I often receive calls and E-mails from friends asking for my recommendations on places to visit and eat when traveling to Oaxaca. I visit Oaxaca at least twice a year, and it’s no secret I am in love with the city that saw me grow up. I will always recommend visiting Oaxaca during the Guelaguetza season (last two Mondays of July), and for Day of the Dead. However; my favorite time of year to visit Oaxaca is during El Saber del Sabor food festival. This is the time of year when the who’s who of Mexican chefs visit Oaxaca and come together for 10 days of cooking demos, tastings and pre-fixed dinner collaborations.
I compiled a list of my favorites places to eat, drink and lodge. I can only hope everyone gets a chance to experience one of the richest cultural destinations Mexico has to offer…
Casa Oaxaca- It’s a beautiful boutique hotel with 5 star service owned by Alejandro Ruiz, one of the best chefs in Mexico. Everything about this place is perfect…the food, the ambiance, the service. Every morning, the chef de cuisine goes out to the local market and comes back with fresh produce to make the menu for the day.
Camino Real – The architecture is stunning. This hotel chain is walking distance from Santo Domingo, and the andador turístico.
Las Bugambilias- A very cozy B&B. The location is great, as it is very close to La Mezcaloteca, another favorite place of mine you will read about later.
El Secreto B&B – A cozy and urban B&B, with the friendliest of staff. This B&B has four bedrooms, a private patio and beautiful sun deck. They also offer cooking demos and other services.
Cooking class with Susana Thrilling- Susana is a dear friend of mine, and I HIGHLY recommend taking her cooking class with the local market tour. The school is like a beautiful oasis, located in Etla, a town 25min from Oaxaca. She is amazing and worth every penny. I would recommend that if you are interested in taking her class, you do it the first day you are there. You will learn so much from her.
Cooking Class with Pilar Cabrera. Pilar is another one of the great female chefs of Oaxaca. My mom adores her and loves taking her classes whenever traveling to Oaxaca. She hosts her cooking classes in the city and always starts them off with a shopping tour in one of Oaxaca’s local markets. You can read more about her and book a class here
Mezcal distillery tour - Real Minero, in Santa Catarina Minas (40 minutes from the city). One of the things I look forward to the most when I travel to Oaxaca, is sipping on Real Minero mezcal. Graciela’s family has one of the best traditional productions in Oaxaca. Her mezcal is distilled in clay pot distills, giving her production a very distinct taste. You can get in contact with Graciela Angeles via Email and schedule a tour of her family’s distillery. email@example.com
Tosba Mezcal distillery– If you are feeling adventurous (and I mean being with out cell service for more than 10 hours on curvy Oaxaca roads) then this is, with out a doubt, the place to check out. It will take a few phone calls and arrangements, but if you’re serious about it send me a note and I can arrange it with the owners (best people in this world)
Places/Restaurants not to miss-
Tlacolula Sunday Market- Every Sunday, thousands of merchants from the valleys of Oaxaca gather in Tlacolula to create the biggest market day in Oaxaca. I suggest you arrive as early as possible. Bring comfortable shoes, cash and a hungry belly. Tlacolula is 25 minutes from the city
La Mezcaloteca - The ultimate mezcal tasting room. You can get educated on the art of mezcal and enjoy local productions from a variety of magueys. My recommendation? Any Karwinsky maguey, such like a Madrecuixe, largo or Tobaziche.
Mezcaleria Los Amantes – I can bet that as soon as you walk into this place, you will be greeted by one of my favorite souls in Oaxaca – Leo. His smile is contagious and with him, you can experience mezcal that he hand picks from all over Oaxaca. I recommend dropping by after 8pm when all the regulars show up.
Fuego y Sazon- Great art, unbelievable food and a warm atmosphere. They have a live Jazz band on weekend nights. The place is absolutely beautiful and the food is one of the best in the city. Their most popular dish is a ‘nido de chapulines.’ Also please try any of their desserts, you can never go wrong here.
La Zandunga – This restaurant is dedicated to serving food from the Isthmus of Oaxaca. This place is ran by two amazing brothers and their mom, who runs the kitchen. This is one of those places you can’t only go once. Be prepared to spend more than a few lunches there until you try the entire menu. They also carry Mezcal Espirituosa (again, be prepared to drink more than just a few of these)
El Origen- Chef Rodolfo Castellanos struck gold in this place. This is not only a gorgeous location, but he is doing things in Oaxaca cooking that no other chef is doing. His menu changes throughout the seasons, so I recommend more than one visit to try it all ( I always do)
La Pitiona- Voted as one of the best restaurants in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. Chef Jose Manuel Baños is the master of contemporary Oaxacan cuisine.
Casa Oaxaca- Anything Chef Alex Ruiz touches, turns into gold. This restaurant is located across The Santo Domingo church. I recommend a late night dinner on the rooftop
Cafe Casa Oaxaca- Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I could eat here everyday of my life and never get tired of it. This is my go-to spot for breakfast. It’s a casual environment, located in the Colonia Reforma neighborhood. (make sure you emphasize ‘Reforma’ to your driver)
La Biznaga- If you are looking for something light on your stomach and full of deliciousness, La Biznaga is the place you want to visit. The atmosphere is bright and fun. When you visit Santo Domingo church and The Botanic Garden, I suggest you stop here for lunch.
Paletas Popeye- This small chain of cold popsicles is a Oaxacan staple. My favorite is limon de leche, cajeta, and coco. DELICIOUS! I eat one a day, everyday I am there
Los Danzantes Restaurant- Beautiful décor. I recommend you make a night out of it. Start you night off with a nice dinner here and follow with some dancing and mezcal over at Café Central.
El Central- a favorite bar among locals and myself. I go there at least one night every time I am in Oaxaca. Owner Guillermo Olguin also owns Mezcaleria Los Amantes (a personal favorite). When you go to Mezcaleria, ask for Leo. He can teach you a thing or two about mezcal
Arbol del Tule- This tree has the stoutest trunk of any tree in the world. Local children can give you a small tour around it, and point out all the great figures surrounding the tree. It’s 20 min from the city
Mitla Ruins - Mitla was called the city of the dead back in the ancient times and it’s a great archaeological site. This is where I was born and where a lot of my family still lives. Its 45 min from the city.
Monte Alban- The largest archaeological site in Oaxaca.