Sep 2, 2005, 9:12 PM
Post #5 of 10
Below is a list of reliable restaurants:
- Danzantes on Alcala
- El Asador Vasco in the Zocalo. Portal de Flores #11, upstairs. Continental food. (It's a good place to go when you get tire of mole, mole, mole.) I ate here in October it's an old DiRoNA property, a little past it's prime (okay, maybe a lot past it's prime), the service was good by Mexican standards and the food fair to very good and somewhat pricy.
- El Biche Pobre on Calzada de la Republica #600. You'll probably need a taxi. Order the botana surita which will be a platter with 12 different appetizers
- El Che at 413 Calle 5 de Mayo. Excellent steak house, excellent and attentive service.
- El Jardin in the Zocalo. Portal de Flores #3
- El Meson at 805 Hidalgo, near the Zocalo
- El Naranjo at 203 Valerio Trujano
- El Portal de la Soledad at Portal Benito Juarez #116, 2nd floor overlooking the Zocalo
- El Topil at 104 Plazauela La Bastida, close to the Santo Domingo church
- Fonda Santo Domingo on 5 de Mayo next door to El Che. I've eaten here and it's very good traditional food.
- La Olla at 402 Reforma, go for breakfast (they also do temescals)
- Loz Danzantes at 403 Macedonio Alcala
- Marco Polo at 805 Pino Suarez across from Llano Park (don't try the one on 5 de Mayo), excellent fish cooked in an adobe beehive oven with rock salt built into the walls. Try the Huachinango a la talla and the platanos roasted in the oven and then served wtih rompope, sugar and crema for dessert
- Restaurante Casa Oaxaca at 407 Garcia Vigil, in the hotel of the same name. Very good.
- Restaurant Casa Oaxaca in the Galeria Quetzalli by the Santo Domingo church. I've eaten here and it's very good contemporary Mexican food. Definitely worth finding.
- La Catedral in Zaachila is a fun place to go on the weekends. It's open air, seats probably around 500, has playground equipment for the kids, bands for the adults, hammocks, and monkeys...............
Abigail Mendoza was featured in the very first issue of Saeuver Magazine and Mimi Sheraton, former food critic for the NYTimes rated Tlamanalli, Abigail Mendoza's restaurant in Teotitlan del Valle outside the City of Oaxaca as her #1 dining experience......ever. I've eaten at Tlamanalli and it is worth the drive out to T de V. You might want to call ahead, or have your hotel call ahead to make sure they're going to be open as they are only open for comida and not always every single day. The menu doesn't vary that much, it's usually some variation of mole. Some people are under whelmed and disappointed, others it just knocks their socks off. If you go, just go with an open mind. Don't go with lots of expectations, especially expectations of a gourmet, 5-star meal. Just go expecting some very, very good regional food and you'll probably leave very satisfied. The Mendoza sisters are all weavers as well as exceptional cooks and they display some of their rugs in the restaurant, which is pretty large. If you even remotely think that you might want to buy a weaving, take cash because they'll give you a decent discount for cash. I've also taken a class with Abigail on making Mole Negro, which was pretty amazing.
The Abastos Market in Oaxaca is billed as the largest open-air marekt in Latin America. I believe it. It's enormous, an absolute warren of good and services and everything in between. It is located on the outskirts of Oaxaca by the 2nd class bus station, easily accessed by public transporation, taxi or foot. Tuesday and Saturday are the main market days when the outlying vendors bring their products in, but it is open 7 days a week. If you've never been to this market it's not a bad idea to scope it out on a day other than Tuesday or Saturday to get the lay of the land and see how things flow. You can get some terrific smoked Chile Pasilla Oaxaqueno at Abastos. Not sure if the Chile de Agua will be in season when you're there or not, but if it is try it. Chile de Agua is a fresh chile that starts out a sort of intense pale green color and turns a flaming reddish/orange as it matures. Firey hot, tons of flavor.
Abastos can be something of an assault on the senses (and sensibility), I find that in many respects I enjoy the 20 de Noviembre market better. It is located a couple blocks off the Zocalo (south I think) and is in buildings that cover 2 city blocks. It is less hectic and more manageable if not somewhat stiffling inside. The first building houses most of the non-food vendors, household goods vendors, meat, fish, poultry vendors and about half the produce vendors. Chiguita, located towards the front of the building sells nieves that are really good, and safe, made with clean water. Definitely worth trying for a refreshing pick-me-up. The 2nd building houses most of the fondas, bakeries and everything else. Try Abuelita in this building for an easy early breakfast - pan de yema and champurrado. Out the back door of this building will put you on a street (sorry I've forgotten the name of it) with the MayorDomo chocolate factory on it. You can watch, purchase, and I believe customize your own chocolate blends.
There is an indigenous market everyday of the week in the Valle de Oaxaca. Sunday is Tlalacolula, which is about 45 minutes out of town. Ocotlon is the Friday market. I wasn't so wild about Tlalacolula but liked Ocotlon a lot. I think Etla is on Wednesday. On Ron Madera's site Planeta there is a listing of all the markets in the Valle. If you're in to Mexican markets, this is the place to be.
There is a woman's co-op, Mujeres Artesanias de las Regiones de Oaxaca at 204 Calle 5 de Mayo that also has all kinds of arts, crafts, jewelery and such of good quality and reasonable prices.
Other places for arts, crafts and regional shopping are:
- ARIPO at 809 Garcia Vigil, closed on Sunday
- Arte 7 Tradicion at 406 Garcia Vigil
- Mercado de Artesanias at J.P. Garcia & Zaragoza
- Galeria Quetzalli at Calle Constituccion 104 & Marquia 400
- Galeria Indigo at 104 Allende
- Corazon de Pueblo at 307 Alcala on the 2nd floor
For dancing and music try:
- El Sol & La Luna at 507 Reforma
- La Candela at 409 Murguia (Rick Bayless likes to go salsa dancing here)
There are a ton of shops and restaurants up around the Santo Domingo church. The church itself is worth checking out, even if you're not into churches. It is, of course, very old, but it is in the proces of being restored. The second floor has some fascinating displays of goldwork that came out of some of the Monte Alban tombs. There are tours of the church and the museum store tucked inside has some interesting merchandise. You can spend a lot of time up in this part of Oaxaca as there is a lot of interesting stuff in this area.
- The Basilica de la Soledad 7 blocks West of the Zocalo has an interesting history and worth a short visit.
There are also a ton of museums in Oaxaca:
- Museo Regional de Oaxaca at Calles M. Alcala and Gurrion next to the Santo Domingo church
- Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic Art at Morelos 503 between Tinoco 7 Palacios and Porfirio Diaz
- Museo Casa de Benito Juarez at Garcia Vigil 609
- Instituto de Artes Graficas at Alcala 507 across from the Santo Domingo church
- El Museo de Arte Contemporareo at Alcala 202 (this museum was built as one of Cortez' homes, but he never lived there)
Temescals are the big thing to do in Oaxaca these days. This is a healing steam/herbal bath. You crawl into a small adobe chamber, then the attendees stoke the fires with appropriate medicinal herbs and you sweat. When you come out they generally will do additional healing treatments with other herbs or lotions. Most of the upscale hotels can arrange this for you if you want to do it. You can also do a Google search and get more info.
I did a one day class at Season's of My Heart in 2003. I was there as part of a group. First, the facility is terrific. It is in what appears to be a geodesic dome and, IIRC, houses 3 spacious and very complete and well stocked prep kitchens. There is a massive outside kitchen with several large comals and grinding mills. This is a very organic, land based operation with a large amount of respect paid to the community, traditions and land that it inhabits. She's located in the Etla valley. The day we were there, the menu included moles amarillo, verde and negro, a salad of some sort, rice and the most spectacular chocolate bread pudding with tuna (i.e. cactus) sauce. She sells her mole pastes jarred, sea salt from Tehuantepec, the real deal vanilla and several other specialty items including her own chocolate de metate. Prices on those are fair by American standards, probably high by Mexican one. I bought a couple of her jarred mole sauces and have to say I was floored by how truly good they were when I reconstituted them. If you go and they are available, buy at least 1 jar and treat yourself later.
Okay, this is probably bordering on TMI (too much information), so I'll quit. Have a great trip and enjoy yourself. Oaxaca isn't my favorite city in Mexico but it definitely worth visiting.
(This post was edited by Gayla on Sep 3, 2005, 9:17 AM)