The Oaxaca City Food & Mezcal Guide, Mexico's Foodie City
After eating so much good food in Mexico City, I knew Oaxaca city had some big shoes to fill. Anytime I would mention my ongoing travels to Oaxaca, most of the locals called it their favorite city for food. They all mentioned tlayudas and tejate which I'll talk about soon not to mention mezcal. What I wanted to have most the most was mole, a sauce made with chocolate and spices, since I had tried a few in Mexico City with no luck. Oaxaca, together with Puebla and Tlaxcala claim to be the big daddies of mole, another reason why I had to try it. Just like any city I visit, I love researching the best restaurants/bars. Out of all the food/mezcals, I tried, I narrowed it down to the best of the best. I have to say, Oaxaca City lived up to its reputation.
****Disclaimer: Although some of this post contains sponsored links, all opinions are my own. ****
Out of all the restaurants recommended to me by locals, Origen, by Chef Rodolfo Castellanos seemed to be the favorite. With flavors and ingredients from Oaxaca's very own markets, farms and seas, Origen's menu is fresh and seasonal. The first item on the menu that caught my eye was the local green salad with worms (bottom right). I've tried worms before at markets, but not on a salad. The worms themselves had so much flavor but tasted even better with the other flavors. It was then time for the ceviche tostada, which I inhaled within seconds. One thing you should know about me is that I love ceviche. So much, that I made the mistake of eating one of a street cart in Mexico City, big mistake. Everything else off the menu was delicious, plantains to the fish of the day, and cocktails. As for the desserts, killer.
The Vibe- A bit on the quiet side, perfect for a date or family time. Great art and decor.
Los Danzantes is one of the best places in Oaxaca City for a great meal, chat, and mezcal. With another location in Coyoacan (Mexico City) Los Danzantes serves spectacular Mexican fusion food. Los Danzantes was the first restaurant I visited in Oaxaca, also the best mole(first picture, bottom right plate). I've had mole a couple of times before, but wasn't necessarily my thing. But, since I was in Oaxaca, I wanted to try it again. This plate of mole, platanos, and shredded chicken was delicious. Definitely one of the better meals I've had in the city. As for the plate in the middle, those greens are stuffed with cheese. I'm not the biggest cheese fan, but Oaxacan cheese is delicious. Aside from tasty food, Los Danzantes is also known for mezcal. They have a distillery about 45 minutes from the city, but if you can't make it, a tasting at the restaurant is more than enough. The staff/bar tenders are very informative and always ready to recommend their favorite.
The Vibe- Beautiful outdoor area, great decor and a bit fancy.
Los Danzantes $$$
Opened for about a year, Casa Taviche should be on everyone's list. Owned by Chef Daniel and wife Dulce, Casa Taviche has some of the best three-course Oaxacan Cuisine which changes every day. Each day, the menu has three options for an appetizer, three for an entree and another three for dessert. You choose an item from each category at 85 pesos or less. Chef Daniel, Oaxacan native creates the next day's menu the night before with wife Dulce as the taster. On the day I came, shredded beef tostada, steak, and guava dessert were on the menu. The steak, of course, being the one of the best I've had in Mexico. Perfectly seasoned and cooked, accompanied by a side salad.
The Vibe- Somewhat small space with colorful decor, great service and warm welcome from the chef.
Casa Taviche $
Can you imagine a restaurant owned by three Americans killing it in Oaxaca City? El Destilado is doing just that, dominating with their take on Oaxacan ingredients with a contemporary twist. El Destilado has only been around a couple of years and already getting the "best restaurant" title from some. El Destilado has the option of a regular menu or a tasting menu, which is what I chose. I figured, since I couldn't afford a tasting menu at Pujol or any other fine dining restaurant in Mexico City, I would try one in Oaxaca. The price is a lot more affordable but still a bit expensive for backpackers like me. There's also nothing wrong with a little treat yourself. I went with the 9-course tasting menu with a drink pairing. Items ranged from creamy shrimp soup to eggs stuffed with meat and beans (pictured above) and Oaxacan whiskey. The tasting came with plenty of drinks, including a mezcal cocktail and wine. Dining at El Destilado was an experience worth having, especially the tasting menu. If not, be sure to try one of their cocktails.
The Vibe- Small type of restaurant, full service bar.
El Destilado $$$$
Oaxaca City to some has some of the best street food in the country, mostly known for tlyaudas and tejate. Tlayudas are large tortillas topped off with meat, beans, cheese or anything else. In my opinion, tlayudas aren't my favorite so was the tejate. Tejate is another traditional Oaxacan drink made from cacao and maize. I did, however, have heaps of tacos and ice cream. The place I visited the most was Mercado 20 de Noviembre, where I would get this meat plate (pictured above).
The Vibe- Big market full of locals, a bit packed.
Mercado 20 de Noviembre $
Where To Drink Mezcal/Party
Mezcal is very important in the Oaxacan culture, most locals love it and often preferred over tequila. Mezcal, just like tequila are made from different types of the agave plant. There are many types of agave plants which include tobala, espadin and much more. The difference between tequila and mezcal is, of course, the different type of plant but also how it's cooked. Mezcal is prepare a lot longer than tequila which then gives it that smoky flavor. Oaxaca City has plenty of distilleries and mezcal tastings bars or even tours.
The best mezcal cocktails in Oaxaca City, no seriously, they have the best cocktails in the city. Sabina Sabe is a pretty small bar with an attached restaurant, perfect for either dinner or drinks. It's a full-service bar, with all different types of liquors and over 90 types of mezcal. A few locals recommended this place to me, including this cilantro, cinnamon, and pepper cocktail (pictured above). Something else I recommend at Sabina Sabe is a mezcal tasting.
The Vibe- It gets pretty packed on weekends, great crowd and great staff.
Sabina Sabe $$
As far as nightlife, options are endless. There are many bars and clubs, with my favorite being Txalaparta. This bar is quite large and has a rooftop, also happens to be a favorite amongst the locals. They play everything from reggaeton to hip hop and other genres depending on the day. Weekends are the best time to visit Txalaparta, and it's a ton of fun.