist the urge. The meats wind up losing flavor if you do.

Instead, take bites out of the chorizo or whatever meat you ordered it with after each bite of tlayuda. You’ll appreciate the smokiness and flavor of the meats much more that way. I learned that here.

Inside a tlayudaInside a tlayuda

Most tlayuda restaurants in Oaxaca City open only at night or later in the afternoon. I think tlayuda is something Oaxaqueños enjoying eating with a round of beers or other drinks. The dining space of Tlayudas El Negro seems to suggest that as well. There’s a stage for live bands or musicians to perform.

Tlayudas El Negro dining areaTlayudas El Negro dining area

Another thing I liked about Tlayudas El Negro is its location. It’s located in a more residential part of Oaxaca, about a 15-minute walk east of the zocalo (main square). It has a largely local clientele, which speaks to the quality and authenticity of their tlayudas.

NOTE: Google Maps says that Tlayudas El Negro is open from 12NN-12MN. I don’t think this is correct because I tried going there a little after noon one day to find it closed. It’s a bit of a walk from the zocalo so I suggest going later in the day to be safe.

Tlayudas El Negro entranceTlayudas El Negro entrance

Tlayudas El Negro

Address: Vicente Guerrero 1029, Zona Feb 10 2015, Obrera, 68115 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 12NN-12MN, daily
What to Order: Tlayudas
Expect to Pay: MXN 49-129 per tlayuda

5. Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña

Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña is another great tlayuda restaurant in Oaxaca. It was already on our list and our AirBnB host recommended it as well. It’s located in Barrio de Jalatlaco, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Oaxaca.

Like Tlayudas El Negro, Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña offers more interesting tlayuda toppings like chapulines and tripas (small intestines). We got ours with a combination of two meats, which they chopped up and evenly distributed on the tlayuda. This was the only tlayuda restaurant we went to that did that.

Many restaurants will serve your tlayuda with a side of chepiche. It’s a Mexican herb that tastes similar to fresh coriander.

Tlayuda with herbsTlayuda with herbs

Check out all those delicious strands of quesillo or Oaxaca cheese. Oaxaca cheese is a delicious mozzarella-like string cheese commonly used in many Oaxacan dishes. It’s popular outside of the state as well. In Puebla, it’s a key ingredient in cemitas.

Took a bite of tlayudaTook a bite of tlayuda

Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña offers other dishes like tacos, tostadas, and pozole as well. Pictured below is a tostada topped with Oaxaca cheese, avocado, and tomato. A tostada is basically a crunchy deep-fried corn tortilla served with a variety of toppings.

Oaxacan cheese tostadaOaxacan cheese tostada

Here’s a tostada topped with one of the more interesting ingredients in Oaxaca – chapulines or grasshoppers. Chapulines have been consumed in the region since pre-Hispanic times and can be used in many dishes like tlayudas, tostadas, and tacos. It can even be used to flavor nieves or Mexican ice cream!

Chapulines tostadaChapulines tostada

A closer look at the chapulines. You can find them in two basic sizes in Oaxaca – small (like below) or large. We’d sometimes get bags of the larger chapulines from markets and bring them with us to mezcal tastings. The saltiness and crunch from the chapulines go so well with the smokiness of the mezcal.

Close-up of the chapulines tostadaClose-up of the chapulines tostada

Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña is a colorful and spacious restaurant in Barrio de Jalatlaco. They open from 1PM till 1AM daily.

Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña dining areaLas Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña dining area

Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña

Address: Calle de Lic Primo Verdad 119D, Hacienda, 68080 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 1PM-1AM, daily
What to Order: Tlayudas, tostadas
Expect to Pay: MXN 70-110 per tlayuda, MXN 35-50 per tostada

6. El Posito

El Posito was another restaurant featured on the Street Food Latin America series. They serve just two things – piedrazos and aguas frescas.

Meaning “stone” in Spanish, piedrazo is an interesting snack made with dehydrated bread soaked in fruit vinegar and served with carrots, potatoes, onions, Oaxaca cheese, chili powder, and salsa. It’s a highly acidic and spicy dish that gets its name from the bread that’s as hard as rocks before they’re soaked in vinegar.

Piedrazos and agua de chilacayotaPiedrazos and agua de chilacayota

Piedrazos may be too acidic for some people but pair the bread with some Oaxaca cheese and it all comes together beautifully. The creaminess from the cheese goes so well with the acidity of the vinegar.

PiedrazosPiedrazos

Aguas frescas are a family of non-alcoholic Mexican drinks made from different types of fruits, flowers, cereals, and seeds blended with water and sugar. Meaning “fresh waters”, they’re available throughout Mexico but according to the owner of El Posito, two are traditional to Oaxaca – agua de chilacayota and agua de horchata con tuna.

Pictured below is agua de chilacayota. It’s an incredibly refreshing drink made with fig leaf gourd, cinnamon, piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar), and water. The molasses-like sweetness of the agua de chilacayota is another component that adds to the experience of eating piedrazos. They go so well together.

Agua de chilacayotaAgua de chilacayota

El Posito is a small restaurant located southeast of downtown Oaxaca. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the zocalo but definitely worth the effort.

El Posito entranceEl Posito entrance

El Posito

Address: Calz. Cuauhtémoc 112-201, Trinidad de las Huertas, 68120 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 9:30AM-5:30PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Piedrazos, aguas frescas
What We Paid: MXN 66 for 2 orders of piedrazos and 1 agua fresca

7. Tacos de Lechon Oaxaca Panteón General

As their mouthful of a name suggests, Tacos de Lechon Oaxaca Panteón General specializes in tacos de lechon, or tacos made from roast suckling pig. They have the same offerings as the more famous El Lechoncito de Oro. We enjoyed both places but personally, we preferred this stall so we’re featuring them instead.

You can get two variations of the same dish – tacos de lechon and tacos de lechon with chicharron (pork skin). Definitely get the latter. The chicharron adds another layer of flavor and texture to the dish. It’s so good.

Tacos de lechonTacos de lechon

Tacos de Lechon Oaxaca Panteón General is located in a less touristy part of Barrio de Jalatlaco. I believe its name is just “Tacos de Lechon” but Google Maps adds the second part due to its proximity to the Panteón General cemetery.

We may have preferred Tacos de Lechon more but do try El Lechoncito de Oro as well. Both places are good but we found this place to be a little better.

Tacos de lechon signageTacos de lechon signage

Tacos de Lechon Oaxaca Panteón General

Address: C. Del Refugio #154, Barrio de Jalatlaco, 68080 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 5:30-11PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Tacos de lechon
What We Paid: MXN 115 for about 6 tacos and a drink

8. Taqueria Chava

We absolutely loved this taqueria. Taqueria Chava is a humble roadside stall that serves some of the best tacos in Oaxaca.

Taqueria Chava offers just two things on their menu – tacos and consommé. I don’t know if they make their tacos with different types of meat but on the two days we went, they were offering tacos de cabeza or tacos made with meat from the animal’s head.

Tacos de cabeza are among our favorite types of tacos. We’ve enjoyed them throughout Mexico, including Mexico City, and these were some of the best we’ve had. They’re delicious.

Tacos de cabezaTacos de cabeza

The tacos are delicious but you cannot miss their consommé either. It’s basically a cup of soup filled with the same meat they use in their tacos.

In our case, we got a cup of consommé overflowing with that soft and gelatinous head meat. You actually get more meat in the consommé which is why it’s more expensive than the tacos. It’s so damn good.

Consomme de cabezaConsomme de cabeza

Taqueria Chava is located on the corner of C. de Los Libres and C. de Mariano Abasolo. We walked by their stall a few times and it would always be crowded with locals enjoying their tacos and consommé. Based on what I’ve read, they stay open only for as long as they have food so it’s best to go early if you can.

Taqueria Chava standTaqueria Chava stand

Taqueria Chava

Address: C. de Mariano Abasolo 503B, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 10AM-5PM, Mon-Thurs / 9:30AM-8PM, Fri-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Tacos, consommé
Expect to Pay: MXN 12 per taco, MXN 20 per consommé

9. Tacos Roy

Located just a block away from Taqueria Chava is Tacos Roy, another great taco restaurant in Oaxaca. This place was highly recommended to us by two locals and they weren’t wrong. The tacos here are phenomenal.

Unlike Taqueria Chava that has a highly focused menu, Tacos Roy has plenty of offerings. They have tacos a la plancha, tacos al vapor, tortas, pozole rojo, and other typical taqueria dishes like alambres, volcanes, and quesadillas.

Pictured below is a pair of Mexico’s most iconic taco – tacos al pastor. If you’ve never had it, it’s a type of taco made from grilled marinated pork shaved off a vertical spit.

Tacos al pastorTacos al pastor

Tacos Roy’s tacos a la plancha are delicious but what we really fell in love with are their tacos al vapor. Also known as tacos de canasta (basket tacos) or tacos sudados (sweaty tacos), tacos al vapor are filled with a variety of stews and then bathed in oil or melted butter. They’re commonly known as basket tacos because they’re sold from baskets covered with cloth to keep them warm.

We’ve enjoyed tacos al vapor throughout Mexico but the offerings at Tacos Roy are different. They aren’t as wet as the usual basket tacos and they’re rolled like small enchiladas. You can get them with different types of meat like carnitas (shredded pork), oreja (ear), corazon (heart), and sesos (brains).

If you’re a fan of texture like I am, then be sure to try the oreja. Soft and crunchy from bits of cartilage, it’s so incredibly delicious. We love tacos, especially tacos made from parts of the head, but this was the only time we saw tacos made with pork ear.

Assorted tacosAssorted tacos

Be sure to try a bowl of their pozole rojo as well. Pozole refers to a Mexican dish made from hominy, shredded cabbage, radish, onion, garlic, chili, and some type of meat. You can get it in white, red, or green versions, the color coming from the type of ingredients used. Pozole rojo is made from different kinds of red chili pepper so it’s usually the spiciest of the three.

Tacos Roy specializes in red pozole served with either pork, beef, or chicken. I’ve had pozole in other parts of Mexico and this was the best I’ve tried so far.

Pozole rojoPozole rojo

Tacos Roy has several branches in Oaxaca City, two of which are located in the centro area.

Tacos Roy entranceTacos Roy entrance

Tacos Roy

Address: Calle de José María Pino Suárez 313, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 12:30PM-1AM, Sun-Fri / 2PM-1AM, Sat
What to Order: Tacos, pozole rojo
What We Paid: MXN 15-25 per taco, MXN 65-80 for pozole rojo

10. Los Sombrerudos

As much as we love tlayudas and memelas, nothing beats the taco. For us, it’s the ultimate Mexican comfort food and street dish.

Los Sombrerudos is a another great taqueria in Oaxaca City. They serve the usual taqueria offerings like tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, and volcanes. For just MXN 70-90 (about USD 3.50-4.50), you can get a platter of five tacos with either arrachera (skirt steak), costilla (pork ribs), carnitas, chorizo, or campechanos.

Pictured below is my beautiful platter of taquesos campechanos or tacos made with a mixture of different meats plus cheese. This was pure taco bliss.

Tacos campechanosTacos campechanos

More taco deliciousness from Los Sombrerudos. What you’re looking at here is a trio of regular tacos (no cheese) filled with arrachera, costilla, and chorizo. ¡Que rico!

Tacos de cabezaTacos de cabeza

Los Sombrerudos is located in the Barrio de Jalatlaco area, not too far from Mercado de La Merced. It’s in a more local part of town so I don’t think you’ll find too many tourists there, which is always a good thing.

Los Sombrerudos signageLos Sombrerudos signage

Los Sombrerudos

Address: Avenida Universidad 112, Universidad, Trinidad de las Huertas, 68120 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 9AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: Tacos
Expect to Pay: MXN 14-16 per taco

Markets

There are a lot of great fine dining restaurants in Oaxaca. Casa Oaxaca by Chef Alejandro Ruiz comes foremost to mind. Mexican gastronomy is always interesting but you don’t need to go to a fine dining restaurant to get great food in Oaxaca. More often than not, the tastiest dishes are prepared by abuelas (grandmothers) at market fondas (family-owned eateries) for a fraction of the price.

If you want local specialties and classic Mexican dishes like mole negro, tlayudas, enmoladas, and memelas, then look no further than your humble Oaxacan mercado. Not only are they convenient hubs for cheap eats, but they’re also home to some of the city’s best and most authentic traditional food.

CENTRAL DE ABASTOS

Central de Abastos or Mercado de Abastos is by far the largest market in Oaxaca. It’s a chaotic labyrinth of fruits, vegetables, meat, baked goods, household items, clothing, accessories, souvenirs, and furniture. If you can’t find something at Mercado de Abastos, then you probably can’t get it in Oaxaca.

I almost didn’t go to this market because every local I met advised us to avoid it altogether. Central de Abastos has a reputation for being unsafe and a haven for pickpockets. However, it’s also where you’ll find Doña Vale and her now world-famous memelas. If her name rings a bell, it’s because she was the main storyline in the Oaxaca episode of Street Food Latin America.

I had to go.

Central de Abastos marketCentral de Abastos market

11. Memelas Doña Vale

Like every installment in that Netflix series, I loved Doña Vale’s story. Every episode features a story of triumph and hers was no less inspiring than the others. It was great to see her stall thriving.

Open from 7AM till noon, people say that it’s best to go to her stall before 9AM to avoid the crowd. I arrived shortly after 8AM and there was one spot left on her bench that could seat a maximum of about eight people. All she serves are memelas topped with the best-tasting sauces you’ll find in Oaxaca.

Memelas Doña Vale stallMemelas Doña Vale stall

Here’s a trio of Doña Vale’s memelas topped with fried eggs. I believe she offers 2-3 different types of sauces but I asked for her classic signature sauce.

Unlike the other memelas in town which top theirs with refried beans and asiento, Doña Vale makes hers with her own blend of sauces. I don’t know exactly what’s in it but her classic sauce looks and tastes different from the other memela stalls. They’re more like actual sauces rather than just a simple bean paste.

I loved the fried eggs on mine but Doña Vale’s memelas are delicious on their own and don’t really need anything else. I wolfed mine down with a pot of Oaxacan coffee.

Memelas topped with fried eggsMemelas topped with fried eggs

The kind gentleman sitting next to me was topping his memelas with some type of local green bean. I can’t remember the name but he told me that they’re native to Oaxaca.

He kept referring to me as paisano (countryman) and offered me as many pods as I could eat. Chewy and delicious, they reminded me of stink beans but smaller and without the smell. ¡Muchisimas gracias señor!

Memelas topped with Oaxacan green beansMemelas topped with Oaxacan green beans

This is what Doña Vale’s stall looked like a little after 9AM. They’re mostly cropped off but you can sort of see the people on the left waiting for a spot on the bench.

People were right. You do need to be here before 9AM if you want to be seated right away. I suggest arriving even earlier, before 8AM if you can.

Memelas Doña Vale stall packed with dinersMemelas Doña Vale stall packed with diners

There are two general parts to Central de Abastos – a tented area with outdoor stalls and the covered market itself. Doña Vale’s stall is located inside the covered market. The pin on Google Maps gets you in the general area so just keep your eyes peeled for signs (like the one below) that point you to its exact location.

After my Doña Vale experience, I can say that it’s definitely worth the experience. Yes, Central de Abastos is chaotic, much more chaotic than any other market in Oaxaca. But it’s no different from any of the large wet markets in Southeast Asia. If you’ve been to any of those, then this is nothing new.

I felt completely safe when I was there. Just dress modestly and keep your valuables secure (like your phone) and you should be ok. Doña Vale’s stall is located at the south end of the market so it’s best to enter from there. These memelas are too good to pass up out of fear.

Memelas Doña Vale signMemelas Doña Vale sign

Memelas Doña Vale

Address: Cosijoeza, Central de Abasto, 68090 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 7AM-12NN, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Memelas
What We Paid: MXN 66 for 3 memelas with egg and coffee

MERCADO 20 DE NOVIEMBRE

Not too far from Central de Abastos is Mercado 20 de Noviembre, perhaps the most famous market in Oaxaca. It’s home to many fondas, bakeries, and pasillo de humo – a popular alley lined on either side with stalls roasting different types of meat or carnes asadas.

Mercado 20 de NoviembreMercado 20 de Noviembre

12. Pasillo de Carnes Asadas (Pasillo de Humo)

Pasillo de humo or pasillo de carnes asadas is a meat lover’s dream come true in Oaxaca. It consists of a long alleyway with dozens of roasted meat vendors on either side. If you’re a true-blooded carnivore, then you need to enjoy a meal here.

Hallway with carne asada vendorsHallway with carne asada vendors

If you arrive at peak times, like around noon, then you’ll be hounded by touts trying to attract you to their stall. Feel free to ignore them and keep walking down the hallway. Every stall pretty much sells the same things so feel free to pick the stall that offers the best deal, though the price difference between stalls shouldn’t be that significant.

Different vendors selling carne asadaDifferent vendors selling carne asada

Every stall at pasillo de humo will have tasajo, cecina, chorizo, and tripa. Some stalls may offer other types of meat as well, but most if not all will have those four basic meats. They’re priced by weight so feel free to choose the right amount for the number of people in your group.

Many stalls will offer packages which is probably what you’ll want. For reference, a package of 1/4 kg (0.55 lbs) each of tasajo, cecina, and chorizo (3/4 kg or 1.65 lbs of meat total) was a good enough amount for me and Ren. We enjoyed it with tortillas, a few side dishes, and salsa.

Tasajo, cecina, and chorizoTasajo, cecina, and chorizo

Here’s the grill master roasting up our meats. The alley is constantly filled with smoke from the grilling meats hence the name pasillo de humo or “hall of smoke”.

Vendor grilling meatVendor grilling meat

This is what 3/4 kg of perfectly grilled meat looks like. At the top is tasajo and at the bottom is cecina enchilada or cecina for short.

Basket of grilled meatBasket of grilled meat

We ate at pasillo de humo twice. On our second trip, we asked that the tasajo be replaced with tripa. The tripa is incredibly tasty but it’s also gummy and hard to chew so it may not be for everyone.

Basket of grilled meat with tripaBasket of grilled meat with tripa

Our roasted meat feast with tortillas, roasted green onions, limes, and salsa rojo. ¡Buen provecho!

Basket of grilled meat with sides and corn tortillasBasket of grilled meat with sides and corn tortillas

Mix the meats up on your tortilla with the salsa and sides and voila! Your very own DIY taco campechano. I just love the smokiness of all the meats. ¡Que rico!

Different meats, sauces, and green onions wrapped in a tortillaDifferent meats, sauces, and green onions wrapped in a tortilla

Pasillo de Carnes Asadas (Pasillo de Humo)

Address: 68000, Miguel Cabrera 116, Centro, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 10AM-5PM, daily
What to Order: Carnes asadas
What We Paid: About MXN 240 for meat, tortillas, salsas, and sides

13. Comedor Chabelita

Comedor Chabelita is a typical Oaxacan fonda located inside Mercado 20 de Noviembre. They serve many traditional Oaxacan and Mexican dishes like enmoladas, mole negro, mole coloradito, and chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers). We heard they make a mean tlayuda so that’s exactly what we came for.

Of all the tlayudas we tried in Oaxaca, Comedor Chabelita’s version had the most unique texture. As you can see below, it wasn’t folded in half like the others. It was served open-faced because the tortilla was thinner and crispier than the others, like a large tostada.

They offer different combinations for their tlayuda but we got the especial which was topped with Oaxaca cheese, tasajo, cecina, and chorizo. It was delicious and the most unique texturally from all the tlayudas we tried in Oaxaca.

Tlayuda especialTlayuda especial

Comedor Chabelita is one of the busiest stalls at Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Like hawker centers in Singapore, always look for the fondas with the most locals.

Comedor Chabelita stallComedor Chabelita stall

Comedor Chabelita

Address: Mercado 20 de Noviembre, 20 de Noviembre S/N Locales 97,98 y 99, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 7AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: Breakfast dishes, tlayuda, mole, tamales
Expect to Pay: MXN 60-100 per tlayuda

MERCADO DE BENITEZ JUAREZ

Mercado de Benito Juarez is located across the street from Mercado 20 de Noviembre. It was perhaps the cleanest and most organized market we visited in Oaxaca.

Mercado de Benitez JuarezMercado de Benitez Juarez

14. Agua Casildas Regionales

We didn’t go to any fondas at Mercado de Benito Juarez but we did get a drink at this famous aguas frescas stall called Agua Casildas Regionales. They’ve been serving different types of aguas frescas at the market since 1926.

Agua Casildas Regionales stallAgua Casildas Regionales stall

Agua Casildas Regionales serves many different flavors of aguas frescas like guanabana (soursop), tamarindo (tamarind), jamaica (hibiscus flower), and pepino con limón (cucumber with lemon).

I asked the server for recommendations and she suggested I get the agua de horchata con tuna. It’s the house specialty and one of the most traditional to Oaxaca.

Jugs of aguas frescasJugs of aguas frescas

No, agua de horchata con tuna isn’t made with tuna fish. Tuna refers to the sweet fruit of the prickly pear cactus (atún is the word for tuna in Spanish).

A serving of the housemade horchata – made from rice, almonds, cinnamon, and water – is poured into a glass followed by red prickly pear syrup, a few chunks of cantaloupe, and crushed pecans. Like agua de chilacayota, it’s refreshing and delicious.

Glass of horchata tuna con chilacayotaGlass of horchata tuna con chilacayota

Agua Casildas Regionales

Address: Flores Magón s/n, Local 30-31, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 10:30AM-6:30PM, Mon-Sat / 10:30AM-4PM, Sun
What to Order: Aguas frescas
Expect to Pay: MXN 20 per agua fresca

MERCADO DE LA MERCED

Mercado de La Merced was in our hood so we spent the most time at this small but interesting market. It’s located just south of Barrio de Jalatlaco.

Mercado de La MercedMercado de La Merced

15. Fonda Florecita

Fonda Florecita was our favorite fonda in Oaxaca. It’s a popular breakfast spot that serves typical fonda fare like mole, enmoladas, entomatadas, and chilaquiles.

If we didn’t need to cover as many places as we could for this blog, then we would have been happy eating at Fonda Florecita everyday. Like the best fondas in Oaxaca, the food is simple but exceedingly delicious.

Fonda Florecita stallFonda Florecita stall

Mole coloradito is one of the seven famous Oaxacan moles. Mole negro may be the most famous but mole coloradito may have been my favorite.

Like any mole, mole coloradito is made with a plethora of ingredients like ancho and guajillo chili peppers, chocolate, tomatoes, garlic, sesame seeds, raisins, almonds, herbs, and spices. It tastes similar to mole negro but a little less rich and sweet.

Mole coloradito is typically served with a piece of chicken, rice, and corn tortillas. I could seriously eat this every day.

Mole coloraditoMole coloradito

Pictured below is a popular breakfast dish known as enmoladas. Enmoladas are basically enchiladas drenched in mole negro. This one was topped with fried eggs and queso fresco.

You can find enmoladas at nearly every fonda in Oaxaca. Moles in general are time-consuming to make but mole negro is the most complex of the seven famous Oaxacan moles. It’s an incredibly rich-tasting mole that can be made with over thirty different ingredients.

Enmoladas topped with fried eggsEnmoladas topped with fried eggs

Fonda Florecita

Address: Calle Morelos Mercado La Merced Int 37 Zona del Pan, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 8AM-6PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays)
What to Order: Mole, enmoladas, entomatadas, chilaquiles
What We Paid: MXN 150 for two people

16. Fonda Rosita

Fonda Rosita and Fonda Florecita are the two most popular fondas at Mercado de La Merced. And with good reason because they’re the best. We tried a couple of other fondas at the market and they weren’t as good as these two.

Fonda Rosita has a slightly wider menu than Fonda Florecita. They serve antojitos like tacos, memelas, tostadas, and tlayudas, but what they’re best known for are their desayunos or breakfast dishes.

Fonda Rosita stallFonda Rosita stall

What you’re looking at here is a hearty plate of entomatadas topped with queso fresco and served with a side of chorizo. Entomatadas are similar to enmoladas, except they’re topped with tomato sauce.

Another common breakfast dish you’ll typically find at Oaxacan fondas is enfrijoladas. They’re basically enchiladas topped with black bean sauce.

EntomatadaEntomatada

Like enmoladas, entomatadas, and enfrijoladas, chilaquiles is another exceedingly popular Mexican breakfast dish. It isn’t unique to Oaxaca and something you’ll probably find at any Mexican fonda or restaurant that serves breakfast.

Chilaquiles refers to a traditional Mexican breakfast dish made lightly fried corn tortillas mixed with red or green salsa and other ingredients like queso fresco, crema (cream), onions, and avocados. This particular version was doused in salsa rojo and served with a side of chorizo.

Chilaquiles rojoChilaquiles rojo

Many fondas and breakfast spots in Oaxaca will serve hot bowls of chocolate Oaxaqueño. Chocolate has been an important ingredient and commodity in the region for thousands of years. It’s consumed daily and plays an important part in many rituals and celebrations like births, weddings, and funerals.

Hot chocolate in Oaxaca can be served with water (de agua) or milk (de leche). Drinking it with water is more traditional but personally, I prefer it with milk. It’s richer and creamier in flavor.

PRO TIP: Try asking for your hot chocolate served with a touch of chili. It adds just a hint of spice to your drink so you feel a slight burn in your throat each time you take a sip. It’s delicious.

Oaxacan chocolateOaxacan chocolate

If you order chocolate Oaxaqueño over breakfast, then chances are they’ll serve it with a roll of pan de yema or Oaxacan brioche bread. This slightly sweet bread is perfect for dipping in the hot chocolate.

Dunking pan de yema in Oaxacan hot chocolateDunking pan de yema in Oaxacan hot chocolate

Fonda Rosita

Address: Av. José María Morelos 1522A, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Ejido del Centro, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 8AM-6PM, daily
What to Order: Entomatadas, chilaquiles, enfrijoladas, antojitos
What We Paid: MXN 195 for two people

17. Lety

Tamales are a pre-Hispanic dish that’s popular throughout Latin America. In Oaxaca, you can find several variations of tamales but the most well-known is enriched with mole negro and wrapped in banana leaves instead of the usual corn husk.

You can find tamales Oaxaqueños everywhere in the city. At Mercado de La Merced, one of the best places to try it is at the Lety tamales stall. They offer different types of tamales – both savory and sweet – but if it’s your first time in Oaxaca, then you should start with the version made with mole negro.

Lety stallLety stall

Tamales Oaxaqueños are traditionally made with masa, shredded chicken, and mole negro. I’m not the biggest fan of tamales but this may have been the best I’ve ever tasted. It tasted richer, sweeter, and with more depth of flavor.

Tamales Oaxaqueños are also moister than regular tamales, perhaps due to being wrapped in banana leaves rather than the usual corn husk.

Tamales OaxaquenoTamales Oaxaqueno

Lety

Address: Mercado de la Merced, Av. Morelos 1522 Col. Centro 68000 Oaxaca Mexico
What to Order: Tamales Oaxaqueños
Expect to Pay: Around MXN 35 per tamale

MERCADO SANCHEZ PASCUAS

Perhaps due to its location in the northern part of downtown Oaxaca, Mercado Sanchez Pascuas isn’t as well-known as the other markets on this list, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That usually means fewer tourists and a more authentic local experience.

Mercado Sanchez PascuasMercado Sanchez Pascuas

18. Comedor Doña Deme (Fonda Oaxaqueña)

Mercado Sanchez Pascuas was actually the first market we visited in Oaxaca so Comedor Doña Deme was our first fonda experience. We visited in early March but as you can see from their decor, it’s still February 14 at this fonda. Ha!

Comedor Doña Deme serves the usual fonda offerings like mole negro, mole coloradito, chiles rellenos, and tlayudas.

Comedor Doña Deme (Fonda Oaxaqueña) stallComedor Doña Deme (Fonda Oaxaqueña) stall

I wanted my first taste of mole in Oaxaca to be mole negro so that’s exactly what I ordered. Like mole coloradito, it’s served with a piece of chicken, rice, and a basket of corn tortillas.

The mole negro was incredibly rich and complex but this may have been the single best piece of chicken I’ve eaten in my life. It was so unbelievably tender.

Mole negro is delicious and one of those dishes that makes you wide-eyed when you first taste it, but like mole poblano, I find it a little too rich to eat regularly. I think Oaxaqueños may feel the same way as every other local at the fonda was eating mole coloradito.

Mole negroMole negro

We also tried their chile relleno. Originally from Puebla, it consists of a chili pepper stuffed with minced meat – usually chicken or pork – and Oaxaca cheese. The stuffed pepper is coated in egg before being deep-fried.

At Comedor Doña Deme, they serve their chile relleno with salsa and a side of black beans and rice. It’s a simple but comforting dish that reminded us of tortang talong, a similar Filipino dish made with pan-fried stuffed eggplant.

We haven’t tried it but some Oaxaca restaurants serve tacos de chile relleno as well. It sounds delicious so we’ll definitely look for it on our next trip back to Oaxaca.

Chile rellenoChile relleno

Comedor Doña Deme (Fonda Oaxaqueña)

Address: Mercado Sanchez Pascuas, Calle Porfirio Díaz, Calle de Tinoco y Palacios 719, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
What to Order: Mole, chile relleno
What We Paid: MXN 180 for two people

MERCADO ORGANICO LA COSECHA OAXACA

Mercado Organizo La Cosecha Oaxaca, or “La Cosecha” for short, isn’t a true Mexican market. Located in the northern part of central Oaxaca, not too far from Mercado Sanchez Pascuas, it’s more of an open-air food hall with a few stalls selling traditional Oaxacan dishes like memelas, tlayudas, tamales, and empanadas.

La Cosecha is frequented mostly by tourists so we weren’t sure how authentic their food would be. We didn’t eat here but we did come for a traditional drink that we knew we couldn’t find anywhere else in Oaxaca – pozontle.

La Cosecha exteriorLa Cosecha exterior

La Cosecha is comprised of about ten or so stalls selling traditional Oaxacan and Mexican food. It’s a pleasant al fresco space with wooden picnic tables and benches sheltered from the heat by tents.

Inside La CosechaInside La Cosecha

19. La Pozontleria / Tejateria

These are actually two separate stalls right next to each other. One specializes in pozontle while the other serves tejate. Both are traditional pre-Hispanic drinks made with corn and cacao.

As described, we were here to try the pozontle. La Pozontleria is one of the few, if not the only place in central Oaxaca to try pozontle, a ceremonial drink from the Sierra Norte region of Oaxaca. It’s made with cacao, corn, panela, cocolmecatl (soured vine), and water prepared in a jícara (gourd bowl) and made frothy using a molinillo.

We had dinner with a local Oaxaqueño at Restaurante Catedral one night and he was surprised to learn that we had tried pozontle. According to him, it’s a very uncommon drink and something that you can typically find only in mountain communities. That made us feel even more privileged to try it!

If you like experiencing rare traditional dishes and drinks, then you need to try a bowl of pozontle at La Pozontleria.

PozontlePozontle

I didn’t catch the stall’s name but right next to La Pozontleria is another stall selling tejate. Tejate is a similar drink to pozontle except it’s much more common and can be found pretty much anywhere in Oaxaca.

Tejate is made with a finely ground paste consisting of toasted corn, fermented cacao beans, toasted mamey pits (pixtle), and flor de cacao. The paste is mixed with water and served with or without sugar syrup in brightly painted jícara bowls.

The white foamy substance you see floating on top is the flor de cacao. After the paste is mixed with water, it rises to the top to form a thick pasty foam.

TejateTejate

La Pozontleria / Tejateria at La Cosecha

Address: Mercado Organico a La Cosecha, C. Macedonio Alcalá 806, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 9AM-4:45PM, Wed-Sun (closed Mon-Tue)
What to Order: Pozontle, tejate
Expect to Pay: MXN 20 per bowl of pozontle, MXN 20 for tejate

Casual / Fine Dining Restaurants

We preferred going to fondas and roadside stalls but there are many restaurants worth visiting in Oaxaca. You just have to know which ones so you don’t wind up paying three times the price for something you can find at a mercado.

20. La Casa de La Chef

We always come prepared so we arrived in Oaxaca with a food itinerary of at least fifty restaurants, markets, and roadside stalls. La Casa de La Chef wasn’t on it but we couldn’t ignore this quaint breakfast place after seeing it packed with locals at almost any time of the day.

La Casa de La Chef is a small restaurant that serves all-day Mexican breakfast fare like chilaquiles, entomatadas, enfrijoladas, and huevos al gusto. They also offer daily specials (menu del dia), which is where I saw this delicious enmoladas con tasajo.

Enmolada with tasajoEnmolada with tasajo

This equally delicious plate of huevos motuleños is a permanent fixture on their menu. Huevos motuleños is a Yucatecan dish (from the town of Motul) consisting of fried eggs served on a bed of fried tortillas and beans. It’s smothered in salsa roja (red sauce) with plantains, ham, queso fresco (fresh cheese), peas, and cream.

Huevos motuleñosHuevos motuleños

La Casa de La Chef is located along Calzada de la Republica, just outside the city center and south of Barrio de Jalatlaco. It’s about a 3-minute walk from Mercado de La Merced.

A restaurant teeming with locals is never a bad sign so be sure to check out La Casa de La Chef if you’re in the mood for good Mexican breakfast food.

La Casa de La Chef signageLa Casa de La Chef signage

La Casa de La Chef

Address: Calz. de la República 302, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-5:30PM, Sun-Fri (closed Saturdays)
What to Order: Chilaquiles, entomatadas, enfrijoladas, huevos
What We Paid: MXN 185 for two people

21. Restaurant Coronita

Like tlayudas and memelas, you can’t leave Oaxaca without trying mole. It’s considered the pinnacle of traditional Oaxacan and Mexican gastronomy.

As previously described, there are seven famous types of mole in Oaxaca – mole negro, mole coloradito, mole amarillo, mole rojo, mole verde, mole manchamanteles, and mole chichilo. The first three are easy to find but certain moles like manchamanteles and chichilo are harder to come by.

You can try to find each mole separately but the easiest way to taste all seven is to go to a restaurant that serves mole degustation menus. Depending on the restaurant, you can expect to try four to seven of Oaxaca’s famous moles.

One of the best restaurants in Oaxaca to enjoy a mole tasting menu is Restaurante Coronita. For just MXN 499 for two people, you’ll get to try all seven.

Tasting menu of seven Oaxacan moles with wooden spoonsTasting menu of seven Oaxacan moles with wooden spoons

Going clockwise from the bottom are mole chichilo, mole amarillo, mole verde, mole manchamanteles, mole coloradito, mole rojo, and mole negro. They’ll also give you a small bowl of rice, a basket of tortillas, and a few garnishes.

I won’t describe each mole in this article but you can refer to our Oaxaca food guide for more information. They’re all interesting but personally, my favorites are mole coloradito, mole manchamanteles, and mole negro. According to our server, manchamanteles and chichilo are the hardest to come by.

Speaking of our server, he did a terrific job explaining the moles to us. Even though they’re all sauces, they’re not all meant to be eaten the same way. Mole negro and mole coloradito for example, are best paired with rice while mole amarillo is meant to be eaten with pickled vegetables.

Tasting menu of seven Oaxacan molesTasting menu of seven Oaxacan moles

Restaurante Coronita isn’t the trendiest or most modern Oaxaca restaurant but they do offer an extensive menu of traditional dishes at fair prices. We looked at several restaurants and they were one of the few that offered all seven moles in their tasting menu.

Restaurant Coronita interiorRestaurant Coronita interior

Restaurante Coronita is located inside Hotel Valle de Oaxaca, about three blocks west of the zocalo.

Restaurant Coronita exteriorRestaurant Coronita exterior

Restaurant Coronita

Address: 68000, Díaz Ordaz 208, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-6PM, daily
What to Order: Mole degustation
Expect to Pay: MXN 499 for the mole degustation (good for two)

22. Itanoni

Like Restaurante Coronita, Itanoní won’t win any style points but it remains one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca to try traditional dishes and drinks like tetela, memela, pozole, and tascalate. They’re known for using different varieties of heirloom corn to produce most if not all dishes on their menu.

The menu options at Itanoní are extensive and interesting. We went to a few restaurants in downtown Oaxaca that served what looked like fancified versions of traditional dishes, but at Itanoní, it felt like you were getting the real thing. It definitely felt like one of the most authentic traditional restaurants in Oaxaca.

We wanted to order more dishes at Itanoní but our server told us that this tetela, memela, and de ese were enough for two people.

TetelaTetela

Here’s an inside look at our tetela. A tetela is a pre-Hispanic dish made with a triangular pocket of corn masa filled with a few simple ingredients like black beans, cheese, and cream. Ours was filled with chicharron, cream, and queso fresco (Antojadiza). The green sauce is a spicy salsa verde that they serve on the side.

Compared to memelas or tlayudas, tetelas aren’t as easy to find so I suggest trying it here at Itanoní. It’s probably one of the best versions of tetela you’ll find anywhere in Oaxaca.

Inside a tetelaInside a tetela

This is an interesting dish that I can’t seem to find much information on. Listed on their menu as de ese, it’s basically a corn tortilla wrapped around a leaf of the hierba santa herb and simple fillings like beans, quesillo, and queso fresco. Hoja santa is a strong peppery herb that’s used in many Oaxacan dishes.

De eseDe ese

We got ours filled with beans and Oaxaca cheese. I’d love to learn more about this dish but nothing seems to come up when I search for “de ese oaxaca”. Does anyone know the history of this dish?

Inside the de eseInside the de ese

The third dish we ordered was this memela topped with asiento, refried beans, and fresh cheese. Unlike the other two dishes, it was served with a side of salsa rojo instead of salsa verde.

MemelaMemela

As good as all three dishes were, these servings of tascalate may have been the best thing we had at Itanoní.

Tascalate refers to a traditional drink made from chocolate, roasted maize, pine nuts, achiote, vanilla, and sugar. It can be enjoyed hot with milk or cold with water and ice. It’s a delicious drink that’s creamy, chocolate-y, and corn-like in flavor.

TascalateTascalate

Itanoní is located in the residential Reforma area, about a 30-35 minute walk north of the zocalo. It’s a bit of a hike to get there but it’s absolutely worth it.

Itanoní may not be a fine dining establishment but it’s one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca for simple and authentic Oaxacan food.

Itanoni exteriorItanoni exterior

Itanoni

Address: Av Belisario Domínguez 513, Reforma, 68050 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 7AM-4PM, Mon-Sat / 7AM-2PM, Sun
What to Order: Breakfast dishes, tetelas, memelas, quesadillas
What We Paid: MXN 276.30 for two people

23. El Son Istmeño

El Son Istmeño is a hidden gem in the Barrio de Jalatlaco neighborhood. It’s perhaps one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca to try traditional food from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Pictured below are garnachas istmeñas, one of the most well-known dishes from this part of Mexico. They’re small, bite-sized antojitos made with fried corn tortillas topped with shredded meat, pickled vegetables, salsa, and queso fresco.

GarnachasGarnachas

It isn’t native to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec but El Son Istmeño is known for its gorditas as well. Meaning “chubby” in Spanish, gorditas consist of pockets of masa stuffed with a variety of fillings.

Gorditas are meant to be stuffed but the vesions at El Son Istmeño were topped with the ingredients instead. We tried them topped with chapulines, quesillo, and cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is a Yucatecan dish made with pork marinated in strongly acidic citrus juices and annatto seeds.

Trio of assorted gorditasTrio of assorted gorditas

For dessert, we had these molotes de platano, another dish that represents the Isthmus of Tehuantepec’s iconic regional Mexican flavors. They’re deep-fried, oval-shaped spheres of mashed plantain topped with cream and queso fresco.

Molotes de platanoMolotes de platano

El Son Istmeño is an al fresco restaurant set in a large, leafy green courtyard with succulents and gravel floors. We had an early dinner there and enjoyed a few beers while watching the waning light of sunset.

El Son Istmeño dining areaEl Son Istmeño dining area

El Son Istmeño is an adorable restaurant tucked away in a corner of Barrio de Jalatlaco. We were staying at an AirBnB in the area but we never would have known about this place had we not read about it in an article on the best restaurants in Oaxaca. It’s hidden in a less-visited part of Jalatlaco.

El Son Istmeño exteriorEl Son Istmeño exterior

El Son Istmeño

Address: Hidalgo 400, Barrio de Jalatlaco, 68080 De Jalatlaco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 2-11PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Garnachas, gorditas, molotes de platano
What We Paid: MXN 345 for two people

24. Caldo de Piedra

Caldo de Piedra was one of my favorite restaurants in Oaxaca. I enjoyed this place immensely because they’re one of the best restaurants if not the ONLY restaurant that serves caldo de piedra, one of the most interesting traditional dishes in Oaxaca.

Meaning “stone soup” in Spanish, caldo de piedra is a pre-Hispanic soup made with fish, onions, chili peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and epazote (Mexican tea leaf) served in a jícara. What makes it interesting and unique is how it’s prepared. A river stone is heated for over an hour under a wood fire and then dropped directly into the bowl to cook the soup.

Burning wod fire at Caldo de PiedraBurning wod fire at Caldo de Piedra

They heat the river stones in this furnace. The restaurant is open from 9AM till 6PM so I assume they get it started close to dawn and keep it going throughout the day.

Furnace at Caldo de PiedraFurnace at Caldo de Piedra

You can watch them prepare your soup. One guy drops the molten hot river stones into the gourd bowls while the other describes the history of the dish (in Spanish). The stones are so hot that the broth erupts like a geyser upon contact, cooking the fish and other ingredients instantly.

Heating river stones at Caldo de PiedraHeating river stones at Caldo de Piedra

Aside from how it’s prepared, what makes caldo de piedra truly special is the story behind the dish. It’s a soup that’s prepared only by men to honor the women of the community. It’s a dish that’s as beautiful as it is delicious so be sure to check out our Oaxaca food guide for more information.

Bowl of caldo de piedraBowl of caldo de piedra

Caldo de piedra is traditionally made with fish but in some parts of Oaxaca, it can be made with shrimp as well. At the Caldo de Piedra restaurant, you can have one or the other or a mixture of both.

Piece of shrimp in caldo de piedraPiece of shrimp in caldo de piedra

No, that’s not a portobello mushroom. What you’re looking at is the river stone sitting at the bottom of my bowl.

There are many delicious dishes in Oaxaca but the rarity and cultural significance behind caldo de piedra makes it one of the most fascinating. Not only does it give you an authentic taste of Oaxaca’s local cuisine, but it offers a glimpse into the local culture as well.

Caldo de piedra was given Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the state of Oaxaca in 2021. It truly felt like a privilege to eat this.

River stone in caldo de piedraRiver stone in caldo de piedra

The Caldo de Piedra restaurant is located along the Carretera Internacional highway, a little over 10 km (6.2 miles) east of downtown Oaxaca. It isn’t the easiest Oaxaca restaurant to get to but it’s well worth the effort. If you value traditional culinary experiences, then you need to go to Caldo de Piedra and try this dish.

Caldo de Piedra exteriorCaldo de Piedra exterior

Caldo de Piedra

Address: Carretera internacional Cristobal Colón km 11.9, 68270 Tlalixtac de Cabrera, Oaxaca, Mexico
Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, Tue-Sat / 12NN-6PM, Sun (closed Mondays)
What to Order: Caldo de piedra
What We Paid: MXN 260 for 1 caldo piedra and 1 drink

Dessert Shops

There’s always room for dessert so I’ve added this section of dessert shops to help cleanse your palate after each Oaxacan meal.

25. Nieves Pepe

Nieves refers to a type of water-based Mexican ice cream made mostly with fruits like fresa (strawberry), guanabana (soursop), tamarindo, and mango. Those are the basics but some shops will sell more interesting local glavors like mezcal, tuna (prickly pear fruit), and elote (corn).

I don’ think you’ll find a flavor more interesting than the one we had at Nieves Pepe. Nieves Pepe is one among a cluster of neverias you can visit near Plaza de La Danza in the western part of the city.

Food court with neveriasFood court with neverias

We walked to this cluster of neverias to look for a very specific flavor of nieves. At the time, only Nieves Pepe had it. When you walk up to the courtyard from Av. de la Independencia, Nieves Pepe is the shop on the far left corner, right by the steps to Plaza de la Danza.

Nieves Pepe stallNieves Pepe stall

I posted this picture on our Instagram Stories and asked people to guess the flavor. Some said tamarindo, others said brown sugar. No one guessed it correctly.

What you’re looking at is a large parfait glass of nieves de chapulin, or nieves ice cream flavored with grasshoppers. Before it was served to us, I was expecting to find nieves topped with whole grasshoppers but that wasn’t the case. The chapulines are ground and fully blended into the ice cream!

You can’t see the grasshoppers but you can definitely taste them. This exotic and very Oaxacan flavor of ice cream is a strange combination of sweet, savory, sour, and spicy. It’s odd but it works!

Nieves with chapulinesNieves with chapulines

For people looking for less daring but equally interesting flavors, we suggest trying beso de Oaxaqueño. It’s a creamy concoction made with strawberry, cherry, and white chocolate. Beso de Oaxaqueño is a popular flavor combination that’s often made into mezcal liqueur as well.

Nieves de beso OaxaquenoNieves de beso Oaxaqueno

Nieves Pepe

Address: Frente ala Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Independencia, La Soledad, Oaxaca, Mexico
What to Order: Nieves de chapulin
What We Paid: MXN 150 for 2 orders of nieves

LOCATION MAP

To help you navigate to these restaurants in Oaxaca, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. It includes many other restaurants as well that didn’t make it to this list. Click on the link for an interactive version of the map.

Map with pinsMap with pins

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN OAXACA CITY

I’ll be covering them in separate guides but Oaxaca is known for its coffee and mezcal as well. The state of Oaxaca produces the counry’s best coffee beans and over 70% of its mezcal. You can order mezcal cocktails at any restaurant but I highly recommend doing mezcal tastings.

To reiterate and echo the sentiment of many Oaxaqueños and non-local foodies, you don’t need to go to fine dining restaurants to experience great food in Oaxaca. In my opinion, the best restaurants in Oaxaca are run by Oaxacan women who’ve been making the same dish for decades, people like Doña Vale. Making great food is in their genes.

With that said, I do understand the appeal of getting dressed up for dinner. Modern Mexican gastronomy is alive and well in Oaxaca with some of the best gourmet restaurants being located around Santo Domingo Church. Places like Casa Oaxaca, Tierra del Sol, El Destilado, and Los Danzantes are some of the most often recommended.

Want a more modern and innovative interpretation of the classic mole negro? Then look no further than Chef Alejandro Ruiz and Casa Oaxaca. He’s a globally recognized Mexican chef famous for his creative dishes and modern take on Oaxacan food.

Whatever your cup of tea may be – whether it be fondas, roadside stalls, or gourmet restaurants – Oaxaca has you covered. With this list of some of the best restaurants in Oaxaca, I hope so do we.

Disclosure

Some of the links in this article on the best Oaxaca restaurants are affiliate links. What that means is that we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. ¡Muchisimas gracias!

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