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The 32 Essential Restaurants in Oaxaca

Where to find crisp memelas, magnificent moles, and smoky grilled meats in the Oaxacan capital

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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.

Price per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 200 pesos (less than USD $10)
$$ = 200 - 380 pesos (USD $10 to $18)
$$$ = 380 - 570 pesos (USD $18 to $28)
$$$$ = More than 570 pesos (more than USD $28)

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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.
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1. 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.

Jason Thomas Fritz

2. Sirilo | Cocina Folk

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

Chef Rene Saynes runs 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.

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3. 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. [$]

An overflowing torta, split in half, on a red plastic plate on concrete surface

Torta from La Hormiga.

Eva Alicia Lépiz

4. Taco Sireno

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Calle de José María Pino Suárez 900, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68050 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

With its cool green tones and wood paneling, Taco Sireno looks straight out of a Mexican movie from the ’80s, an excellent backdrop for the delicious, fresh seafood on offer. Make sure to order fresh oysters paired with a michelada or Suero, followed by the black and red aguachile de camarón, torre de mariscos (seafood tower), and the all-time favorite: the grilled cheese sandwich with shrimp. [$$ - $$$$]

A cook brushes sauce on a fish pressed to a grill by a steel grate

Pescado zarandeado.

Taco Sireno/Facebook

5. 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 frothy cup of drinkable chocolate in a black clay mug on a wood tabletop

Agua de chocolate.

Eva Alicia Lépiz

6. 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.

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7. La Mezcaloteca

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

Jason Thomas Fritz

8. Restaurante Casa Oaxaca

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

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9. 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.

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10. 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.

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11. La Atolería Masea

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

Atole is pure comfort. The corn-based drink is ideal in the morning or on cold nights, and it’s filling, delicious, and nutritious. Chef Olga Cabrera pays homage to the elixir at La Atolería, where an array of burners continuously warm pots of atole for sampling all day long. Try traditional combinations, as well as seasonal fruit flavors and more unique options you aren’t likely to see on the streets of Oaxaca.  [$ - $$]

A chef leans over and stirs a clay pot, one in a row of pots lined up on a counter beneath warm pendant lights

Chef Olga Cabrera tending the atole.

Masea Trigo y Maíz/Facebook

12. 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.

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13. Levadura de Olla Restaurante

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C. de Manuel García Vigil 304, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico
951 269 9068

Thalia Barrios Garcia comes from a long line of cooks, 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, she 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, that spectacular cuisine (delicious soups, otherworldly tamales) is available at Levadura de Olla, right in the heart of Oaxaca. Note: Levadura used to house Garcia’s private, chef’s table-like experience, but that business, La Cocina de Humo, now lives a few blocks away; see separate listing. [$$ - $$$$]

A chef lifts the lid to an earthen ware pot and pours a dark sauce on a mashed dish in a corn husk

Applying the finishing touch.

Eva Alicia Lépiz

14. 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.

Jason Thomas Fritz

15. 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 also operates 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.

Jorge Martinez

16. 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

17. 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

18. La Cocina de Humo

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

Thalia Barrios Garcia created La Cocina de Humo to give diners the experience of eating at a cocina de humo, an aptly smoke-filled kitchen common in rural areas like her hometown in the mountains of Oaxaca. Garcia creates unique dishes featuring mushrooms, maize, and other traditional ingredients, some of which she brings from San Mateo Yucutindoô herself. There are no rules and no courses to this stripped down chef’s table. Food hits the middle of the table and everyone digs in for a truly magical experience. Make a reservation for breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a minimum of four people.  

Note: La Cocina de Humo used to be part of Levadura, Garcia’s main restaurant, but now the businesses are separated by a few blocks; see separate listing for Levadura. [$$$]

A chef stands in a branded apron holding a bowl of chiles in front of shelves displaying clay pots
Chef Thalia Barrios Garcia

Eva Alicia Lépiz

19. 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.

Jason Thomas Fritz

20. 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

21. 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.

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22. Origen

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

Jason Thomas Fritz

23. 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

24. Mezcalería In Situ

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Vicente Guerrero #413, Zona Feb 10 2015, 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

25. 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

26. 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 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.

Jason Thomas Fritz

27. 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.

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28. 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. [$]

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29. Barbacoa El Tejupense

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Carretera a Oaxaca - puerto angel, kilometro 8.5, Municipio de Santa María Coyotepec
Oax., Mexico

For fresh Mixteco-style lamb barbacoa, head to El Tejupense. The dirt-floor restaurant is about 30 minutes outside the center of Oaxaca, not far from the airport, but the prices and flavors can’t be beat. Along with the daily batch of fresh barbacoa, try the masita, a dish made with hard, ground corn topped with lamb meat and blood sausage. [$$ - $$$]

30. 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

31. Almú

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Progreso s/n, 71506 San Martín Tilcajete, Oax San Martín Tilcajete, 71510 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

Almú is a hidden smoke kitchen near Cerro María Sánchez, the sacred mountain in the Ocotlán district of Oaxaca, about 40 mins away from the city center. Located inside a copal tree reservoir, Almú serves homemade food prepared daily by cooks from the region, including delicious tortillas, quesadillas, and empanadas from the comal; black mole with rice and chicken; grilled veggies with quesillo that are melted under the comal; and the most delicious salsa de carne frita (pork ribs fried with a lot of garlic, and served with tomatillo sauce and frijoles de la olla). [$$]

32. 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.
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1. Tejate at Benito Juárez Market

Benito Juárez, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico

A tejate maker.

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

2. Sirilo | Cocina Folk

Calle Amapolas 400, Reforma, 68050 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
A long oyster bar behind glass that says “ostiones chingognes” in painted letters.

The oyster bar at Sirilo.

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Chef Rene Saynes runs 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. [$$]

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

3. Tortas La Hormiga

Jacobo Dalevuelta No. 205, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
An overflowing torta, split in half, on a red plastic plate on concrete surface

Torta from La Hormiga.

Eva Alicia Lépiz

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. [$]

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

4. Taco Sireno

Calle de José María Pino Suárez 900, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68050 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
A cook brushes sauce on a fish pressed to a grill by a steel grate

Pescado zarandeado.

Taco Sireno/Facebook

With its cool green tones and wood paneling, Taco Sireno looks straight out of a Mexican movie from the ’80s, an excellent backdrop for the delicious, fresh seafood on offer. Make sure to order fresh oysters paired with a michelada or Suero, followed by the black and red aguachile de camarón, torre de mariscos (seafood tower), and the all-time favorite: the grilled cheese sandwich with shrimp. [$$ - $$$$]

Calle de José María Pino Suárez 900, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68050 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

5. Rito Chocolatería & Tienda

68000, Calle Porfirio Díaz 708 -H, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Centro, Oax., Mexico
A frothy cup of drinkable chocolate in a black clay mug on a wood tabletop

Agua de chocolate.

Eva Alicia Lépiz

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

6. 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.

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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

7. La Mezcaloteca

Reforma No. 506, Col. Centro, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico

La Mezcaloteca.

Jason Thomas Fritz

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. [$$]

Reforma No. 506, Col. Centro, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

8. Restaurante Casa Oaxaca

A Gurrión 104 A, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
A nighttime scene on a patio with people at tables.

The patio at Casa Oaxaca.

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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 Gurrión 104 A, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Oax., Mexico

9. Selva Oaxaca Cocktail Bar

Calle Macedonio Alcalá #403-int. 6, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
A woman in a blouse and white pants stands in front of a bar.

Beverage director Alexandra Pucaru at Selva.

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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. [$$$]

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

10. Tierra del Sol Casa Restaurante

Reforma 411, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
Several small terra cotta dishes on a table.

A mole sampler at Tierra del Sol.

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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. [$$]

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

11. La Atolería Masea

Reforma 411, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
A chef leans over and stirs a clay pot, one in a row of pots lined up on a counter beneath warm pendant lights

Chef Olga Cabrera tending the atole.

Masea Trigo y Maíz/Facebook

Atole is pure comfort. The corn-based drink is ideal in the morning or on cold nights, and it’s filling, delicious, and nutritious. Chef Olga Cabrera pays homage to the elixir at La Atolería, where an array of burners continuously warm pots of atole for sampling all day long. Try traditional combinations, as well as seasonal fruit flavors and more unique options you aren’t likely to see on the streets of Oaxaca.  [$ - $$]

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

12. El Tendajon

Calle de José María Pino Suárez #409, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
A woman smiles from behind a bar where two dishes of food sit.

Chef Andy Sanchez of El Tendajon.

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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. [$$$]

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

13. Levadura de Olla Restaurante

C. de Manuel García Vigil 304, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
A chef lifts the lid to an earthen ware pot and pours a dark sauce on a mashed dish in a corn husk

Applying the finishing touch.

Eva Alicia Lépiz

Thalia Barrios Garcia comes from a long line of cooks, 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, she 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, that spectacular cuisine (delicious soups, otherworldly tamales) is available at Levadura de Olla, right in the heart of Oaxaca. Note: Levadura used to house Garcia’s private, chef’s table-like experience, but that business, La Cocina de Humo, now lives a few blocks away; see separate listing. [$$ - $$$$]

C. de Manuel García Vigil 304, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Oax., Mexico

14. Criollo

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