Feeding Your Stomach While Honoring the Soul

Article by: Chip Conley|@ChipConley

Wed October 31, 2012 | 00:00 AM

Mexican_food_in_day_of_the_deathBy Daniela Cazares via Wikimedia Commons

Ever eaten a grasshopper? Known as chapulines, they’re usually served sort of crunchy and included with other dishes like tlayudas, an Oaxacan-style tamale. I’m a bit of a chocolate nut (I’ve earned the name “chocolate Chip”) so I found the variety of mole (moh-lay) sauces to be sublime and delicious. The hint of chili peppers gives it a little kick and you can even do a mole tasting of the seven most common types of mole at many restaurants. I’d recommend going to El Mayordomo where you can see cacao prepared for hot chocolate drinks and how mole is developed.

Oaxaca’s location, not far from the sea in a mountain range with a variety of climates and cultures, translates into a culinary diversity that translates into a city full of great restaurants. First, consider going to a market like Mercado de la Merced or the 20 de Noviembre market, both downtown, to eat some street food. We enjoyed Fonda Florecita in the Merced Market as it felt like we were eating with the locals but in a place that felt very clean, well-managed, and dedicated to culinary wizardry. Some of the other restaurants to check out include Marco Polo (great fish place), Tiamanalli (specializing in indigenous local ingredients in a Zapotec-style), Asador Vasco (with a beautiful balcony overlooking the zocalo), and the Restaurant at Casa Oaxaca (has a more contemporary style).

As for where to stay, many people choose the Camino Real as it’s a restored convent with beautiful gardens and is well-located for all you want to do in town but it is expensive. We stayed at Casa Oaxaca which is more of a design-oriented, boutique hotel. Stunning altars are created during Dia de los Muertos, but I did find the hotel a little noisy and not quite as comfortable as the Camino Real.