HHH, I am in Oaxaca anywhere from 2-4 times a year. I’m going down in a few weeks for Noche de los Rabanos. There are a ton of great places to try.
I’ll 2nd the rec upthread for La Biznaga. It’s been around a long time and is reliable. Their soups and salads are very good.
Upstairs at Casa Oaxaca (across from Santo Domingo) is wonderful. Their Maracuya (passion fruit) Mezcalinis are outstanding, as is the octopus and fish. Cafe Casa Oaxaca, not in the same building, is a good breakfast spot.
Los Danzantes is also quite good. We liked the short rib entree, and the fideo app, which was almost big enough to be an entree. It’s not a large restaurant and they used to take reservations, but friends who just got back from Oaxaca said Los Danzantes is now telling people to show up when they open in order to be seated. Getting into the restaurant is w-a-y harder than it needs to be.
Origen does quite good modern Mexican. I’ve eaten there multiple times and have never had a bad dish. The chef/owner was the first winner of Master Chef Mexico and there have been reports that the Origen has been a little uneven since then as the chef has been out of the kitchen. That was not my experience earlier this year.
Catadral has been around a long time and was getting pretty stale in it’s reliance on “Continental” cuisine. The owner’s son and his German wife moved back to Oaxaca from Germany several years ago and took over the operation. What a massive change. They’ve totally changed the menu and it is now one of the best restaurants in the city. Hands down, one of my favorites. I had a Chichilo mole there in June that was ethereal. You want to be seated in the patio area, not the dining room. The inner courtyard patio at night is magical and romantic. It also has a retractable roof in case of rain.
Some people love Pitiona which was one of the first modern Mexican restaurants in Oaxaca City. I went once and have never been back. The food was a disaster and the service even worse. I’ve never been treated so poorly in a restaurant as I was in Pitiona. The food I can forgive and chalk it up to the kitchen having a bad night. Service? not so much.
Quince Letras does traditional Oaxacan food and is a member of Slow Food. The food is usually quite good and a nice spot for comida.
A lot of locals will recommend Los Pacos for mole. They have a mole sampler on the app menu that allows you to try all of them and then decide which one you like best. They also make good margaritas and mezcalinis here.
Itononi is dedicated to preserving heritage corn. Everything is masa based. I’ve found it to be somewhat uneven over the course of many visits, but when it’s firing on all pistons it’s hard to beat. Their memelas are delicious.
El Distillado is a mezcal bar/restaurant co-owned by an ex-pat from San Francisco. They do an 8-course tasting menu. Hipster vibe. I’ve been in for mezcal but haven’t eaten there. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the tasting menu. One friend was put off when she ordered carnitas and it turned out to be all buche, which are innards. The American homage to offal?
Sabina Sabe is a couple blocks down the street from El Distillado and would be my choice for a mezcal bar. Nice relaxed vibe, wide selection of mezcales, other spirits, cocktails and beer. I’ve eaten there twice and liked the food very much both times. Nothing fancy, but well executed. What I particularly liked about Sabina Sabe is that it’s comfortable enough for a solo drinker or diner
In the La Merced market there is a fonda that does great chilaquiles. I think it’s Fonda Florecita. For breakfast I also like the courtyard cafe in the Hotel Vetriz, which is right next to the Bugambillas B&B. Vetriz has an in house bakery. Restaurante SP is also good for breakfast. Sit upstairs. Delicious hot chocolate and fresh juices.
The Quinta Real does a great breakfast buffet featuring all kinds of traditional dishes. I’m not a fan of buffet, but this one is well done. The setting is beautiful and the food is usually very good. This is also a nice place for evening drinks by the pool. The Quinta Real is an old 16th century convent.
The 20 de Noviembre and Benito Juarez markets are side by side and should not be missed, especially the Juarez market as there are all kinds of places to eat in it include the pasillo de humo, where you can buy raw meat and tortillas and have the meat grilled on the spot. It gets smokey in there.
The Abastos market is huge and sprawling and you can spend hours in it. There are tons of fondas, but if you chose to eat there select one that is very busy and well maintained.
The Zocalo is ringed by sidewalk cafes. I think I’ve been to all of them and don’t really have a preference. They’re a great place to sit, have a beer or limonada, tacos dorados (what we would call taquitos or rolled tacos, but better) or chips and guac, and watch the world go by. There are ice cream stores, coffee shops, bakeries and full service restaurants, just take your pick.
If you’re in Oaxaca on a Friday, head up to Parque Llano where there is a weekly market with a lot of prepared food vendors selling everything from carnitas and barbacoa to exotic juices and tamales
There is an evening street stand called Lechon de Oro that sells lechon tacos that are inexpensive and delicious. It’s open from 8 pm to 5 am. It’s at the intersection of Murgia and Los Libres
Okay, this is just the tip of the iceberg…