Mexico’s gastronomic hub has given rise to international food chains and shows off its skills in restaurants serving seven moles and in eateries that have their own mezcal distilleries.
As a region where even the name is a mouthful, Oaxaca (wah-hah-kah) is the undisputed gastronomic heartland of Mexico. It’s known as the Land of the Seven Moles – rich and complex sauces, infused with everything from chilies to chocolate, that form the cornerstone of Mexican cooking. So, when it comes to dining out here, there’s a multitude of top restaurants and street food-serving spots where you can swoon over the culinary delights of this southern coastal state. Here are our favorites.
Set on the outskirts of the center of Oaxaca City, Criollo is the brainchild of two of the biggest hitters in Mexican gastronomy – Enrique Olvera and Luis Arellano. The super-seasonal menu journeys around the varied landscapes in the region and constantly adapts to what’s available locally. Brunch is a real highlight, plus there’s an impressive list of Mexican wines to choose from. There’s a big serene garden, too, where the aromatic smoke that rises from the outdoor grill whets your appetite while you wait for your meal.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant in Oaxaca serving more authentic regional cooking than this one. Its out-of-town location, close to Oaxaca International Airport, means you have to seek it out – and its dazzling reputation means many do. Chef and mole expert Jorge León built this family-run restaurant that uses use a traditional flame-fired earthenware comal (flat griddle) to cook top-notch local fare. Be sure to reserve ahead, and the restaurant will prepare a five-course meal that will leave you in rapture.
If you find all those rich and heavy sauces a bit much, look no further than Casa Taviche on the fringes of the city center. It offers a lighter and healthier interpretation of Oaxacan cuisine while sacrificing none of the complex flavors that make it so special. This unpretentious eatery whips up a daily changing handwritten menu of up to 10 dishes, with a real emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients. There’s even a decent selection of vegan and vegetarian options, too.