Photo Credit: Kevin Dooly [flickr]

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooly [flickr]

WHAT: Historic Mexican city founded in 1529

WHERE: Located 300 miles south of Mexico City



LOCAL EATS: Mole, Corn, Cacao, Chapulines (grasshoppers), and tomatillos, tomatoes and chiles dry-roasted on the Comal (griddle made of clay)


HERITAGE: Zapotec, which was a pre-Columbian civilization. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.

Photographs courtesy of Casa Oaxaca

Photographs courtesy of Casa Oaxaca


Modern Oaxacan | Casa Oaxaca

Located in the boutique hotel with the same name, chef Alejandro (Alex) Ruiz creates sophisticated dishes using regional recipes and local ingredients.

"One of the great restaurants in Oaxaca."
FED Pro >  Mezcal Producer Ron Cooper

"It's the granddaddy of modern Oaxacan food. Alex Ruiz creates a step up in finer dining. Really beautiful menu and I always send everybody here to really see what Oaxacan food can be. It is Oaxaca’s first farm-to-table restaurant."
FED Pro > Chef Rick Bayless

Constitución 104-A, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico
T: +52 951 516 8889 |

Photographs courtesy of Itanoni

Photographs courtesy of Itanoni


Corn Dishes | Itanoni

The menu is based around four organic corn varieties and hand-crafted, tortilla-based dishes. Owned by Amado Ramírez Leyva, who is part of the Slow Food movement, they use a comal for cooking. The comal is a domed clay griddle to make tortillas.

"You can eat dishes based on 28 different varieties of corn. There are two comal, the domed hearth with a little sideways flue where you feed the fire and the comal is dipped on the top. There is one woman per comal and they have all these bowls filled with amazing things. They slap together whatever form of the corn you ordered and put it on the comal. It’s really great. It’s like an artifact. You really don’t find food like this anywhere."
FED Pro > Master Sommelier Richard Betts

Belisario Dominguez 513, Reforma, 68050 Oaxaca, Mexico
T: +52.951.513.922 |

La Biznaga | Photo Credits: Goodies First & Kirsta [flickr]

La Biznaga | Photo Credits: Goodies First & Kirsta [flickr]

Modern Fusion | La Biznaga

The name means "The Barrel Cactus" and they refer to their modern fusion Oaxacan offerings as very slow food. The menu is written on a chalkboard with dishes like smoked marlin tostadas. They have their own mezcals, or order cocktails, Mexican micro-brews and wines by the glass. Sit in the open air patio and enjoy the laid back atmosphere.

“It’s the Zapotec word for barrel. Make sure to try their house and branded mezcals."
FED Pro > Ron Cooper

Garcia Vigil 512, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico
T: +52.951.516.1800 |

Bar | Café Central

This is a mezcaleria lounge which is also a hang-out for the creative crowd with indie film screenings, DJs, and live music.

"Owner / artist Guillermo Oguin is the creator of Los Amantes (The Lovers) mezcal. He's great and so is the bar. The bar has a great selection of mezcal and a young vibe with varied and enthusiastic patrons." 
FED Pro > Richard Betts

Calle Hidalgo 302, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico

Photograph courtesy of Los Danzantes

Photograph courtesy of Los Danzantes

New Oaxacan | Los Danzantes

Located in the heart of the historic district, you’ll find local ingredients and newer versions of traditional dishes.

"I would eat here first and foremost. They have their own line of mezcal called Los Danzantes also labeled under Alipus. They have a great drink program and the chef is very talented. The food is modern and delicious. I'm always trying too many things here."
FED Pro > Chef Rick Bayless

Calle Macedonio Alcalá 403, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico
T: +52.951.501.1187 |


Seafood | Marco Polo

Sip  margaritas and eat local seafood like ceviche tostadas or whole fish that is grilled or fried.

"This is great for fish cooked in a wood-burning ovens. Oddly you are an eight hour drive from the sea, but they cook amazing fish. It's only open for lunch."
FED Pro > Richard Betts

Pino Suárez No. 806, Col. Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico
T: +52.951.513.4308

Mercado 20 de Noviembre | Photo Credit: Molo Malverde [flickr]

Mercado 20 de Noviembre | Photo Credit: Molo Malverde [flickr]

Market (Sundays) | Tlacolula de Matamoros

"This market is unique and very special. Find the old woman in the back corner that sells Pulque. She's amazing and two or three gourds of Pulque will give you a unique outlook on the world."
FED Pro > Richard Betts

2 de Abril, Tlacolula de Matamoros, 70400 Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca

Food Stalls

Mercado 20 de Noviembre

Also known as Mercado de la Comida, this market takes up an entire city block. You’ll find family-run food stalls selling Oaxacan specialities and many to choose from so that you won’t go hungry.

"I love this market and can't resist eating at La Abuelita and the Taco Corridor. Hit La Abuelita for breakfast and get some of the best tacos and tortillas in the 'Taco Corridor."
FED Pro > Chef Rick Bayless

20 de Noviembre, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico

La Abuelita

"You sit cheek-by-jowl with everybody else in communal seats. They actually have a written menu because so many out-of-towners want to come here and I think they actually have a menu in English now. The tradition is to come here for breakfast and eat either enchiladas, enfrijoladas (with a black bean sauce), enmoladas with mole on top of it, seared marinated pork that’s sliced, the half-dried beef or the chorizo sausage which comes on the side. They serve the traditional Oaxacan chocolate and bread. You get these bowls that look like café au lait bowls filled with either Oaxacan chocolate made with water, which is the traditional way to do it, or with milk. Then they have this egg bread that goes beside it that’s like a brioche studded with anise seeds."
FED Pro > Chef Rick Bayless

This is where I would eat my last meal.
— Chef Rick Bayless about Taco Corridor

Taco Corridor

Another eating spot in the market that Rick Bayless loves is for tacos. “This is where I would eat my last meal. It’s just about 10 paces away from La Abuelita and it’s a really smoky corridor. It started because a lot of people used to come into Oaxaca for the day to buy / sell and before going back to their villages would grill some meat on coals. Then a lady showed up and started selling tortillas, so they’d grill their meat and they would eat it in tortillas. Then somebody else decided to make some salsa and some fresh sliced vegetables.

The next thing you know this whole corridor now has become a taco corridor. Go to the meat stalls, order 150 grams of this and 200 grams of that and then they actually grill it for you now. Someone set up tables and they’ll sell you the condiments and the ladies come around with the tortillas. They are the best tortillas in the world. I know I make lots of enemies when I say this, but to me the best tortillas in all of Mexico are the handmade ones sold by the market vendors in the Oaxaca market. They’re really big and so beautifully done. You tear up the meat since there’s no silverware and make your little taco. You are sitting there and just smelling all the grilling going on around you.


Rick Bayless

Chef Rick Bayless has won many awards for his Mexican-focused Chicago restaurants (Frontera Grill, Topolo, and Xoco), his cookbooks and television series Mexico–One Plate at a Time. He was honored by the Government of Mexico with the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, which is the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners whose work has benefitted Mexico and its people.

Richard Betts

Richard Betts earned the coveted title of Master Sommelier bypassing the Masters Exam on the very first attempt, only the 9th person to do so and one of just 219 Master Sommeliers recognized in the world today. In 2007, he launched Sombra Mezcal, a small-batch spirit is made from organic Espadin agave in the village of San Juan and put in hand-blown bottles, recycled from glass found in Mexico.

Ron Cooper

Artist Ron Cooper was the first to bring mezcal to the United States back in the 1990s. He would go into the mountains and meet the Zapotec farmers making the smoky elixir and bringing home small amounts for his friends. In 1995 he founded Del Maguey, which is a line of several Single Village mezcals.


Mexico Feature Stories