Food Travel America

Food Wandering in Oaxaca

Every year I hear the same thing.

“You’re going where??? Wa-ha-ka??? Oh I thought it was “O-axe-ka”.

“Well anyways, enjoy the beach… What, no beach? Really? Why are you going there?”

People don’t understand my longing to return to Oaxaca can be broken down by the following: 70% food motivated, 15% sights/culture, 10% food, 5% weather, 0% beach.

The great thing is, that as I wander the streets of Oaxaca in between the eating, I get my fix on the sights/sounds and culture of Oaxaca and during this time I get to spend it with wonderful people.

With over a week in Oaxaca, I was able to experience great dining at some wonderful restaurants. But in between the big meals, it’s the simple ones that build the catalogue in my mind of why I long to return to Oaxaca once I’ve left. From indoor and outdoor markets to street vendors, the “fast food” of Oaxaca is delicious and is what  sets my cravings into motion which leads me back year after year.

I constantly tell people who ask why I keep returning to Oaxaca, that it’s a wonderful food town, and an amazing place to just “be”. To get a picture in your mind of my Oaxaca, here’s a collection of photos from my week eating great food at simple places and the wandering that happened in between.

On my first morning in Oaxaca, I like to stroll through the streets to get my bearings again. It’s also a great way to remind myself how beautiful Oaxaca is.

"Oaxaca Alcala"

"Oaxaca Santo Domingo front"

"Oaxaca Ignacio Allende"

La Hormiga at Conzatti Park

I’ve wanted to try a torta from La Hormiga for over 2 years. I’d heard and read that it was a very good sandwich. I guess I’ve never made it a priority in the past because in my mind, it was “just a sandwich”. But it has sat on my list for years, and I thought it was time to give it a try. Not wanting it to fall out of priority, I requested it as my first lunch.

"Oaxaca Hormiga torta"

"Oaxaca Hormiga prep"

Buns are split, spread with refried beans tomatoes and avocados and warmed on the flat top.

"Oaxaca Hormiga milanese torta"

Torta Milanese (pork cutlet) with melted quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese) – another great example why I need to stop thinking of “the sandwich” as a second choice meal.

Friday Market at Llano Park:

I had the choice of going on a hike in the mountains surrounding Oaxaca or spend the day in town and have lunch at the market at Llano Park. Remembering the grilled chicken I had the year before, it wasn’t a hard choice for me to make.

"Oaxaca Llano park pollo"

I’m sure the walk would have been great, but I dream about this chicken and lucky for me, sometimes reality is so much better than a dream.

Tom had been learning about different Isthmus food and was on the hunt for memelitas. Knowing nothing about what we were looking for, but always IN, I hoped that we’d find someone selling memelitas in one of the stalls at the market. Lucky for us, it only took us asking at 2 stalls to find someone who did.

"Oaxaca Llano Park memelita"

Memelitas are made with a thick ball of masa, stuffed with a mixture of potatoes, chorizo and onion and then fried. We were just looking to try a bite and ordered 2, but were called something that’s closely translated as “wimps” by this woman and made to order 2 each.

"Oaxaca Llano Park memelitas"

The memelitas were served piping hot, topped with guacamole and cheese. I drizzled some picante salsa over top to finish and was delighted with my memelita experience. I think these are best served straight out of the fryer, which is how we had them.

If it weren’t for the chicken, I would have devoured both memelitas but I guess I was a “wimp” because I only ate one. I’m glad I held back, because there was one more taste at the market before we were done.

"Oaxaca Llano park churro"

Churros! And these were better than any I’ve had at any fair or even Spain for that matter.

It’s a common joke that there’s always a parade or a protest going on in Oaxaca. I just happened to be out on the streets trying to meet up with someone when I stumbled upon this…

"Oaxaca parade 2"

"Oaxaca parade 1"

Afterwards I asked around to some of the locals what they were celebrating. This parade was huge, and I wanted to know the occasion. Funny enough, no one had a clue why! But that’s part of the wonder of Oaxaca for me.

Tamales!

I’ve talked about my love for tamales before and on this trip I had 2 excellent ones.

"Oaxaca mole tamale Merced"

I picked up this pollo tamale with mole negro at La Merced market. I didn’t go to “the one” that’s always recommended. This was from a lady sitting on a stool at a corner of the market and it was so good.

There was a great design market going on at the Mufi (stamp museum) over the weekend I was there, and after wandering the stalls and picking up a gift or 2 (for myself), I was feeling a bit peckish. I picked up a mezcal from one of the stands and decided amongst a few snack items on a tamale.

"Oaxaca Zandunga tamale"

Tamal de cambray from a stand run by the restaurant Zandunga – soft and sweet, filled with meat, fruit and nuts.

As I was eating my snack, I noticed that the stalls were closing and before I knew it, there was a band that playing on the rooftop and a party started before my eyes. There’s so much to love about Oaxaca.

Sunday breakfast at La Merced

La Merced is my “local” market in Oaxaca and Sunday breakfast at Fonda Florecita has become a must on my list. I’d never really liked Oaxacan hot chocolate before, but on this trip it really grew on me, and became something I ordered. Tom found a great bread vendor in the market that baked in a wood burning oven (very rare we have come to discover) and we sat dipping our bread in our drinks until my breakfast quesadilla was delivered.

"Oaxaca Merced Florecita"

When you walk the streets of Oaxaca, you should really keep your eyes straight forward, because the roads are uneven, there are random holes and big pieces of metal that surround windows that jut out on narrow sidewalks. But if you only look forward, then you miss out on discovering beautiful things behind dilapidated walls.

"Oaxaca Matria Jardin Arterapeutico 2"

Community garden space with art installations mixed in.

"Oaxaca Matria Jardin Arterapeutico 1"

 Café Brújula

The best pick me up in town is Café Brújula. Whether it’s to pick up a pound of coffee to take home or sitting in one of the cafes (with wifi), it’s hard to walk past without wanting a cappuccino. I’m not a cappuccino drinker at home, but in Oaxaca, I can’t resist.

"Oaxaca Cafe Brujula"

As the sun sets on Oaxaca, I feel wistful that a week was too short. A week is long enough to eat well, but not long enough to tackle everything. Oh well, until next time…

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IMG_8680

Oaxaca sunset

2 thoughts on “Food Wandering in Oaxaca

  1. If you still are in Oaxaca filming, for a very unique experience visit the restaurant Caldo de Piedra on the highway to Tule about 20 min. from downtown Oaxaca city. My wife and I first visited Oaxaca 45 years ago and now retired spend several winter months here annually. Another great restaurant to film would be Itanoni in the Reforma area of Oaxaca city.

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