Where to Eat in Oaxaca City
Where to Eat in Oaxaca City
Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux
Text by Kristina Felix and Hallie Davison
Here’s the thing about Oaxaca: It has (practically) everything. Historical ruins, never-ending markets, natural wonders, museums, mezcal bars, textile workshops, printmaking studios, not to mention the warmest and most welcoming people. There’s a reason why it’s been named to many a ‘World’s Best’ list, after all. But food, and more specifically, corn, is what we’re known for, so for this travel guide, we’re sticking to our area of expertise.
With so many of our partners, both farmers and artisans, based in the state of Oaxaca, we spend a lot of time collectively in and around the capital city. And with each trip, someone from our team comes back raving about a different café or tlayuda stand or scenic terrace for an early evening bite. With that in mind, we advise you to skim this guide, save a few spots to your Google Map, but then leave enough time in your itinerary for happenstance. This is a city that rewards you for following your nose, your heart, and the grumbling noises of your belly.
Tacos del Carmen
A team favorite that we come back to, time and time again ... the one and only Tacos del Carmen. The taco de tinga in particular is exquisitely executed, according to Jorge, Masienda's founder.
Founder and chef Jorge León worked for some of the best restaurants in Mexico including Pujol in Mexico City before opening his own restaurant in the courtyard of his mother’s family home, twenty minutes outside of town in San Juan Bautista la Raya. You’ll often see Elvira herself at the comal, serving up delicious tortillas, tlayudas, and memelas shaped with care from masa that’s nothing short of pitch perfect. The deeply flavorful and always seasonal Oaxacan cuisine served in a relaxed, unexpected setting makes for a dining experience not to be missed.
Tlayudas San Jacinto
Tlayudas — the traditional Oaxacan dish consisting of a very large toasted tortilla topped with ingredients like refried beans, asiento, steak, avocado, and quesillo — are the specialty here. Sometimes folded in half, sometimes presented on a plate like a pizza, always delicious. Masienda's Ivan Vázquez is a fan of this consistently good spot 15 minutes outside the city center in San Jacinto Amilpas.
Levadura de Olla
Led by Thalia Barrios García (pictured), Levadura de Olla is the kind of restaurant that helps you understand why Oaxacan food is some of the best in the world. Behind an unpretentious facade, you’ll find show-stopping vegetable-forward fare that highlights the genius of ancestral cooking, particularly of the Sierra Sur region where Thalia is from. Everything on the menu is a winner. This spot is a favorite of our local photographer, Mónica Godefroy.
Itanoni, which is Mixtec for “corn flower,” is a small tortilla factory and restaurant fighting to keep heirloom corn in Oaxaca’s milpas and on your plate. You’ll find many masa shapes here including tetelas, memelas, and quesadillas. Try the tetela nicknamed La Espirituosa, one of our favorites, made with hoja santa, beans, and cheese.
This open-air restaurant in the countryside about 45 minutes outside of Oaxaca City is a destination unto itself, though San Martín Tilcajete, the village where it is found, is quite known for its wooden alebrijes. Almú will win you over with its traditional wood-fired country cooking and its artful, relaxed ambiance.
This café in Barrio de Jalatlaco is owned and operated by Chef Edisson Restrepo. He was born in Bogotá, Columbia and ended up in Oaxaca as part of his cooking journey, where he met his wife who is a native of Oaxaca City. This spot is a must-visit for a traditional breakfast.
La Teca serves traditional Istmeña food like mole amarillo, garnachas, and estofado, a celebration stew of beef, fruits and vegetables. Try something you’ve never had before, you won’t be disappointed. Go for lunch to avoid crowds; it’s just a twenty-minute taxi from centro.
Tamales at Mercado Sánchez Pasqual
There are tamales and then there are [tears welling in eyes] tamales. These are the latter. Head to Mercado Sánchez Pasqual and look for the Super Jugos Angelita puesto and the tamales are in front near the entrance. Hallie, our brand director, recommends the simple black bean with avocado leaf in the hoja de plátano. Mole is also a winner. They finish up around 12pm so don't dilly dally.
Enrique Olvera found fame in Mexico City, but often comments that Oaxaca has long been a sort of spiritual home. He opened Criollo in 2016 as a celebration of the local cuisine, naming Oaxaca-native Luis Arellano as executive chef. The restaurant quickly became a dining destination, and its rustic and sprawling back garden, with chickens and rabbits roaming, quickly became known as a destination for low-key parties, spontaneous dance parties, and the best kind of unscripted open-air cooking.
Pop into this all day café for a delicious cafécito and a sweet bite, or stay longer and order a full lunch from their French-fusion inspired menu. Take home a few treasures from sister shop Suculenta, advises our brand manager Allegra, who's a fan of their delicious preserves.
El Pasillo del Humo
Inside el Mercado 20 de Noviembre, you’ll find the legendary Pasillo del Humo, a corridor of fresh meats which are grilled for you on the spot and served with veggies, tortillas, and salsas. Definitely not vegetarians or asthmatics, but most others will find this legendary food hall dazzling. Tip: Danielle, our COO, is a fan of the puestos that pop up outside the mercado at night.
Nieves El Niágara
This ice cream shop in front of la Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is where Manny, our supply chain coordinator and Molinito expert (AND ice cream connoisseur) always stops for a scoop of leche quemada con tuna or burnt milk with prickly pear. He assures us it doesn’t taste burnt or prickly, just 100% rico delicioso.