Last updated on August 8th, 2022
Featured image: I spent a day with Dona Juana making tortillas over an open fire, shifting my perception of food forever
In Oaxaca, where restaurants make food into an artform
By Carolyn Ray, Editor, JourneyWoman
In Oaxaca, there are tastes for every budget — from the Lechoncito food cart that serves pork tostadas for a few pesos under a streetlamp to Casa Oaxaca which looks over stunning Santa Domingo Church, to Crudo, the Japanese fusion experience that seats only four people at a time.
I am no culinary expert, but one of the things I love about Mexico is that everything is fresh. No processed food here, just right out of the ground, the garden, or if you like grasshoppers – the field. Because I was staying mostly in bed and breakfasts on this trip, I ate out A LOT. If you want to experience the ‘real’ Oaxaca, go into the villages, as I did for a cooking experience over an open fire. This set the stage for all other culinary experiences — I will never buy machine-made tortillas again.
Here are my mini-reviews of 12 places to try – and some others I didn’t get to.
(PS. You can save a PDF or print this list by using the printer icon at the top of the article, right under the photo).
In a city made for wandering, the Adama Restaurant is hidden along the path of the ancient aqueduct where you will experience middle eastern delights with a Mexican accent. Small and intimate setting not to be missed. Website here.
In the quaint neighborhood of Xochomilo, Ancestral Restaurant is hidden behind a brick wall where traditional Oaxacan dishes are exquisite. Try the mole negro con pollo. This is a lovely safe neighbourhood to enjoy graffiti too. Reservations are recommended. Website here.
JW reader Marsha and I at Adama, one of her favourite places in Oaxaca.
3. AM Siempre
When exploring in Xochomilo, a great café for a sandwich and cold refreshments is the A.M. Siempre, serving traditional Oaxacan foods. The whole family is there to welcome and share their hospitality with their guests. Website here.
Combine a French bakery chef with an Oaxacan food chef and you get an unforgettable dining experience at Boulenc. I went twice and it’s always busy but the service is quick and friendly. A perfect place for a huge sandwich and cocktail in Centro. I recommend a small table upstairs in the back to get a different perspective and atmosphere. Website here.
5. Cafe Bre
This women-owned coffee shop serves a delicious breakfast and the coffee is outstanding. It’s also a great place to work in the middle of Centro. Website here.
Enjoying a coffee tasting at Cafe Bre with the Tyladona team.
Grasshoppers (Chapulite) are a staple and served with everything including guacamole.
6. Casa Oaxaca
Known as the most exclusive restaurant in Oaxaca, rooftop dining combines traditional and fusion cuisine with a bird’s eye view of the city. Reservations are recommended. Website here.
7. Casa Taviche
Casa Taviche is located in Centro and has a bright and informal ambiance perfect for lunch. The avocado salad is superb. It is vegetarian-friendly with gluten free options. Website here.
I walked by Crudo, the newly popular Japanese fusion restaurant, several times before realizing I had to make a reservation to get in. This very small place seats only four people at a time (at 3, 5, 7 and 9 pm) at a countertop, with Chef Ricardo Arellano, preparing meals right in front of you. We talked extensively about sustainable seafood and local products. Make a reservation through their Instagram page here.
Delicious pumpkin flower soup – yes please!
9. El Lechoncito de Oro
Street food is a must in Oaxaca. The gold standard is El Lechoncito de Ora, the favourite late night snack frequented by the locals in the neighborhood. The choices are limited but the taste is grandly evidenced by the perpetual queue at this popular truck stop. Website here.
10. Tlayudas Dona Flavia
A tlayuda meal is a must in Oaxaca. In the barrio of Reforma, experience these large tortilla style traditional feast found in many restaurants, as well as street food vendors. Be advised, one delicious dish will feed two people, and try some of the local non-alcoholic beverages. Website here.
11. Tierra del Sol
One of the best rooftop views of Templo de Santo Domingo and a wide selection of traditional Oaxacan recipes is an invitation one can’t resist. A canopy of umbrellas guards against the noon-day sun and the occasional rain clouds in summer. Website here.
12. Levadura de Olla
I have one word for this restaurant – TOMATOES. Run by female chef Thalia Barrios Garcia, this is one of the newest and most exciting restaurants in Oaxaca. Her food mirrors the women of her family and is mostly vegetarian. The tomato platter will melt in your mouth, especially the green ones. Make sure to visit the tomato room while you’re there. More here.
If you go to Oaxaca
Book Your Flights
I flew American Airlines (on points) through Houston. Aeromexico flies to Oaxaca via Mexico City. Use tools like Expedia or Google Flights to look up the best flight prices. Being flexible with dates can save you even more money.
Find Somewhere to Stay
I prefer bed and breakfasts and homestays when I travel, but you can find a hotel on Expedia and earn points towards free stays. Hotels.com offers a free night stay for every 10 nights booked. Looking for an apartment or something more long-term? Check out VRBO.
Insure Your Trip
Travel insurance is more important than ever. Compare plans and policies for the best coverage for your trip using Insure My Trip. Traveling for an extended amount of time? SafetyWing offers ongoing coverage on a month-to-month basis, and World Nomads offers coverage for extended trips.
Looking for a Tour?
Head to the Women’s Travel Directory to find a woman-friendly tour around the world. We are adding more Mexico tours and guides to. our Directory all the time!
Speaking Spanish will help you feel more acclimated. Why not brush up on a new language before your trip with Babbel.
Don’t forget your JourneyWoman branded accessories while you’re on the go!
More on Culinary Travel
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Our list of restaurants, cafes and markets, from street food to upscale, recommended by the locals in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
We asked some of our JourneyWoman women’s tour partners, who are experts in local cuisine, to share their best culinary travel experiences.