Every time I’m in Oaxaca I feel more and more like it really represents the soul of México. It’s the birthplace of mezcal, indigenous cultures and languages are still very present and there are amazing mountains, beautiful beaches and pre-hispanic ruins to explore. In the capital of Oaxaca City, there are so many activities to keep you busy and not to mention amazing art and shopping but one thing really stands out for me: the delicious food. If you appreciate good food and drink and find yourself in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, try out these recommendations to create a perfect foodie day.
Breakfast at Boulenc
If you’re not staying at a B&B that has breakfast and are looking for a lighter option to pace yourself through your foodie day, then Boulenc Pan Artesano is the perfect option for you. This hipster bakery specializes in sourdough bread, served as sandwiches or with eggs for breakfast. Their menu also includes pizza if you come here later in the day (or if you enjoy pizza for breakfast, who am I to judge?). Their coffee is also on point, I always appreciate a place that serves a good cold brew. They’ve done a great job with the atmosphere, it gives off a warm, homey vibe (though way cooler than any home I’ve lived in). When I was there a live band was playing and the brass instruments really completed the hip throwback vibe.
After breakfast you may crave some intellectually stimulation after the gastronomic experience so head over to the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca to learn about the original indigenous cultures in the state. It’s right next to the Jardín Etnobotánico so if you stayed too long at breakfast enjoying the live music and missed the tour of the gardens (the only way to enter), there’s a wonderful view from the back of the museum. While you’re there, pop into the church of Santo Domingo and marvel at the impressive gold plating.
Mid-Morning Refreshments at Oaxaca en una Taza
Oaxaca en una Taza means Oaxaca in a mug, and that really is the best description for this little cafe. There is coffee and some assorted breads and small pies but the reason you come here is for the chocolate. Not bars of chocolate but refreshing chocolate drinks made the traditional way. You can get them hot or cold and with milk or water. I prefer the cold chocolate made with water, especially if you need a pick me up after strolling around in the sun. You can get it plain or with other spices mixed in and for an extra charge you can choose the cacao percentage you would prefer. It’s definitely a unique drink, and something you don’t even see that much elsewhere in Mexico. Be sure to give it a try!
In the center of Oaxaca, there is an art gallery practically on every corner so you can continue your cultural experience admiring local art. There is also plenty of places to shop for Mexican artesanía, especially the Oaxacan specialties of black pottery, wool rugs and embroidered tops and dresses. Lunch in Mexico isn’t until 2 or 3 so feel free to work up your appetite as your browse for souvenirs.
Lunch at Casa Oaxaca
If you’re feeling a little fancy get a reservation ahead of time for this popular (and a little pricey) restaurant. Casa Oaxaca is noticeable for its bright blue exterior and the simple, sophisticated while still a bit traditional vibe continues inside. There are a few interior dining areas and a beautiful roof area overlooking Santo Domingo. The food is elevated traditional Oaxacan and you will not lack for options. It’s really a mind-body experience dining here, where you can feel like you enjoyed a delightful meal and took a deep dive into Oaxacan culture at the same time.
If you’re impressed by the mole or Oaxacan cheese at lunch and would like to take some home with you, head to the mercado to get a feel for the local hustle and bustle and where you can also buy mole paste, crickets, local cheese, or almost anything else from Oaxaca. The paste will stay good for months even without refrigeration and only needs to be heated up with some chicken or vegetable broth to serve. It’s a great way to impress your friends back home with how much you learned about Mexican culture.
Pre-Dinner Cocktails at Praga Coffee Bar
Praga Coffee Bar has one of the best views in Oaxaca, directly facing the church of Santa Domingo. Once the sun starts going down, the lights illuminating the church come on and the rooftop terrace becomes the perfect spot to enjoy the golden color of the church at night. With delicious mezcal cocktails, lots of wine and beer options and a selection of tapas and appetizers to whet your appetite, it’s a great spot to start off your night in style.
If you haven’t walked through the Zocalo yet, you can stroll down the pedestrian road lined with galleries and cafes to get to the main square, where there are always crowds of people selling things and enjoying time with their families. If you didn’t have an appetizer at Praga, you can line up at one of the street carts for ezquites or elotes, my personal favorite street food. They’re corn off or on the cob served with mayo, cheese, chili and lime, which I agree sounds gross but just believe me, they’re amazing. But don’t eat too much, there’s still one more meal to enjoy in this beautiful city!
Dinner at Zandunga
Zandunga specializes in food from Istmo, a region on the coast of Oaxaca. The vibe is colorful and friendly and I’m always impressed with the wait staff’s knowledge and demeanor. It has your typical Oaxacan classics but with a bit of a twist. There’s understandably more seafood than you would find in a typical Oaxacan restaurant but even for non-seafood lovers like me there are plenty of options. Their homemade salsas are quite spicy and are served with freshly baked tortillas, I would also start out with their perfectly tangy guac. If you’re here for dinner then you could split a tlayuda or stick with something lighter, like one of their tamales. They also make delicious mezcal cocktails and have a good craft beer selection. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed myself every time I’ve come here, it seems to inspire great conversation and embodies the Oaxacan spirit that I love so much.
If you’re here with the whole family, then you may be ready for bed after dinner, as dinner is usually around 9pm. But if you’re still wanting to sample some of the local drinks to wash down all of the delicious food, there are plenty of options for drinking mezcal, the local craft spirit. Or, if beer is more up your alley, Oaxaca is starting to catch on to the micro brewery movement and there are some delicious craft beers local to the city.
Local Craft Beer at La Santísima Flor de Lupulo
La Santísima Flor de Lúpulo means “The very sacred hop flower” and there is even a hop spirit creature on the wall in the same sort of display that virgins and saints are normally displayed on in Mexico. They are a nano-brewery so there are only a few of their own beers on tap but they have lots of other Mexican and international options as well. And it’s one of the few breweries in Mexico that I’ve seen that has their own Saison! It wasn’t the best Saison I’ve ever tasted but I give them a lot of points for just having one in a country where craft brewing is still very much in the early stages.
Mezcal at La Mezcalerita
If you’re more interested in trying some mezcal, then head over to La Mezcalerita, a comfortable and quirky bar with plenty of options to get your mezcal fix. There’s also craft beer and other drinks if you want to mix it up but the idea is to order a shot of mezcal and a Mexican beer and to switch off sipping between the two. There are some different areas indoors and a giant roof terrace with tables and couches. If you’re there later at night and it starts to get chilly they even let you borrow a nice thick blanket to keep you warm and toasty.
If you’re full of energy and want to keep exploring the nightlife in Oaxaca, you can stroll back down past Santo Domingo until you hear thumping music coming out into the street. Otherwise, it may be time to call it a night so that you can get up tomorrow and continue enjoying all that Oaxaca has to offer you.