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The 27 Essential Restaurants in Oaxaca

Where to find magnificent moles, crisp tlayudas, and suckling pig tacos in one of Mexico’s most famous food towns.

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Just a 45-minute flight from Mexico City, the quaint, historic metropolis of Oaxaca has long been a popular landing pad for expats and bohemians attracted to its colonial-era streets, Baroque churches, and charming plazas. Lately, though, Oaxaca has gotten lots of buzz, drawing all types of international travelers to its tantalizing mix of colors, textures, sounds, and traditions, and the mingling aromas of mezcal, chocolate, and spices. La Verde Antequera, or the “green antique,” as Oaxaca is called — a reference to the green cantera stone on which the city is built, and the city’s former Spanish name, Nueva Antequera — has also become Mexico’s undisputed culinary capital, and a visit here quickly reveals why. In Oaxaca, your senses are spoiled from your first morning sip of local coffee or chocolate de agua to your last bite of mole or nightcap of mezcal.

Today, ambitious modern restaurants exist side by side with traditional mom-and-pop eateries and humming street food vendors. Here, then, is Eater’s list of the most essential restaurants, dishes, and culinary experiences in Oaxaca City, from fine dining restaurants to sidewalk snacks and everything in between.

Editor’s Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases in the Oaxaca area, please visit the US Embassy’s COVID-19 information site.

Price per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 200 pesos (less than USD $10)
$$ = 200 - 380 pesos (USD $10 to $20)
$$$ = 380 - 570 pesos (USD $20 to $30)
$$$$ = More than 570 pesos (more than USD $30)

Eater is bringing this map to life with a trip to Mexico City and Oaxaca, brought to you by Black Tomato. See the full itinerary and book a food-filled trip now.

Omar Alonso is a culinary tour guide, television fixer, and food writer based in Oaxaca.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Criollo

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Francisco I. Madero 129, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico
01 951 351 1908

Just outside the city’s hectic downtown, Criollo is Enrique Olvera and Luis Arellano’s countryside Oaxacan food lab. Both chefs are big players in the Mexican culinary scene, and they’ve been working together for years, first at Enrique’s signature restaurant, Pujol, and now at Criollo, where Arellano’s Oaxacan background is on full, delicious display. Located in a colonial mansion with a spacious courtyard, the restaurant’s six-course tasting menu changes daily, but maintains a consistent emphasis on iconic regional Mexican flavors, and a particular focus on Oaxaca. Criollo’s outstanding traditional tamales, tostadas, moles, and stuffed chiles are prepared with a contemporary, produce-driven twist and paired with an enviable selection of Mexican wine, mezcal, and craft beer. ($$$$)

A dish at Criollo
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

2. Pasillo de Humo at Mercado de abastos

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Juárez Maza s/n, Central de Abasto, 68090 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

Every market in Oaxaca has what’s known as a pasillo de humo, or smoke aisle — a smoke-filled alley where meat is sold and grilled by the kilo. The main pasillo de humo is located inside the 20 de Noviembre Market right next to the Zocalo, but the air here can be as thick with tourists as it is with the smell of cooked meat. Locals tend to prefer the one inside the sprawling Abastos Market. At either, the move is the same: purchase some meat from one of the stalls and they will provide a grill for you to cook your meat the way you like it. Wander the market and pick up a few garnishes and sides — avocados, green onions, a variety of salsas, fresh tortillas — and make it a meal. Here’s a tip: Purchase some drinks from one of the nearby nieve (ice cream) stalls and they’ll let you use their tables and chairs. ($)

a man stands behind a stall covered with dried meat products.
One of the meat vendors near the pasillo de humo at the mercado de Abastos.
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

3. Memelas "Doña Vale"

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Cosijoeza, Central de Abasto, 68090 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico
951 228 1315

In the heart of Oaxaca’s Abastos Market sits a bright blue stand named Memelas Doña Vale. Here, you will meet Vale Pacheco, the esteemed Doña Vale, who makes a version of Oaxaca’s iconic memelas that are so renowned, they earned her a spot on Netflix’s Street Food. Memelas are a Oaxacan signature dish: a small corn tortilla that’s given a pinched rim while cooking to hold myriad toppings, whatever you choose. The stars of this place — besides Doña Vale herself — are the giant molcajetes where she prepares two very different and astoundingly nuanced salsas: one dark, smoky salsa made with chile morita and miltomate (green tomatillo), and another red tomato and green chile salsa. Order a couple of memelitas and ask for grilled tasajo, eggs cooked on the comal, or pork ribs on the side. For drinks, you have two options, delicious Oaxacan hot chocolate or cafe de olla. Find her from 8 a.m. to around 2 p.m. every day but Sundays. ($)

4. Nieves ¨La Oaxaqueña¨

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Centro
68040 Oaxaca, Mexico
951 119 0119

Situated directly next to La Soledad church, the town square known as Jardin Socrates holds a special place in the heart of Oaxacans. This is where your parents would take you and your friends for birthdays, graduation, or any other celebration. It’s also the go-to stop after Sunday mass. There are several treat stands here, but La Oaxaqueña has been making nieve for more than five generations. All the flavors are delicious, but try the traditional leche quemada con tuna (burnt milk and prickly pear). ($)

several pink-topped ice treats sit on a table.
Nieves from La Oaxaquena
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

5. Restaurante Coronita

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# 68000, Díaz Ordaz 208, Zona Lunes Feb 09, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

Coronita is a true downtown Oaxaca landmark, founded in 1948 by Doña Carmen Valle, who to this day you’ll find sitting inside the restaurant, keeping an eye on things. This is one of the best places in town to enjoy the traditional seven moles from Oaxaca, with a special mole tasting flight that’s available every day. Don’t skip the caldo coronita, a chicken soup with the bonus of a whole chile pasilla. ($$)

An overhead of a woman’s hands ladling small sauces onto a piece of masa.
Restaurante Coronita
Jorge Martinez

6. Terraza Istmo

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Av. José María Morelos 400, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

On the third floor of Hotel “Casa Abuela Maria” in downtown Oaxaca lies this hidden gem, dedicated to serving simple traditional food from Oaxaca’s Isthmus region, about six hours east of Oaxaca City. Sisters Candy and Miriam Abad opened this small family restaurant in 2019, and today you can find excellent versions of garnachas (small fried masa discs with various toppings), molotes (filled pockets of fried masa dough), and other traditional dishes from the region. A rooftop patio offers unbeatable views of the city. ($$)

a floral placemat with a brown plate topped with five round discs of masa.
Granachas at Terraza Istmo
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

7. Chefinita

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20 de Noviembre 32-416, OAX_RE_BENITO JUAREZ, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico
951 228 5957

Locals know best, which is why it’s always hard to find a spot at this beloved taco cart on the streets of downtown Oaxaca. Chefinita is the nickname for Josefina, the founder and chef behind the famous pozole, which you can order with pork, beef, or both, served with some fried tostadas topped with guacamole. There are also delicious pork tacos and tostadas, and be on the lookout for the purple plastic container that holds one of the most famous (and spiciest) salsas in all of Oaxacan cuisine. Chefinita opens as soon as it gets dark and stays open through the early morning, making it the perfect place to cap off a mezcal all-nighter. ($)

An illuminated street cart is surrounded by people at night.
Chefinita at night
Omar Alonso

8. Casilda Aguas Regionales

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Flores Magón s/n, Local 30-31, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico
01 951 514 3379

The Casilda family’s famous aguas frescas (fruit water) shop has been inside the Mercado Benito Juárez for more than a century, serving its original recipes for horchata and fresh chilacayota juice made from the local, seasonal squash. Casilda’s horchata comes with little chunks of melon and pecans, and there are often a variety of horchata combinations for you to try, including versions with guava, chia, or peach. The best flavors tend to run out by midday, so pencil in a stop here before noon. ($)

Aguas frescas at Casilda Aguas Regionales
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

9. In Situ

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Av. José María Morelos 511, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

The vast mezcal library of Ulises Torrentera is the ultimate place to taste and learn about Oaxaca’s signature spirit. You’ll often find Ulises himself behind the bar, pouring samples from his collection of more than 180 different types of mezcal and teaching the intricacies of this Indigenous spirit. The tiny shop and tasting room are located on the bustling Morelos Street, walking distance from downtown’s main hotels. Purchase a tasting, a bottle, or order a glass a la carta. ($ - $$$)

A man hands a cup of mezcal across a bar.
Ulises Torrentera of In Situ.
Jorge Martinez

10. Restaurante Alfonsina

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Calle García Vigil 183, 71232 San Juan Bautista la Raya
Oax., Mexico

Jorge León started out working as a dishwasher at the restaurant Casa Oaxaca, but eventually his passion for food took him to Pujol in México City, where he earned the nickname “Moles” for his ability to make all types of Oaxacan mole from scratch. It was when he moved to New York to work at Cosme that he started sending money to his family to build Alfonsina, a family-run restaurant hidden near the airport in Oaxaca City. If you just show up any day, Elvia (Jorge’s mom) will offer you fresh tortillas from her comal, along with other delicious guisos (stews) that she prepares daily. If you make a reservation, then Jorge will cook a five-course meal especially for you. Both are sure ways to an exquisite meal. There is no menu at Alfonsina — whatever Jorge finds during his daily visits to the Abastos Market is what he and Elvia will be serving for the day. ($$$) 

A woman’s arm reaches over a comal with cooking masa discs.
Jorge León’s mother, Elvia, cooking on the comal at Alfonsina.
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

11. Boulenc

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Calle Porfirio Díaz 207, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

This chic cafe has a little bit of everything: third-wave coffee; incredible pastries; house-made jams, pickles, and other preserves; plus sourdough pizzas, fancy toasts, and an array of bready delights made by the head baker and co-founder, Juan Pablo Hernandez. Breakfast and brunch should start with a croissant or concha, but can be rounded out by rich shakshuka or a pile of waffles. Lunch is for pizza, salads, and sandwiches. The mood here is relaxed, and the casual, airy space includes a cozy bar in back. The Boulenc team recently opened a small adjacent hotel called Bed and Bread, as well as a shop, Succulenta, where you can take home many of the pantry goodies you enjoyed at the restaurant. ($$) 

An overhead shot of a table with bread and many other toasts and dishes.
Freshly baked read and all the delights at Boulenc.

12. Las Tlayudas de Mina y Bustamante

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Bustamante 322, OAX_RE_BENITO JUAREZ, Centro, 68000 Ejido del Centro
Oax., Mexico

Crisp meat-topped tlayudas are one of Oaxaca’s signature dishes, and while you can find them served in restaurants here, they’re traditionally a street food, and the best ones are sold from small carts around town. About two blocks from the Zocalo, near the corner of Bustamante and Mina streets, you’ll find a local favorite selling simple but excellent tlayudas starting at dawn, made with traditional toppings like tasajo (strips of dried beef) and pork chorizo. Help yourself to fresh molcajete salsa, and add a frothy chocolate atole or an agua fresca to finish off your street food feast. ($)

A street cart with people gathered in front.
Las Tlayudas de Mina y Bustamante
Jorge Martinez

13. Tejate at Benito Juárez Market

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Benito Juárez, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

If you happen to come across a woman mixing a foamy beverage by hand in a huge clay pot, you have found Oaxaca’s best-loved drink: tejate. Made from dried mamey seeds (a tropical fruit best described as a cross between avocado and melon), the refreshing drink has a rich, one-of-a-kind flavor with a slightly sweet finish. Pinpointing the city’s best tejate is almost impossible — recipes are passed down from generation to generation, and each tejate maker (almost exclusively women) has her own personal touch. You can find stellar versions at just about any local market, and one of the best is run by Lucrecia Ruíz. Working out of the Benito Juarez market, she offers a special version of tejate prepared with cocoa. ($)

A tejate maker
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

14. Rito Chocolatería & Tienda

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68000, Calle Porfirio Díaz 708 -H, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Centro
Oax., Mexico

Flor Heras is a third-generation chocolatier and co-owner of Rito Chocolateria, the shop and chocolate company her family founded years ago. Today, Heras is pushing her art even further with Reina Negra, a new sub-brand of obsessively sourced bean-to-bar chocolate that you can sample and purchase at the Rito storefront. Situated across from one of the busiest markets in town, the shop sells packaged chocolate as well as agua de chocolate, fruit-filled pastries, and other ready-to-eat treats. It’s also where Heras holds small workshops where visitors can learn everything about chocolate, from the raw ingredients to the process to its history and cultural significance to the Oaxacan people. ($) 

A man and woman in bright shirts stand in the doorway of a shop.
Flor Heras and her father at Rito Chocolateria
Jorge Martinez

15. Tacos De Comal Plaza Del Carmen

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Jesús Carranza 110, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

This is one of the most famous street stands in all of Oaxaca City and a perennial favorite among local chefs and cooks. The family-run operation cooks up unparalleled versions of empanadas de amarillo (big corn quesadillas filled with tomato and chicken stew) and tacos de chile relleno, among other cooked-to-order bites. Start your morning with traditional tacos and empanadas prepared with fresh corn dough and cooked on the Oaxacan clay comal (large pan) while the chorizo cooks beneath. ($)

A group of women in aprons stand around a comal with many tacos.
The cooks at Tacos de Comal Plaza del Carmen
Jorge Martinez

16. Café Brújula

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Calle Macedonio Alcalá 104, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

This Oaxacan coffee mini-chain started in 2006, with the goal of working exclusively and directly with small, local coffee producers around the region of Pluma Hidalgo near the coastal town of Puerto Escondido. So far, the founders have not only kept their promise, but their business has thrived while doing so, expanding to five locations throughout Oaxaca City. Aside from excellent coffee, Brújula carries what might be the city’s best sugar cookies. Or skip the coffee altogether and try the Pepe Limón, a fresh lime juice smoothie, or anything else from the large roster of drinks and pastries. ($)

An overhead shot down into a courtyard with people drinking coffee at tables.
The courtyard at Café Brújula
Cafe Brújula / Facebook

17. Origen

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Miguel Hidalgo 820, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico
01 951 501 1764
Visit Website

The chef at Origen, Rodolfo Castellanos, might be a bona fide celebrity for his win on Top Chef Mexico, but you’ll still find him here at his restaurant almost every day. If you’re lucky, you may also spot Castellanos’s mom, Eve Fuensanta, stirring the giant black or red mole pots on the floor of the prep kitchen, as she does a couple of times each month. Rodolfo learned the trade from her, and you can taste the heritage in some of the specialty dishes like the chichilo mole with beef tongue — the dish that won him the title of Top Chef México. ($$$ - $$$$)

Origen
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

18. Selva Oaxaca Cocktail Bar

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Calle Macedonio Alcalá #403-int. 6, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

Selva means jungle, and it’s a fitting name for this new cocktail bar on the second floor of Los Danzantes restaurant, where patrons are definitely transported into another world. The focus here is on local ingredients traditionally used in Oaxacan healing, with those aromas, flavors, and textures playing into the rotating menu of drinks — heavy on mezcal — by co-founder and beverage director Alexandra Purcaru. One Sunday each month, local chefs are invited to create a brunch menu to pair with cocktails designed specially for the occasion. ($$$)

A woman in a blouse and white pants stands in front of a bar.
Beverage director Alexandra Pucaru at Selva
Jorge Martinez

19. Restaurante Casa Oaxaca

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A Gurrión 104 A, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico
01 951 516 8531
Visit Website

This place is a Oaxaca classic. Fresh salsa mixed tableside and warm Mexican hospitality are the trademarks of this critically acclaimed restaurant from chef Alejandro Ruiz, who celebrates the traditional flavors, recipes, and heritage of his home state with a menu that soars from start to finish. Find mole negro, coloradito, and manchamanteles (three of Oaxaca’s most iconic dishes) cooked from scratch with ingredients sourced from eight of Oaxaca’s own distinct culinary regions. Make sure you try their mezcal cocktails, also known as Mezcalinis. ($$$$)

A nighttime scene on a patio with people at tables.
The patio at Casa Oaxaca
Jorge Martinez

20. Tierra del Sol Casa Restaurante

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Reforma 411, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

Olga Cabrera of Tierra del Sol hails from the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, and her favorite dish to make is also her best: mole. She has over 30 moles on her menu — some traditional, some original creations. The restaurant has an amazing, comfy terrace, and the location in the center of town is ideal. She recently transformed the first floor into a bakery, Masea, Trigo, and Maîz, where she sells breads and other pastries baked fresh daily. ($$)

Several small terra cotta dishes on a table.
A mole sampler at Tierra del Sol
Jorge Martinez

21. Levadura de Olla Restaurante

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Murguía 304, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico
951 108 3250

Thalia Barrios Garcîa is part of a long tradition of cooks in her family, starting with her grandmother, and continuing on through her mom and aunts, all of whom live in the town of San Mateo Yucutindoô in Oaxaca’s Sierra Sur. After graduating from culinary school, Thalia had one goal: to open a place where she could cook alongside her aunts and serve the food her family had been perfecting for generations. Today, she does just that at Levadura de Olla, right in the heart of Oaxaca. If you reserve a spot in the restaurant’s smoke kitchen, you’ll be seated directly across from the comales where Thalia will be cooking delicious traditional dishes with the recipes from her hometown. This is truly a magical experience. ($$) 

A clay bowl holds bits of pork rib with sauce.
A homey pork dish at Levadura de Olla
Laverdura de Olla / Facebook

22. Mezcal Tasting at La Mezcaloteca

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Reforma No. 506, Col. Centro, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico
01 951 514 0082
Visit Website

More mezcal library than bar, Mezcaloteca offers curated tastings hosted by in-the-field experts, who guide guests through the rarest and most representative expressions of Mexico’s most beloved spirit. Reservations are a must, and a prix fixe tasting, which includes samples of three different mezcals, is a perfect introduction to the spirit — as well as a great warm-up to dinner. ($$)

La Mezcaloteca
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

23. Tortas La Hormiga

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Jacobo Dalevuelta No. 205, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

This cart has been a staple for more than 25 years on the corner of Jardin Conzatti, where it prepares puffy, loaded tortas in every combination you can imagine: quesillo, picadillo, pork milanese, tasajo, ham and pineapple, plus breakfast versions with egg and chorizo. The pickled peppers and fresh vegetables put each sandwich over the top. Grab an agua fresca and find a spot at the nearby park to enjoy it. ($)

two women sit on a bench near a red food truck.
The famed Tortas La Hormiga truck
Jorge Martinez

24. El Tendajon

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Calle de José María Pino Suárez #409, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

In a yellow facade just blocks from the Santo Domingo cathedral, chef Andy Sanchez prepares an effortless menu of simple but sophisticated dishes that put a modern spin on Oaxacan tradition. The octopus carnitas tacos are a constant hit, as is the rotating ceviche of the week. Micheladas are made with a mix from the beloved nearby La Giralda Bar, and a robust breakfast menu includes stacks of pancakes piled with tropical fruit. ($$$)

A woman smiles from behind a bar where two dishes of food sit.
Chef Andy Sanchez of El Tendajon
Jorge Martinez

25. Suckling Pig Tacos at Lechoncito de Oro

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Calle de los Libres s/n, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

There comes a time during any good night in Oaxaca when the mezcal catches up with you. It is exactly this time that you should wander over to the corner of Libres and Murguia and seek out the small cart known as El Lechoncito de Oro. The specialty here is lechon, or roasted suckling pig, and there are just three menu options, which is plenty: tortas, tostadas, and tacos. Pick any one, and choose from toppings or fillings like lechon with chicharrón (crispy fried pork belly) or lechon with pierna (tender pork leg). If you dare, ask for the salsa especial — nobody knows the secret recipe, but one ingredient is definitely fire. ($) 

Suckling pig tacos at Lechoncito de Oro
Suckling pig tacos at Lechoncito de Oro
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

26. Sirilo | Cocina Folk

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Calle Amapolas 400, Reforma, 68050 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

Chef Rene Saynes has created a lively, hip space for his innovative menu of seafood dishes, starring ingredients from his parents’ hometown of Juchitan in the Isthmus Region of Oaxaca. Ceviches, fish tacos, towering aguachiles, and oysters on the half shell show off the bounty of Mexico’s waters. To drink, try the La Chula, a popsicle made with mezcal and seasonal fruits that’s served inside a michelada mixed with your favorite beer. ($$)

A long oyster bar behind glass that says “ostiones chingognes” in painted letters.
The oyster bar at Sirilo
Jorge Martinez

27. Mercado Morelos La Cocina De Frida

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71510, Calle Pueblos Unidos 104, Centro, 71510 Ocotlán de Morelos
Oax., Mexico

Beatriz Vazquez might just dress up like Frida Kahlo, but she’s a true artist when it comes to the kitchen — especially the mole estofado, which is among the most delicious in all of Oaxaca. Make your way out to Ocotlan de Morelos, a small town about 45 minutes from the city center, and visit the Morelos Market, where you’ll find her making chiles rellenos, her famous mole, and what she calls the “naked taco,” a grilled chile de agua stuffed with chicken picadillo, rolled in a tortilla and cooked on the coals. ($)

A woman dressed as Frida Kahlo sitting at a table with food.
Beatriz Vasques dresses as Frida Kahlo at her acclaimed food stall.
Jorge Martinez

1. Criollo

Francisco I. Madero 129, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
A dish at Criollo
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

Just outside the city’s hectic downtown, Criollo is Enrique Olvera and Luis Arellano’s countryside Oaxacan food lab. Both chefs are big players in the Mexican culinary scene, and they’ve been working together for years, first at Enrique’s signature restaurant, Pujol, and now at Criollo, where Arellano’s Oaxacan background is on full, delicious display. Located in a colonial mansion with a spacious courtyard, the restaurant’s six-course tasting menu changes daily, but maintains a consistent emphasis on iconic regional Mexican flavors, and a particular focus on Oaxaca. Criollo’s outstanding traditional tamales, tostadas, moles, and stuffed chiles are prepared with a contemporary, produce-driven twist and paired with an enviable selection of Mexican wine, mezcal, and craft beer. ($$$$)

Francisco I. Madero 129, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

2. Pasillo de Humo at Mercado de abastos

Juárez Maza s/n, Central de Abasto, 68090 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
a man stands behind a stall covered with dried meat products.
One of the meat vendors near the pasillo de humo at the mercado de Abastos.
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

Every market in Oaxaca has what’s known as a pasillo de humo, or smoke aisle — a smoke-filled alley where meat is sold and grilled by the kilo. The main pasillo de humo is located inside the 20 de Noviembre Market right next to the Zocalo, but the air here can be as thick with tourists as it is with the smell of cooked meat. Locals tend to prefer the one inside the sprawling Abastos Market. At either, the move is the same: purchase some meat from one of the stalls and they will provide a grill for you to cook your meat the way you like it. Wander the market and pick up a few garnishes and sides — avocados, green onions, a variety of salsas, fresh tortillas — and make it a meal. Here’s a tip: Purchase some drinks from one of the nearby nieve (ice cream) stalls and they’ll let you use their tables and chairs. ($)

Juárez Maza s/n, Central de Abasto, 68090 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

3. Memelas "Doña Vale"

Cosijoeza, Central de Abasto, 68090 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico

In the heart of Oaxaca’s Abastos Market sits a bright blue stand named Memelas Doña Vale. Here, you will meet Vale Pacheco, the esteemed Doña Vale, who makes a version of Oaxaca’s iconic memelas that are so renowned, they earned her a spot on Netflix’s Street Food. Memelas are a Oaxacan signature dish: a small corn tortilla that’s given a pinched rim while cooking to hold myriad toppings, whatever you choose. The stars of this place — besides Doña Vale herself — are the giant molcajetes where she prepares two very different and astoundingly nuanced salsas: one dark, smoky salsa made with chile morita and miltomate (green tomatillo), and another red tomato and green chile salsa. Order a couple of memelitas and ask for grilled tasajo, eggs cooked on the comal, or pork ribs on the side. For drinks, you have two options, delicious Oaxacan hot chocolate or cafe de olla. Find her from 8 a.m. to around 2 p.m. every day but Sundays. ($)

Cosijoeza, Central de Abasto, 68090 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

4. Nieves ¨La Oaxaqueña¨

Centro, 68040 Oaxaca, Mexico
several pink-topped ice treats sit on a table.
Nieves from La Oaxaquena
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

Situated directly next to La Soledad church, the town square known as Jardin Socrates holds a special place in the heart of Oaxacans. This is where your parents would take you and your friends for birthdays, graduation, or any other celebration. It’s also the go-to stop after Sunday mass. There are several treat stands here, but La Oaxaqueña has been making nieve for more than five generations. All the flavors are delicious, but try the traditional leche quemada con tuna (burnt milk and prickly pear). ($)

Centro
68040 Oaxaca, Mexico

5. Restaurante Coronita

# 68000, Díaz Ordaz 208, Zona Lunes Feb 09, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
An overhead of a woman’s hands ladling small sauces onto a piece of masa.
Restaurante Coronita
Jorge Martinez

Coronita is a true downtown Oaxaca landmark, founded in 1948 by Doña Carmen Valle, who to this day you’ll find sitting inside the restaurant, keeping an eye on things. This is one of the best places in town to enjoy the traditional seven moles from Oaxaca, with a special mole tasting flight that’s available every day. Don’t skip the caldo coronita, a chicken soup with the bonus of a whole chile pasilla. ($$)

# 68000, Díaz Ordaz 208, Zona Lunes Feb 09, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

6. Terraza Istmo

Av. José María Morelos 400, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
a floral placemat with a brown plate topped with five round discs of masa.
Granachas at Terraza Istmo
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

On the third floor of Hotel “Casa Abuela Maria” in downtown Oaxaca lies this hidden gem, dedicated to serving simple traditional food from Oaxaca’s Isthmus region, about six hours east of Oaxaca City. Sisters Candy and Miriam Abad opened this small family restaurant in 2019, and today you can find excellent versions of garnachas (small fried masa discs with various toppings), molotes (filled pockets of fried masa dough), and other traditional dishes from the region. A rooftop patio offers unbeatable views of the city. ($$)

Av. José María Morelos 400, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

7. Chefinita

20 de Noviembre 32-416, OAX_RE_BENITO JUAREZ, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
An illuminated street cart is surrounded by people at night.
Chefinita at night
Omar Alonso

Locals know best, which is why it’s always hard to find a spot at this beloved taco cart on the streets of downtown Oaxaca. Chefinita is the nickname for Josefina, the founder and chef behind the famous pozole, which you can order with pork, beef, or both, served with some fried tostadas topped with guacamole. There are also delicious pork tacos and tostadas, and be on the lookout for the purple plastic container that holds one of the most famous (and spiciest) salsas in all of Oaxacan cuisine. Chefinita opens as soon as it gets dark and stays open through the early morning, making it the perfect place to cap off a mezcal all-nighter. ($)

20 de Noviembre 32-416, OAX_RE_BENITO JUAREZ, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

8. Casilda Aguas Regionales

Flores Magón s/n, Local 30-31, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Aguas frescas at Casilda Aguas Regionales
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

The Casilda family’s famous aguas frescas (fruit water) shop has been inside the Mercado Benito Juárez for more than a century, serving its original recipes for horchata and fresh chilacayota juice made from the local, seasonal squash. Casilda’s horchata comes with little chunks of melon and pecans, and there are often a variety of horchata combinations for you to try, including versions with guava, chia, or peach. The best flavors tend to run out by midday, so pencil in a stop here before noon. ($)

Flores Magón s/n, Local 30-31, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

9. In Situ

Av. José María Morelos 511, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
A man hands a cup of mezcal across a bar.
Ulises Torrentera of In Situ.
Jorge Martinez

The vast mezcal library of Ulises Torrentera is the ultimate place to taste and learn about Oaxaca’s signature spirit. You’ll often find Ulises himself behind the bar, pouring samples from his collection of more than 180 different types of mezcal and teaching the intricacies of this Indigenous spirit. The tiny shop and tasting room are located on the bustling Morelos Street, walking distance from downtown’s main hotels. Purchase a tasting, a bottle, or order a glass a la carta. ($ - $$$)

Av. José María Morelos 511, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

10. Restaurante Alfonsina

Calle García Vigil 183, 71232 San Juan Bautista la Raya, Oax., Mexico
A woman’s arm reaches over a comal with cooking masa discs.
Jorge León’s mother, Elvia, cooking on the comal at Alfonsina.
Juan de Dios Garza Vela

Jorge León started out working as a dishwasher at the restaurant Casa Oaxaca, but eventually his passion for food took him to Pujol in México City, where he earned the nickname “Moles” for his ability to make all types of Oaxacan mole from scratch. It was when he moved to New York to work at Cosme that he started sending money to his family to build Alfonsina, a family-run restaurant hidden near the airport in Oaxaca City. If you just show up any day, Elvia (Jorge’s mom) will offer you fresh tortillas from her comal, along with other delicious guisos (stews) that she prepares daily. If you make a reservation, then Jorge will cook a five-course meal especially for you. Both are sure ways to an exquisite meal. There is no menu at Alfonsina — whatever Jorge finds during his daily visits to the Abastos Market is what he and Elvia will be serving for the day. ($$$) 

Calle García Vigil 183, 71232 San Juan Bautista la Raya
Oax., Mexico

11. Boulenc

Calle Porfirio Díaz 207, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
An overhead shot of a table with bread and many other toasts and dishes.
Freshly baked read and all the delights at Boulenc.

This chic cafe has a little bit of everything: third-wave coffee; incredible pastries; house-made jams, pickles, and other preserves; plus sourdough pizzas, fancy toasts, and an array of bready delights made by the head baker and co-founder, Juan Pablo Hernandez. Breakfast and brunch should start with a croissant or concha, but can be rounded out by rich shakshuka or a pile of waffles. Lunch is for pizza, salads, and sandwiches. The mood here is relaxed, and the casual, airy space includes a cozy bar in back. The Boulenc team recently opened a small adjacent hotel called Bed and Bread, as well as a shop, Succulenta, where you can take home many of the pantry goodies you enjoyed at the restaurant. ($$) 

Calle Porfirio Díaz 207, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

12. Las Tlayudas de Mina y Bustamante

Bustamante 322, OAX_RE_BENITO JUAREZ, Centro, 68000 Ejido del Centro, Oax., Mexico
A street cart with people gathered in front.
Las Tlayudas de Mina y Bustamante
Jorge Martinez

Crisp meat-topped tlayudas are one of Oaxaca’s signature dishes, and while you can find them served in restaurants here, they’re traditionally a street food, and the best ones are sold from small carts around town. About two blocks from the Zocalo, near the corner of Bustamante and Mina streets, you’ll find a local favorite selling simple but excellent tlayudas starting at dawn, made with traditional toppings like tasajo (strips of dried beef) and pork chorizo. Help yourself to fresh molcajete salsa, and add a frothy chocolate atole or an agua fresca to finish off your street food feast. ($)

Bustamante 322, OAX_RE_BENITO JUAREZ, Centro, 68000 Ejido del Centro
Oax., Mexico

13. Tejate at Benito Juárez Market

Benito Juárez, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
A tejate maker
Photo by Jason Thomas Fritz

If you happen to come across a woman mixing a foamy beverage by hand in a huge clay pot, you have found Oaxaca’s best-loved drink: tejate. Made from dried mamey seeds (a tropical fruit best described as a cross between avocado and melon), the refreshing drink has a rich, one-of-a-kind flavor with a slightly sweet finish. Pinpointing the city’s best tejate is almost impossible — recipes are passed down from generation to generation, and each tejate maker (almost exclusively women) has her own personal touch. You can find stellar versions at just about any local market, and one of the best is run by Lucrecia Ruíz. Working out of the Benito Juarez market, she offers a special version of tejate prepared with cocoa. ($)

Benito Juárez, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

14. Rito Chocolatería & Tienda

68000, Calle Porfirio Díaz 708 -H, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Centro, Oax., Mexico
A man and woman in bright shirts stand in the doorway of a shop.
Flor Heras and her father at Rito Chocolateria
Jorge Martinez

Flor Heras is a third-generation chocolatier and co-owner of Rito Chocolateria, the shop and chocolate company her family founded years ago. Today, Heras is pushing her art even further with Reina Negra, a new sub-brand of obsessively sourced bean-to-bar chocolate that you can sample and purchase at the Rito storefront. Situated across from one of the busiest markets in town, the shop sells packaged chocolate as well as agua de chocolate, fruit-filled pastries, and other ready-to-eat treats. It’s also where Heras holds small workshops where visitors can learn everything about chocolate, from the raw ingredients to the process to its history and cultural significance to the Oaxacan people. ($) 

68000, Calle Porfirio Díaz 708 -H, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Centro
Oax., Mexico

15. Tacos De Comal Plaza Del Carmen

Jesús Carranza 110, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
A group of women in aprons stand around a comal with many tacos.
The cooks at Tacos de Comal Plaza del Carmen
Jorge Martinez

This is one of the most famous street stands in all of Oaxaca City and a perennial favorite among local chefs and cooks. The family-run operation cooks up unparalleled versions of empanadas de amarillo (big corn quesadillas filled with tomato and chicken stew) and tacos de chile relleno, among other cooked-to-order bites. Start your morning with traditional tacos and empanadas prepared with fresh corn dough and cooked on the Oaxacan clay comal (large pan) while the chorizo cooks beneath. ($)

Jesús Carranza 110, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

Related Maps

16. Café Brújula

Calle Macedonio Alcalá 104, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
An overhead shot down into a courtyard with people drinking coffee at tables.
The courtyard at Café Brújula
Cafe Brújula / Facebook

This Oaxacan coffee mini-chain started in 2006, with the goal of working exclusively and directly with small, local coffee producers around the region of Pluma Hidalgo near the coastal town of Puerto Escondido. So far, the founders have not only kept their promise, but their business has thrived while doing so, expanding to five locations throughout Oaxaca City. Aside from excellent coffee, Brújula carries what might be the city’s best sugar cookies. Or skip the coffee altogether and try the Pepe Limón, a fresh lime juice smoothie, or anything else from the large roster of drinks and pastries. ($)

Calle Macedonio Alcalá 104, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

17. Origen

Miguel Hidalgo 820, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico