Our Choices for the 15 Best Restaurants in Oaxaca City, Mexico

Our Choices for the 15 Best Restaurants in Oaxaca City, Mexico

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During our extended stay in Oaxaca City, we ate out…a lot. It’s pretty easy to do when the food is both delicious and cheap. We’ve compiled a list here of what we think are the best restaurants in Oaxaca City. Restaurants that we found ourselves returning to again and again.

Now, this isn’t a list of the fanciest, most popular, or most expensive restaurants in Oaxaca City. You’ll find those restaurants mentioned on other blogs, and we’ve eaten at a lot of them. We never returned to any of them though, which I think says a lot.

If you’re excited about eating out in Oaxaca, check out our list of where we think you should try.

Natasha's dad eating at Tacos Lavariega
Natasha’s dad eating at Tacos Lavariega

What we think are the 15 Best Restaurants in Oaxaca City…

This list of our favorite restaurants is in no particular order. Also, as you’ll notice, a lot of these restaurants don’t serve typical Oaxacan food. They are owned and operated by Oaxacans though which is why they made the list.

Carnitas Leo’s Loaeza

If you read our blog post about our favorite foods in the Yucatan, then you probably know of our love for Mexican pulled pork dishes. And out of the three main pulled pork dishes, carnitas are our favorite. We tried the carnitas at a number of different restaurants in Oaxaca. None were anywhere near as good as Carnitas Leo’s Loaeza.

Leo makes his carnitas the traditional way; slowly cooking chunks of pork, in lard, in a large copper pot until it falls apart. It’s so delicious. You can get Leo’s carnitas, by the kilo to go, or in tortas (sandwich), tacos, tostadas, or gringas (like a quesadilla). There are two different ways to order the meat at Leo’s (or really any specialty carnitas restaurant):

  • Maciza – If you’re looking for a Mexican version of the pulled pork you know in the States, or if you’re a bit of a picky eater, “maciza” is how we suggest you order your carnitas. Leo will pull out a chunk of meat, and remove all of the fat and skin and pull the pork. This leaves you with nothing but lean pulled pork.
  • Surtida – This is how I prefer my carnitas. Leo removes a chunk of meat from the pot. He leaves some of the gelatinous skin and soft fat with the pulled pork. Then he minces the crap out of all of it with two giant cleavers. The result is pulled pork with a lot more texture and flavor than with just the meat alone.

In addition to the carnitas, Leo makes probably the best burger in Oaxaca. He makes his own patties in house, then sears them on the flat top with a slice of ham, thinly sliced chorizo links, and hard seared Oaxacan cheese. Probably one of the best burgers in Mexico.

Carnitas bubbling away at Carnitas Leo Loaeza
Carnitas bubbling away at Carnitas Leo Loaeza

LocationManuel Doblado & Arteaga. About a ten minute walk from Zocalo.

Price Range – Cheap Eats

Must-Try Dish – Carnita torta drenched in carnitas cooking juices.

A.M. Siempre Cafe

I really wish we would have found this little restaurant sooner. After a few months living in Centro, we moved a little farther north into the barrio of Xochimilco. This is where you’ll find A.M. Siempre Cafe. It’s only about a 15-minute walk from Santo Domingo, and it’s totally worth it.

Here they specialize in quality coffees that are all sourced in Oaxaca. The coffee and chocolate drinks are amazing. Their food though is something extra special. A.M. Siempre Cafe makes their own bagels, English muffins, and croissants as well as cures their own salmon, roasts their own beef, and smokes their own bacon.

Every drink that we drank and every bit of food that we ate here was perfect. If you’re burned out on typical Oaxacan food, this is the place to try. You will not be sorry.

Homemade bagel with cream cheese at A.M. Siempre Cafe
Homemade bagel with cream cheese at A.M. Siempre Cafe

LocationJose Lopez Alavez in Barrio Xochimilco. About a fifteen-minute walk from Santo Domingo.

Price Range – $5-$8usd

Must-Try Dish – The bagel with cream cheese and lox.

I Love Tlayudas

Normally we try not to give our business to chain restaurants. We give “I Love Tlayudas” a break on this rule though. Sure their tlayudas are pretty similar to every other tlayuda restaurant out there, but the atmosphere is better than most.

What we like is that the food is always good and always consistent. They serve both beers and mezcals, and they have a salsa bar with various salsas and accompaniments to add to your food. 

Oaxacan Food Tip
Have no idea what a tlayuda is (pronounced tly-U-duh)? Basically, it’s Oaxaca’s version of a pizza.

They start with a large somewhat pliable tortilla shell. Then a very thin layer of pork fat is applied. On top of that, they add pureed beans, lots of Oaxacan cheese, shredded lettuce, and sliced avocados.

The tlayuda is then cooked either open-faced or folded in half, depending on the restaurant. The tlayudas are served with your choice of meats which are usually grilled and served on the side. The results are delicious.

You can get tlayudas pretty much anywhere in Oaxaca. If you want to chill out in a cool environment, with good music, and a few cold beers, we suggest giving “I Love Tlayudas” a shot.

Tlayuda with tasajo at I Love Tlayudas
Tlayuda with tasajo at I Love Tlayudas

Location – On Rayon just east of Manuel Doblado. About a 10-minute walk from Zocalo.

Price Range – Cheap eats.

Must-Try Dish – Definitely the tlayudas.

Mercado 20 de Noviembre

No culinary tour of Oaxaca would be complete without a stop at Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Here you can find 20-30 of the best restaurants in Oaxaca City, all under one roof.

You’ll find bakeries specializing in bread and pastries, fresh juice stalls, small shacks that serve nothing but tlayudas, and 30 seat restaurants selling some of the best moles that can be found in Oaxaca.

Also in Mercado 20 de Noviembre, you will find the famous “meat hall”. Here there are numerous grills set up for one thing, and one thing only; grilling up delicious cuts of meat. Meat hall is a must stop for all carnivores.

Mixed platter of meat at Mercado 20 de Noviembre
Mixed platter of meat at Mercado 20 de Noviembre

Location – About 3-blocks south of Zocalo.

Price Range – Very cheap eats.

Must-Try Dish – Mole negro at any of the stalls.

Gourmand Delicatessen

This is another restaurant that we wish we would have found earlier. Gourmand Delicatessan feels like a restaurant you would go to only on special occasions, but without the hefty price tag.

Here they specialized in deli sandwiches, yet they go the extra mile. They make all of their own bread, they cure all of their meats, they make homemade pickles, as well as cure their own olives. Gourmand’s even makes their own beer, ginger beer, and root beer.

Everything we’ve eaten at Gourmand’s has been spectacular. Not sure which of their meats you want to fall in love with? Grab yourself a charcuterie plate and try a little of each one. Be careful though, this place is addicting.

Charcuterie plate for one at Gourmand Delicatessen
Charcuterie plate for one at Gourmand Delicatessen

Location – On Calle de Ignacio Allende, 2 blocks west of Santo Domingo.

Price Range – Nothing is over $5usd.

Must-Try Dish – Start with the charcuterie plate and go from there.

Cocinas Conchita

Interested in ridiculously inexpensive Oaxacan food that tastes great? Then head to where the locals eat; Cocinas Conchita. This breakfast and lunch spot offers typical chilaquiles, enchiladas, and entomatadas, all slathered in delicious homemade sauces. 

The lunch menu changes daily. Usually, there are between 2-4 options for lunch which will most likely include at least one mole and some form of grilled meat. No matter what you order though, I can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be great. Pair your lunch or breakfast with one of their delicious fresh fruit juice drinks that are made daily.

This place really fills up for breakfast. If you get there and the place is full, just know there is a “secret” hidden dining room upstairs. 

Enchiladas verdes with chorizo at Cocinas Conchita
Enchiladas verdes with chorizo at Cocinas Conchita

Location – In Barrio de la Noria.

Price Range – Very cheap eats.

Must-Try Dish – The enchilada verde with chorizo.

Tortas la Hormiga

We have eaten tortas all over Mexico. They are, literally, one of our favorite foods. And few do tortas as well as “Tortas la Hormiga” (terribly named in my opinion, but, whatever…). There are two different locations, but we’ve only been to the one on the corner of Jardin Conzati.

When we first found this little torta cart we had no intentions of eating a torta at that moment. The line of 10-15 Oaxacans patiently waiting for their chance to order though piqued our curiosity. We’re so glad we decided to wait in that line.

Since that first time, we’ve probably returned for these tortas at least ten times more. The reason? Perfectly prepared tortas that are delicious, and only cost around $1.25. What more could you ask for?

The tortas here are a classic torta done right. They start with a perfectly soft and toasty roll. Then they top the roll with pureed beans, avocado, & tomato. You then have your choice of meats, cheese, and chillis. All of the food is seared off on the flattop, assembled, and ready to eat.

Line "out the door" at Tortas la Hormiga
Line “out the door” at Tortas la Hormiga

Location – On the corner of Parque Jardin Conzati. Two blocks north of Santo Domingo.

Price Range – Very cheap eats.

Must-Try Dish – Either the torta with tasajo y queso (shredded beef and cheese) or the torta with cecina enchilada y queso (heavily seasoned, sliced pork with cheese).

Nuevo Mundito Cafe

Nuevo Mundito Cafe is a very cute little cafe in the La Noria barrio. We have spent many mornings here drinking delicious coffee drinks and eating some wonderful food. It’s a small cafe, with maybe 15 seats, and it fills up fast in the mornings.

We’ve had nearly everything on the menu here and all of it is good. They do an especially good job on the omelets, of which we’ve ordered many. Nuevo Mundito Cafe is a great place to chill in the mornings with a cup of coffee and a better than average breakfast.

Chicken enchilada with mole negro at Cafe Nuevo Mundito
Chicken enchilada with mole negro at Cafe Nuevo Mundito

Location – On the corner of Manuel Doblado & La Carbonara in Barrio de la Noria.

Price Range – Cheap eats. 

Must-Try Dish – Omelet with Oaxacan string cheese and fresh mushrooms.

Tacos ROY

Tacos ROY is our go-to restaurant when we’re ready to sit and chill with some tacos and cold beer. This place is always filled with locals and for good reason. The food here is absolutely fantastic. What’s best is, they have a little something for everyone.

Are you craving al pastor tacos and your partner is craving, carnitas? No problem. Have a group of 4 or more and no one can decide what they’re craving? Tacos ROY has got you covered. The menu here is extensive, the food well prepared, and the prices are more than reasonable.

No matter what we’ve ever ordered from the menu at Taco ROY, we’ve been happy. Whenever we have a visitor to Oaxaca or a tourist asks for a recommendation, this is where we send them.

Tacos al pastor at Tacos ROY.
Tacos al pastor at Tacos ROY.

Location – Corner of Valerio Trujano & 20 de Noviembre. One block west of Zocalo.

Price Range – Cheap eats. 

Must-Try Dish – Tacos al pastor.

Tacos Lavariega (Food Cart)

We are huge fans of street food. Whether it’s jerk chicken in Jamaica, ceviche in Nicaragua, or tacos in Mexico. If you want the best food a country has to offer, you gotta get to the street food stalls.

Tacos Lavariega is a great example of this. This taco cart specializes in carnitas. They, literally, have nothing else. And because this is all that they specialize in, they get it right every single time.

On our usual evening walk, we may pass no less than 20 taco carts. Most are good, some are hit and miss. When we passed by this cart and saw 25-30 extremely happy looking Oaxacans crowded around the cart and chowing down on tacos, we knew we had to give it a try. We are so glad we did.

Carnita Taco stall Taco Lavariega
Carnita taco stall Tacos Lavariega

Location – Varies as this is a food cart. We usually find him in the evenings on 20 de Noviembre between Mercado Benito Juarez and Av. Independencia.

Price Range – Very cheap eats. 

Must-Try Dish – Tacos de carnitas.

Ancestral Cocina Tradicional

As the name of Ancestral Cocina Tradicional implies, they serve traditional Oaxacan food. This is the same kind of food that can be found in any market or any Oaxacan restaurant. Why did this restaurant make our list then? It takes these traditional Oaxacan foods and elevates them a notch above their competitors.

If you order “pollo con mole negro” at a market stall you’re going to get a piece of previously poached chicken unceremoniously thrown onto a plate and drowned in mole sauce. It will most definitely be delicious, but nothing that stands out from any other market stall.

This is why Ancestral Cocina Traditional made our list. They take traditional Oaxacan food, cook it perfectly to order, plate it beautifully, and serve it in a beautifully landscaped garden setting. This is the perfect restaurant for a romantic date night.

Enchiladas covered in pureed beans with chorizo at Ancestral Cocina Tradicional
Enchiladas covered in pureed beans with chorizo at Ancestral Cocina Tradicional

LocationJose Lopez Alavez in Barrio Xochimilco. About a fifteen-minute walk from Santo Domingo.

Price Range – Moderately priced. 

Must-Try Dish – Any one of the mole dishes.

Terranova

In our blog post “25 Fun Things to do in Oaxaca”, chilling out and people watching in Zocalo made the list. And Terranova, located in Zocalo, is where you can find us on any given evening doing just that.

The food at Terranova is standard Oaxacan fare stepped up a notch. Everything we’ve tried here has been delicious (most especially their tortilla soup). Considering the place is usually packed full of locals it’s safe to say that they think so also.

In addition to great food and a really nice drink list, the location can’t be beaten. Terranova sits right on Zocalo and offers outdoor seating right on the square. It’s the perfect place to sit back with an evening (or afternoon) drink and watch the world go by.

Breaded chicken stuffed with veggies at Terranova
Breaded chicken stuffed with veggies at Terranova

Location – On the eastern side of Zocalo.

Price Range – Moderately priced. 

Must-Try Dish – Definitely the tortilla soup and split a tlayuda.

Sabor Antiguo

If you’re in Oaxaca for the food, you’ll want to eat where the locals do. Sabor Antiguo is just the place for that. Here they specialize in typical Oaxacan food, and they get it right each and every time. Every meal we’ve had here has been fantastic, and the prices can’t be beat.

My only complaint; the lunch menu changes daily. Great for meals made with the freshest ingredients possible. Not so great when you’re craving their cream of pumpkin soup and have no idea when it will be on the menu next.

Sabor Antiguo is a little off of the tourist path, but definitely worth the 50 peso taxi ride. Nearly all the dishes in the evening come right off the wood-fired grill out front, including their tlayudas which gives them the smokey, charred taste that good tlayudas should have.

Chicken with mole negro at Sabor Antiguo
Chicken with mole negro at Sabor Antiguo

Location – On the corner of Manuel Doblado & La Carbonara in Barrio de la Noria.

Price Range – Cheap eats. 

Must-Try Dish – Definitely the mole if it’s available.

La Casa del Mezcal

Ok, this is more of a bar than a restaurant. We had to put it on our list though. La Casa del Mezcal is one of our favorite places to hang out in Oaxaca, and we’d hate for you to miss out on it. This is a great spot to belly up to the bar, try one of their many “off label” mezcals, and meet some new friends.

Technically there is food here to go with your delicious array of mezcals. You have one, and only one, option; chicken wings fried with sliced hotdogs. Sounds terrible I know, but they’re actually quite good. Especially after you’ve had a few too many mezcals.

Even if you just pop in for one beer, the amazing murals and wood-work throughout the establishment are worth the trip. 

Mural in Casa de Mezcal
Mural in Casa de Mezcal

LocationOn Flores Magon, directly across the street from Mercado Benito Juarez. 1.5 blocks south of Zocalo.

Price Range – Cheap eats. 

Must-Try Dish – Mezcal.

Lechoncito de Oro

We were VERY happy to find lechon in Oaxaca. Lechon, for those of you who may not know, is roasted whole pig that is cooked until it’s falling off the bone. It’s freakin’ delicious. And Lechoncito de Oro cooks it perfectly. You can have your lechon in a taco or in a torta, with or without the chicharron (with chicharron is really the best way to eat it).

My only complaint; they don’t open until 8pm. Not that that’s too late to eat, it’s just if I start craving lechon at noon, there’s really no other place in town serving lechon this delicious. And 8 hours is a long time to be craving lechon.

This is obviously a problem for more than just me. The line forms at this taco stall starting right at 8pm and it never goes away. Always a good sign if you’re looking for a quality taco stall.

Lots of tacos going out at El Lechoncito Oro
Lots of tacos going out at El Lechoncito de Oro

LocationCalle de Los Libres.

Price Range – Cheap eats. 

Must-Try Dish – Tacos de lechon con chicharrones.

Want to Add to our List of Best Restaurants in Oaxaca City?

We’re always looking for new restaurants to try in Oaxaca! Comment below and let us know what you consider to be the best restaurants in Oaxaca. 


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