Oaxaca is known for its distinctive cuisine, that is characterized by flavorful moles, fresh herbs, quesillo and mezcal. Many people come to Oaxaca just for the food, though of course they also enjoy the fascinating archaeological sites, colorful fiestas and beautiful handicrafts. Here are some of the best places to try Oaxacan food, both traditional and innovative.
Read more about Oaxacan food.
Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmeda serves up superb modern Mexican cuisine. This is Oaxaca's priciest restaurant, but it's worth the expense. If you'll be celebrating a special occasion in Oaxaca, this is the place for it. Make reservations in advance, and if the weather's fine (as it usually is in Oaxaca), ask for a spot on the terrace.
This casually elegant restaurant-gallery offers a varied menu based on locally sourced fresh ingredients and displays work by local artists. Chef Pilar Cabrera, who also offers cooking classes through Casa de los Sabores, is a mainstay of the Oaxacan food scene and you can sample her creations here.
Moles are the specialty at Los Pacos. Be sure to ask for the mole sampler so you can try all of Oaxaca's seven moles, then you can choose the one you like best for your main course. There are two locations, one in the Centro and the other in Colonia Reforma - both are good but some swear the Colonia Reforma location is better.
Featuring food from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca state, this restaurant has a contemporary decor with the color and some Istmeño style. Don't miss the display on the different types of corn at the back, near the kitchen. Try the garnachas, Istmeño style snacks, cochito horneado (baked pork) and the molotes de plátano (plantain fritters served with cream and fresh cheese). The restaurant is located on Garcia Vigil just next door to La Biznaga.
Enjoy impeccable service and excellent food in an elegant setting. Take your pick of dining rooms - my favorite is the courtyard with a fountain. The menu lists regional dishes as well as a variety of steaks and seafood, but I enjoyed the huitlacoche crepes in poblano sauce.
Set in the back courtyard of the same building as Oro de Monte Alban, the gold jewelery store, Los Danzantes' distinctive decor has high adobe walls and a reflecting pool along the length of one wall. Here you'll find traditional ingredients prepared in creative, and often delightful ways. Try the "cascada de chocolate" for dessert (if you're in a hurry, order it ahead of time to avoid a long wait). They also serve a house mezcal, which is worth a try, either striaght or in one of their signature cocktails.
The restaurant of the Quinta Real hotel, El Refectorio is a great place to try Oaxacan cuisine, but there are also international offerings on the menu. The rear wall of the main dining room is studded with earthenware pots that were uncovered during the 16th Century building's restoration. The buffet breakfast is unmatched in Oaxaca.
This relaxed but trendy restaurant serves fusion cuisine, which they call "cocina mestiza." The menu is posted on a blackboard and features novel combinations, such as guava mole. For starters, try the pastry cones stuffed with jamaica (hibiscus flower). The extensive drinks menu includes imported and local artesanal beers and a variety of mezcals, and they often have pulque as well.