Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Oaxaca. With your delicious food, mezcalitas and magical markets.
We spent a month here in November and could’ve spent many more. We were only able to scratch the surface of Oaxaca has to offer because of Covid restrictions but if you’re lucky enough to visit this beautiful city, here are our must-dos.
Go to the Sunday market in Tlacolula, try the barbacoa goat and of course check out the handicrafts
Get brunch at Boulenc, Always! But there is a good use of space. I’d say the vibe is hipsteresque: You will see all types of people – mostly tourists – and the music is as cool as it is current, yet somehow not mainstream. Making the above scrumptious meal is just the side-hustle. They make delicious bread (pan) 🍞 first and foremost. In fact, their bakery (next door) has even more customers!
Do a street food tour with Betsy @oaxaca_street_food_tour. We’ve actually got a whole video on this one experience coming soon plus a video already out about the traditional Stone Broth Soup
If you are interested in the crafts and artisans of Mexico, Teotitlán del Valle, a small Mexican village near Oaxaca city is a must visit! Teotitlán del Valle is known for Zapotec weaving, using traditional techniques, tools, dyes, and patterns. We were able to watch and learn about the whole process at Casa Don Juan and, I’ll tell you what, the art of natural dye is impressive, and so is the weaving and machines used to produce these beautiful pieces
Taste all the mezcal at Expendio Tradición. The cocktails are 👌 and the food is pretty good too
Teotitlán del Valle is known for Zapotec weaving, using traditional techniques, tools, dyes, and patterns.
Watch the video here ↓
If you are interested in the crafts and
artisans of Mexico, Teotitlán del Valle, a small Mexican village near Oaxaca
city is a must visit.
Teotitlán del Valle is known for Zapotec
weaving, using traditional techniques, tools, dyes, and patterns.
We were able to watch and learn about the
whole process at Casa Don Juan and, I’ll tell you what, the art of natural dye
is impressive, and so is the weaving and machines used to produce these
From woven clothing to traditional wool rugs,
you’ll find It all in this community.
There is roughly 400,000 Zapotecs, known as the “cloud people”, around Mexico, but they once mostly inhabited the Valley of Oaxaca, where they built ancient cities such as Monte Alban and Mitla.
The Zapotec weaving process
Preparing the yarn
Most pieces are made from wool – sheep, yak and alpaca but historically agave fibre and cotton were also used. To prepare the yarn the wool is brushed using paddles with wire prongs to get the fibres all laying in the same direction. Once it’s been thoroughly brushed, it is spun on a wheel into a usable yarn.
Natural dye process
The bundles of spun yarn are dyed using a mixture of plants, minerals and bugs, including marigolds, indigo and cactus parasites. After dying the yarn, it is washed in the river to ensure the colour doesn’t run on the final piece.
No two batches will every be the exact same colour adding to the beauty of this technique.
The majority of the townspeople work in the weaving industry, and the families usually form co-ops by working on their pieces in their own homes and selling them from a central location. Each family or co-op has their own style, process and patterns when it comes to weaving. They all use Zapotec symbols, which hold special meaning, but the way they are combined is unique to the family. These patterns are blended into every piece from memory, and the techniques have been passed down through the generations!
Popular Zapotec weaving symbols used in the patterns are:
Zapotec Star The four points of the diamond represent elements of earth, air, water and fire.
Mountains A reminder of the transition of the Zapotec through the mountains, all of them sacred.
Rain water One of the most vital elements for the sustenance of life. Signifies renewal, fertility and change.
Cycle of life The geometric spiral represents the life cycle according to the Zapotec worldview.
Each step represents a stage of life, beginning at birth and moving through youth, maturity and then decay, followed by the other world.
Clouds Zapotec Indians are known as people of the clouds.
Agave The agave or the maguey as it’s locally known is integral to the central valleys of Oaxaca.
Both wild and cultivated, this plant offers sweet nectar that can be enjoyed as is or fermented into the local alcohol, mezcal.
Leaves Leaves of life are collected and help with health, respect, purity and healing.
Butterfly The butterfly represents the spirit of the ancestors. When someone dies the spirit becomes a butterfly.
The whole process is time consuming but the finished product is not only beautiful but also helps to preserve the Zapotec tradition, culture and history.
The best way to get a feel for the city is to go to the local market and the markets in Oaxaca are a full blow event!
Most of the markets in Centro (Central Oaxaca City) are open 7 days a week.
The main Centro markets are:
This one is a little mix of everything and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s part of the 20th November market across the street.
20th November (across the street from Benito Júarez
This is the place to go for good, cheap food!
You can get fresh barbecue meat, just pick your cut and they will grill it for you then and there along with your vegetables of choice, then all you have to do is pick your salsas and grab some tortillas.
There is also a plethora of other food available as well as other products typical to Oaxacan markets.
Both are only one block from the Zócalo, and easy to find, just follow the people and the smell of the food!
Central de Abastos
The largest and busiest of all Centro markets is Central de Abastos.
Central de Abastos has much more of a local feel and we’d recommend you go with someone. We aren’t kidding when we say this place is huge and it’s easy to get lost. We went with Javier and it was $25 USD for the both of us.
Here you can get pretty much everything you can think of from fresh food, spices, spiritual herbs and elements, clothes (traditional and western), ceramics and more.
Días de Mercado (Market Days)
Other markets, out of Centro are only open on specific days of the week or at least have more of a presence on their specific market day. At these markets vendors travel in from their towns to sell their wares so there’s plenty of variety.
Sunday / Domingo: Tlacolula de Matamoros
Monday / Lunes: Miahuatlán de Porfirio Diaz
Tuesday / Martes: Ayoquezco de Aldama
Wednesday / Miércoles: Villa de Etla
Thursday/ Jueves: Zaachila
Friday / Viernes: Ocotlán de Morelos
Saturday / Sábado: Cuidad de Oaxaca
The one you’ll hear most about and biggest is Tlacolula on Sunday.
Famous for food, the barbacoa goat is a must try at Tlacolula along with churros and fresh bread from the large panaderia section.
You’ll also find plenty of handicrafts here including flax weaved goods such as baskets and mats, shoes, a dizzying array of traditional aprons as well as all the other usual suspects.
We also visited Ocotlán, the Friday market. The town of Ocotlán is home to a beautiful baby blue church and the market was filled with beautiful flowers, especially Marigolds as we were visiting during Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) – read about the significance of the cempasúchil (marigolds) and Dia de Muertos here
Make sure you stop at La Cocina de Frida (“Frida’s Kitchen”), and grab a bite to eat – we had a mole tasting plate and it was delicious!
Getting to the Días de Mercado (Market Days)
The cheapest want to get to any of the markets is to take a colectivo (a shared van, kind of like a bus), a colectivo will cost roughly 25 pesos per person each way. You’ll need to ask your accommodation which colectivo stop is closest to where you are staying. As we are traveling during covid we used a private driver – Luis for both Ocotlán and Tlacolula. Utilising a private driver will also enable you to make stops at other points of interest along the way that you may have missed. After Tlacolula we visited Teotitlán del Valle famous for Zapotec weaving.
Luis is $350 pesos per hour and is best contacted by Whatsapp +52 1 951 118 4534
For somewhere that doesn’t grow a lot of cacao itself, Oaxaca punches above its weight in the chocolate department.
It’s mostly consumed in a drink but there are plenty of blocks around too.
Check out this Oaxaqueño Chocolate recipe and tutorial if you’re interested in making your own. There’s nothing like peeling your own cacao to make you really appreciate the work that goes into your sweet treat.
Thinking of moving to Mexico but not sure about finances Every month we share the cost of living in Mexico with a full breakdown.
In November we spent most of the month in Oaxaca, and honestly, given the amount we ate out in Oaxaca, November isn’t as bad as I thought! Check out restaurant reviews for Oaxaca here.
Cold weather clothes
Overnight Bus Oaxaca to San Cris
Our income and expenses is for x 2 people and is made up of multiple streams and excludes business expenses such as VAs, other. contractors, software etc.
In November our income was made up of:
$663.69 – Teaching English Online $2214.02 – Freelance (in November 3 x clients were late paying invoices for work that had been completed to the value of $2,076.20 which will be transferred to the month it is paid) $1972.12 – Part-time employment income
All $ mentioned are converted to USD using the latest exchange rate at the time of reporting.
We also did a healthy dose of shopping this month that we have chosen NOT to include on our report in order to keep its accurate but for transparency sake the shopping, including shipping to New Zealand came to $1,100 and was things for our future home that we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else – Zapotec rugs, art etc.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the cost of living in Mexico, stayed tuned for next months report.
Don’t get bogged down with how many different Authentic food experiences you can have. We were in Oaxaca City for 4 weeks and have tried some of the best restaurants on offer – also many nights of Little Caesars – and hope our experiences help inform yours!
Itanoni – Gotta family-sized appetite?
Great food for the family! The food is affordable, nearly American-sized portions, and delicious. Best of all, you get a complete view of the kitchen – perfect for authentic Oaxacan IG/TikTok clips! I would say this place is perfect for eating delicious Oaxacan cuisine – on a budget!
Levadura de Olla – Bold with a dash of quaint
We went here on an AirBnB Experience and it was the highlights of that tour! This place is all about reviving traditional Oaxacan Recipes and invigorating them with modern flavors. You must try the Stone Broth Soup!
Pan:am – Consider it Brunch’d
Waffles w/berry jam: good & tasty – 🍓 Jam put it over the top!
Molletes w/cochinita pibil (marinated pork): As delicious as is simple.
Total: $364pesos ($17.85US)
Atmosphere: Music reminds me of the kind 60s rock you’ll hear in a diner. Hip! The spacing is well done, but you will always see people in your peripherals – yeah, there are a lot of people. True sign of a good restaurant, right? The food is good and well priced. Not all that hungry? Most meals have the option to cut the standard portion in half w/significant reduction in price.
Boulenc – Absolute must attend!
Shakshuka: The sauce was sweet, the bread perfect, and cream cheese put it over the top.
English Muffin: this is a sandwich, and the highlight here is the bread. Don’t get me wrong the eggs and cheese 🧀 are tasty as well.
Bahn Mi: don’t let the fact it’s completely vegetarian deter you – it’s perfect. The pickled carrot 🥕 makes this sandwich a crunch fest.
x 2 Dos Equis
Total: $364pesos ($17.70US)
Atmosphere: This place is packed – Always! But there is a good use of space. I’d say the vibe is hipsteresque: You will see all types of people – mostly tourists – and the music is as cool as it is current, yet somehow not mainstream. Making the above scrumptious meal is just the side-hustle. They make delicious bread (pan) 🍞 first and foremost. In fact, their bakery (next door) has even more customers!
Zandunga – Dinner is served!
Grilled vegetables: quite nice
Beef Empanadas: nice and crunchy👌
Red & Black mole chicken enchiladas: highlight of the meal – mole was smooth and rich!
x 2 Agua Tamarind
x 2 IxtepecCocktail (jarabe especiado, pineapple 🍍 juice, lemon 🍋, and mezcal)
Total: $755pesos ($37.46 US)
Atmosphere: Great. Smartly dressed beautiful people. The music is lively – even the rendition of Drake Hotline Bling instrumental was thoroughly Mexican! The food arrived ASAP. The staff were attentive, but knew only a little English.
Pitiona – Go for the vibes; stay for the food!
Tostada de Jaiba (crab 🦀 taquitos): Crunchy and the crab was succulent. Dynamite appetizer!
Gorditas de Tripa: Thick, grilled and crunchy corn 🌽 tortilla with the “filling” piled on top (instead of inside). The filling was thinly shredded, fried and chewy intestines. Delicious, but may not be for everybody!
Tacos de Lechon (pork taco 🌮): It was perfect! Thick cut of pork w/chopped chicharrón (aka crackling) sprinkled on top and a hint of guacamole. Truly the dinner’s highlight; personally, a bit more guacamole would have cut through fat. Unfortunately, this was part of a taco of the day option – I’m not sure this meal will be available on your visit.
Albondigas en pipian (shrimp 🦐 meatballs on a bed of mole): The mole was new to me and not my favorite, but I do not want to dissuade you from trying. To be clear, I loved its rich flavour, but could not appreciate the gritty texture. The huge chunks of shrimp and thinly sliced zucchini was the saving grace.
Gasnate: Both my wife and I loved it. Very sweet but not overbearing. Only negative, small portion – it’s not the best option for sharing.
x 1 Beso apasionado:
x 1 Limon 🍋 Margarita:
x 2 Limonada
Total: $1,426 Pesos ($70 US)
Atmosphere: This place feels fancy, and the people are dressed to impress. And it should, this is one of the most aesthetically beautiful restaurants I‘ve had the pleasure of dining at in Oaxaca City. Whether you eat inside or on the terrace, you will enjoy light music and feel the intimacy – spacing was well done here. There are several different areas on the terrace that provide a different view of the city as well as a sense of VIP, but all areas have a magnificent view of Templo de Santo Domingo!
Casa Oaxaca – Night of laughter and merriment
Squash blossoms filled w/ricotta: light, fresh and tasty! Small dish that will leave a powerful impression.
Paddle cactus 🌵 and watermelon 🍉 salad (Nopales Salad): beetroot was earthy, and the watermelon clashing w/citrus flavors were spot on!
Yellow Mole (vegetarian): Scrumptious! Veggie patties perfect for absorbing the flav-tastic sauce, the veggies were perfect but the broccoli 🥦 stole the show.
Suckling Pig 🐖: The veggies, pork, and mole were cooked to perfection.
x 1 Xocontstle Cocktail (pineapple🍍, tuna, mezcal)
x 1 Verde es Vida Cocktail (cucumber 🥒, mint, mezcal)
x 1 Dos Pasiones Cocktail (passionfruit, apple 🍎, mezcal)
x 1 Limonada
Chocolate Sierra: A mountain of chocolate well worth the climb – chocolate crisps, rich chocolate ice cream, crunchy cacao nibs, and mint flakes
Total: $1,523.00pesos ($74.00US)
Atmosphere: we recommend you make a reservation. We were seated immediately, but it seems like you may have a sincere case of FOMO if you’re after a joyous social night. We were seated away from the lively music 🎶 and jubilant laughter coming from the area upstairs. However, this may be a blessing for those seeking a more intimate evening. People were spaced far enough away to be outside our peripherals! The staff were attentive, created a salsa at our table, and spoke English well.
Los Danzantes – Did somebody say Je Ne Sais Quoi?
Mogo Mogo (fried plantain stuffed w/stew): Rich tomato 🍅 sauce. The beef and plantain combination made for a sweet stew. It cut through the sauce’s creamy richness. Playful!
🥥 Coconut Shrimp w/rice in sweet and source sauce: The shrimp 🦐 was huge! The shrimp 🍤 was crunchy! The shrimp was strong with the coconut 🥥! Personally, I thought the sweet and sour clashed with the coconut shrimp, but it completely compliments the rice 🍚. An absolute pleasure!
New York fillet (400g) w/potato 🥔 terrine: It was Medium Rare, and my wife ordered Medium Well. So, I ate it. Yeah my cholesterol is uh terrible! If we talk about what we ordered: definitely loses a point because she doesn’t like her steak pink or bloody. If we are talking about what we got: Succulent! The accompanying potato terrine and salad 🥗were good.
Pork ribs in a bed of apple 🍎 & plantain puree: very nice! Loved the tenderness of the meat 🍖 – talking fall off the bone. The apple-plantain flavors made everything spot on – not too sweet, not too smokey. Don’t let the look fool you – it’s good!
Chocolate cascade (lava cake): Decadent! Great sharing portion. Vanilla ice cream 🍨 mixed well with the berry jam. Together they blended well with the gooey chocolate and cake.
x1 Elegant stranger:
Total: $1,828 Pesos (~$91 US)
Atmosphere: This was the 2nd or 3rd most expensive place we ate in Oaxaca City – it is perfect for a dinner date, or small group for after work drinks. The food, vibes and décor make for a perfect place to get dressed up and unwind. Spacing was well done, but there will be people all around you – couples dressed up and groups dressed smart. I suggest you make a reservation – almost guarantee it will be packed. We didn’t, but were able to leave a name and number. We were called 15 or so minutes later. Are you a tourist? I recommend requesting Omar as your waiter. He was delightful – whether anecdotes about Mexico; meal choices; or future tourist destinations!
Criollo – Now that’s smancy. No! The epitome of Fancy.
Ground beef garnacha w/picked onions: Crunchy! Deliciousness! Wish I could have had more!
Cheese ball on a bed of jalapeno puree: My wife was over the moon when this arrived. Basically, a deconstructed jalapeno popper – the cheese 🧀 cut right through the spiciness!
Lentil soup 🍲 w/tomato 🍅 and crispy potato: Great! Potato was crunchy and loved the flavors.
Cochinita Pibil: the empanada crust was crispy, and the marinated pork left a lasting impression!
Soft Shell crab 🦀 w/chickpea puree: Highlight of the night! The puree was creamy except for a few un-mashed chickpeas, which provided a balancing texture. I’m a seafood junkie and the crab did not disappoint!
Plantain and chicken smothered in yellow mole: All three make for a winning combination – great blend of sweet and savory!
Chocolate cake w/chocolate ice cream and bananas: Good. Aside from the presentation, nothing really stood out.
x1 Tangerine Margarita
x1 Grapefruit Mezcalita
Total: 2,580 Pesos (~$120 US)
Atmosphere: This place is fancy – best fine dining experience in Oaxaca city! Beautiful and open courtyard – be sure to dress warm during the winter months – on a clear night you will be sure to see stars 🌃. Speaking of attire, dressing smart is the way to go! Criollo has a 7-course tasting menu that changes daily. This means there are at least 7 new reasons why you should dine here; although your reasons will be different than mine, you can still look forward to intimate music, an attentive wait staff and a dynamite drink menu. Yes, the price is steep! That’s why I recommend this place for an expensive date, family celebration/special occasion, or tourist must do! Remember, the meal will be unique, and the experience unforgettable.
Everywhere we go we are told the places you just have to try. These are the places we just could not get to, but hope you try!
Tacos de Lechon – small shop that makes the best street-style pork tacos!
Marco Polo – A seafood lover’s delight
Memela Ladies – The stand is unnamed. It’s called this because sisters have been making dynamite Memelas for 3 generations. Street stand near the San Augustin church
La Hormiga (The Ant) – Tortas stand. Makes the best sandwiches in Oaxaca City!
Quinta Brava – Delicious food! We took a cooking class and it was a fantastic experience. Dedicated Chef! The restaurant is under construction currently.
Places you can skip
El Destilado – Intimate Setting w/beautiful decor. The bar food was a miss. Best for a drink!
Gozobi – The food was good, but not great. There is a large terrace, but facing the wrong direction. Decent drink menu. You will have a nice meal. It’s just, nothing WOW’d me here – even the prices were middle of the pack.
MezzaLuna – Big swing and a Miss!
Pesto Fettuccini: the flavors were not right and it was cold
Lobster Ravioli: tasty and creamy, but cold as well.
Caesar Salad: good. Nothing to write home about.
Total: $854pesos (~$41US)
Atmosphere: This place has a beautiful atmosphere. There were few highlights of this dinner outing: The terrace view was great. The staff were kind, attentive, and spoke English well. The music was that kind of café jazz that adds without being intrusive. Sadly, our experience failed to live up to the reputation.
First off it has nothing to do with Halloween, is not sad and is a happy celebration of life.
One of the key features of Day of the Dead is the an oferenda or an altar which is made to honour the deceased & can be displayed at a gravesite or at home.
Altars with 3 levels represent the sky, the earth and the underworld. Altars with 7 levels are common and relate to the 7 levels that a soul must traverse before reaching heaven (or hell).
Upon dying, a person was believed to travel to Chicunamictlán, the Land of the Dead. Only after getting through nine challenging levels, a journey of several years, could the person’s soul finally reach Mictlán, the final resting place.
No matter how many levels you have for your alter some of the must have elements represent water, wind, earth & fire. Water is left in a pitcher so the spirits can quench their thirst after their journey. Papel picado, or traditional paper banners represent the wind. Earth is represented by food, especially bread.
Along with the water, wind & earth elements, photos of those who have passed & their family are added along with skulls (calavera) usually made of sugar to represent death & the sweetness of life. Cempushil flowers which are used because they are similar to the colour of the sun – an important god in prehispanic times. The name is derived from Aztec origins and roughly translates to the “flower of many petals.” The petals are also used to lead from the graves to the house as a guide for the spirits to their altars using their vibrant colors and pungent scent.
November 1st is when the spirits of the children that have passed are said to visit and toys & candy are added to the altar, then on November 2nd it is the adults turn and that’s when it’s time to bring out the cerveza, tequila, black mole & their favourite dishes.
Another popular figure for DoD is La Catrina, sometimes you’ll see her as part of an alter or as a decoration, and icon of her own, year-round. Her purpose is to honor & protect those who have passed & to symbolize the relationship Mexicans have with death.
The current iteration of Catrina is a female skeleton wearing a wide-brimmed hat & dress common for upper class Mexican women in the late 1800s – early 1900s. This style satirizes those who favored European culture over Mexican foods and customs. Popularized in graphic images by artist Jose Guadalupe Posada.