Fernando Mendez (phone or fax : 011-52-951-75947 ), email firstname.lastname@example.org. Fernando Mendez is a licensed national guide who grew up in Oaxaca with his Zapotec father and his American anthropologist mother. He and his father, Javier, provide enthusiastic, warm, informative and fun tours of the little known as well as famous sights in the Oaxaca valley. Small and large groups (from 2 to 25) can enjoy exploring the fascinating history and culture of Oaxaca in a way that is individualized to suit interests and time available.
In Oaxaca, people eat almuerzo (brunch/lunch) at around 11 o’clock, then comida (main meal) at 2:30 or 3 (sometimes later), and cena (light evening meal) at 8 or 9. Restaurants typically open for comida at 1 o’clock, though rarely are their patrons until 2 or after. Many shops in town still follow the traditional shop hours (10am-2pm, 4pm-8pm) to allow the personnel to go home for comida.
Marco Polo: A fabulous fish restaurant on the Llano park, a short walk from the center. The specialty is fish cooked in a beehive oven. Open for midday meal. Try the ceviche, the vitaminas al vapor (seafood soup cooked in a foil bag with an egg!), pescado al horno (cooked in wood oven with a smear of chipotle mayonnaise), pescado a la talla (cooked in wood oven with red chile adobo), all the seafood cocktails, the plantains cooked in the wood oven.
Tlamanalli (Abagail Mendoza's restaurant): on the main street inTeotitlán del Valle. Definitely worth the trip. Only open at midday. Some of the best food in the whole valley. All prepared from scratch in the traditional Zapotec village way—lighter in flavor than what you’ll find in Oaxaca city.
Asador Vasco (Portal de Flores 11, telefono 6 97-19): Beautiful balcony overlooking zocalo; great view and sometimes great live music. Food can be good and not-so-good. We usually go for cena and focus on soups and salads. Nice wine list. Oaxacan and Basque specialties.
La Capilla: about 45 minutes out of town, near Zaachila. Serves the pit barbacoa of goat or lamb in avocado leaves. Also good antojitos (especially the tlayudas) and other Oaxacan specialties that you’d find in an outdoor restaurant. Hammocks, live music on holidays. Great tortillas. Unless you have a car, you’ll need to hire a taxi by the hour and have him wait.
Restaurant at the Camino Real: beautiful garden setting. Go for breakfast.
Casa Oaxaca—Across from Santa Domingo, Chef Alejandro Ramirez serves contemporary Oaxaca food using products grown on his farm. This is Oaxaca’s first farm-to-table restaurant from its leading chef.
Pitiona—In a decidedly upscale environment, Chef Manuel Ba~nos creates the most contemporary food in Oaxaca inspired by traditional flavor and childhood memories seen through a modern lens.
Restaurant Danzantes—Off Alcala (the pedestrian shopping street) in an architecturally stunning room with a retractable ceiling and contemporary Mexican art, this restaurant serves delicious mescal cocktails and Mexican wine that are fit companions to the distinctive yet traditional Oaxacan food of Chef Miguel Jiminez.
Origin—in a lovely setting (ask for the big table in the back) near the zocalo Chef Rodolfo Castellano serves up traditional Oaxacan food influenced by the chef’s time abroad, cooking in restaurants from Monte Carlo to San Francisco. He also offers cooking classes.
Biznaga—the chalkboard menu announces the many specialties of this casual restaurant that features a large selection of salads as well as many Oaxacan specialties.
There is a stand on Libres near Murgia that is very famous (ask around and people will direct you) for tlayudas—huge hand-made tortillas that are crisped directly on live coals and served splashed with Oaxacan-style black beans (seasoned with avocado leaf) and salsa, and topped with seated tasajo (half-dried salted beef) cooked directly in the coals, too. A very satisfying, if rather primordial, experience. Don’t miss it if at all possible. If there’s no bench space to sit in, you’ll have to resort to the curb. The pickled pigs feet are pretty good, too.
In Market near Zocalo:
Casilda: famous stand for aguas frescas (fruit drinks). Try the horchata con tuna. Safe water.
Chaguita: famous stand for fruit (and other flavor) ices made in a granita style. Cool set up. Safe water.
Abuelita: in second market building. Good Oaxacan specialties. Try the enchiladas of mole, cecina (chile-marinated sheets of pork), hot chocolate
In Mercado de la Democracia (most people call it Merced; this market is about a 15 minute walk east from the zocalo):
La Guerita: very amazing empanadas, started on top of the comal (clay griddle) and finished underneath the comal (a lot like calzones, but made from corn masa). Favorites: huitlacoche (corn mushroom) and shredded string cheese (quesillo) with fresh squash blossoms and epazote. Go early for a typical market breakfast: empanadas and fresh juice from the stall across the aisle. This is worth making an effort to get to.
Florecita: A large fonda in this market with Oaxacan specialties, similar to Abuelita in the other market. They also have empanadas.
Tamales Leti: close to La Guerita, just a little stall serving some of the best tamales in Oaxaca. Don’t miss the classic Oaxacan black mole tamales, the black bean tamales and sweet pineapple tamales.
Holiday Inn Express—This very well run modest priced hotel is a 15 mintue walk from the Zocalo near the Consati Park. The price of the room includes a lovely breakfast. It is especially good for business travellers.
Camino Real: (Av. Hidalgo 918, telefono 951/4-7844) One of the most luxurious (meaning they have a lot of typical hotel amenities) and expensive hotel in town—in an old restored convent with beautiful gardens. Swimming pool. Has an 800 phone number for reservations. Most people (us included) find it worth the money because the place is so beautiful and quite well run.
Rancho Pitaya country B & B: Everyone knows how much I love Oaxaca: the rich culture that blends ancient indigenous and Spanish customs, the moles (all seven of them) and the arid, mountainous terrain. Oaxaca’s colonial downtown is a gem, but you haven’t really visited the area until you’ve gone out into the villages. If you want a really cool treat, go to Rojas de Cuauhtemoc and visit our good friends Mary Jane Gagnier and Bobby Ortiz. They run Rancho Pitaya, nestled at the edge of the village and big views of the valley and mountains. And Mary Jane and Bobby are incredible equestrians. You can stay at their B&B, meet Eloisa (who’s a great cook—you can arrange cooking classes). Let them take you on an unforgettable horseback exploration of the area.”
Hostal de la Noria: Good mid-price hotel a couple of blocks from the zocalo.
Casa Oaxaca: Small, boutique hotel. Public space is especially beautiful. Some think it is too noisy and the rooms a little spartan.
Las Bugambilias: Run by our friend Emilia Arroyo, this beautiful bed-and-breakfast is really near Santo Domingo church. Has a simple restaurant in front (La Olla), serving some nice, simple food. Can make reservations through email@example.com.
There are also a number of new boutique hotels and many bed-and-breakfasts, but we haven’t had a chance to check them all out.
La Mano Mágica: Very well chosen, high quality folk art and fine art. Owned by Mary Jane Mendoza who is very articulate about Oaxacan art.
Arte de Oaxaca: Has the biggest variety of work by current Oaxacan artists.
Temescal: The temescal operated by Emilia Arroyo is an amazing 2 hour experience with a ritual cleansing steam bath (in a traditional adobe sweat lodge) and 1 hour massage. For reservations email: firstname.lastname@example.org. In Oaxaca reservations can be made at La Olla Restaurant near the Camino Real.