Eat List: Oaxaca
Recommendations for restaurants, street food stalls, markets, mezcal bars and cooking classes.
Oaxaca de Juárez, the capital of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, is one of those places where it’s difficult to eat poorly, as the range of food at every level is so rich and varied. From the classic moles of the Oaxaca Valley (negro, rojo, coloradito, amarillo, verde, chichilo and manchamantel) and corn based antojitos, to the new wave of fine dining restaurants that are adding another dimension to Oaxacan cuisine, there are so many gastronomic experiences packed within this colonial city, that it can be difficult to navigate. This list of restaurants, street food stalls, and markets in Oaxaca is intentionally short, a starting point if you will. Use it, but by no means be limited by it. I’m not even mentioning the food elsewhere in the state of Oaxaca, which you should also make time to explore.
I have written often about Elvia and Jorge León’s family-run restaurant on the outskirts of Oaxaca several times, mostly recently in this feature about their relationship with mole for Eater. Jorge used to be in charge of the masa and moles at Pujol in Mexico City and helped create the famed dish Mole Madre and those two elements form the backbone of this restsurant. There are two menus that change daily: Elvia’s comida corriente, more traditional foods, for breakfast and lunch, and Jorge’s fine dining menu for lunch and dinner. I highly recommended making time for both menus. Instagram.
Levadura de Olla & La Cocina de Humo
Thalia Barrios Garcia’s pride and joy is the cooking of San Mateo Yucutindoô, the village in Oaxaca’s Sierra Sur where she is from. Using many of the village’s ingredients, she has adapted the recipes to two spaces in Oaxaca City. The first, Levadura de Olla, is a casual restaurant serving typical dishes served a la carte. She also has a separate space there in the front to sell tamales in the morning, as well as for ceramic pottery and authentic river stone metates (I bought one!). A few blocks away, Thalia serves a full tasting menu beside a comal, called Cocina de Humo, for a minimum of 4 people. It’s more free flowing, with her cooking up whatever is seasonal and inspiring her and it is one of the most immersive dining experiences you will have anywhere in Mexico. Instagram.
Owned by Pujol’s Enrique Olvera and headed by chef Luis Arellano, an Oaxaca native and former Pujol chef, Criollo opened in 2017 and might be the city’s most exciting fine dining restaurant. Set within a sprawling colonial courtyard, the seven-course tasting menus adapt to the seasons, with tweaks to dishes daily. They also do brunch, have the only natural wine in Oaxaca, and a long list of mezcals. criollo.mx.