Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How I Oaxaca.

After exploring Oaxaca for four weeks so far (plus four days last year), I don't claim to be an expert. But I've found a handful of places that I absolutely love! If you find yourself in Oaxaca, I highly recommend you check out...


Restaurants and Bars

Calabacitas Tiernas is a charming little hole in the wall. Always vegetarian, often even vegan, the four-course menu del dia is a steal at 90 pesos. Instead of relying on rice, beans, and tortillas to satisfy us vegetarians, Calabacitas Tiernas stuffs their dishes to the brim with fresh produce. Each course is much more fruit and veg than it is filler, and all of it is both delicious and disinfected. My favorite combination!

Biche Pobre was recommended by locals, and is a little light on tourists due to its location slightly outside the city center. The restaurant has two stories filled with plenty of tables, but even still, a line out the door is commonplace. My chilaquiles were delicious -- although that's kind of cheating, because chilaquiles are always delicious. But everyone else was equally satisfied!


El Olivo is much more touristy, but I absolutely love it. It is a family restaurant with Mediterranean roots, but the food has a local twist and experimental flare. And the fresh fruits and vegetables are amazing there as well. I knew it was my kind of place when a server came out to the terrace to harvest some fresh rosemary for the kitchen! Word to the wise: try the gazpacho, you'll be so glad you did!


Santisima Flor de Lupulo is a small microbrewery just down the road from Santo Domingo. They have a rotating selection of their own brews on tap, as well as bottles of other microbrews, and deli food. The atmosphere is relaxed, the location is central, and the offerings are delicious! (They share ownership with El Olivo, so you will find these microbrews at El Olivo as well.)


Mezcalerita is a casual, approachable bar, with a relaxing semi-outdoor space in the back that glows red in the daytime. (I'm always a sucker for outdoor space.) The wall is covered with various microbrews, many Mexican, and they're happy to recommend something specific depending on your tastes. Not a big mezcal fan myself (gasp), I can't speak to that situation, but a friend who loves mezcal loved this place as well!


La Biznaga was recommended by my Oaxaquanian Spanish teacher, and several other locals later corroborated. Among locals, it seems to be known as the special occasion restaurant -- delicious and fancy, and priced accordingly. It's a beautiful space with an open roof, and the food is just as beautiful. It also might be the only place I've ever been where the guacamole:dipper ratio is higher than I even need!


Praga is a multi-level restaurant with an amazing view of Santo Domingo. It's not cheap, but in my opinion it's a great value for what you get. The food is delicious (try the creamy veggie crepe), and the view is spectacular. A table on the roof level on a nice breezy night is pretty much heaven.


La Hormiga is a torta (sandwich) truck on the southeast corner of Jardín Conzatti. It's easy to find -- just look for a huge line at any time of the day. The pickings are slim for vegetarians, but every torta comes with avocado, tomato, beans, and unlimited pickled vegetables, so even the "cheese" sandwich is far from boring. And for only 18 pesos, it's a great value. Understandably, meat eaters love La Hormiga even more than I do. And we all love the location -- get lost in a good book while eating a delicious torta in the park, what more could we need?


If you like to dance salsa, the best recommendations I've gotten are La Candela, Txalaparta, and La Tentacion. Of the three, La Candela tends to attract the most serious dancers. If you already know what you're doing, dance to their live band on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. If you're still learning, check out their daytime lessons. Txalaparta also has lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and also has plenty of space on their terraces if you want a break from dancing. On other days, it can get very clubby, so stick to Tuesday/Thursday if you're looking for salsa. At La Tentacion, you'll find a mix of everything: serious dancers, clubby kids, a live band. Luckily, all three of these spots are on the same street. So if you're up for a bit of a walk, you can check them all out in one night to decide what's the best fit for you!


Casa del Mezcal is a little dark and loud, but it is beloved by locals, and is a refreshing change of pace if you're getting sick of tourists (yes, I realize the hypocrisy). The walls are covered with murals depicting stories of the indigenous people. The servers are friendly, and the offerings are priced as competitively as you can find this close to the zocalo.











Attractions





Hierve el Agua is my favorite Oaxacan tourist attraction. It consists of a petrified waterfall with adjacent mineral pools. You can swim in the pools, which are said to have healing properties, but are also just a lot of fun. If you only have time for one day trip out of the city, this would definitely get my vote.




En Vía is a microfinance organization that serves women entrepreneurs in local villages. They are doing amazing work for the communities, and their work is funded almost exclusively through tour fees. So even though it may seem a little pricy at around $45USD, keep in mind that this money goes directly to highly effective microloans. And it also gets you a beautiful educational day, filled with interesting people and delicious food!




Guelaguetza is an auditorium on a hill on the edge of the city center. It is well known for the giant festival in July, and it hosts many other performances throughout the year. But in the mornings, it's also a beautiful place to go for a run or just see some amazing views of the city!



Monte Alban is a major site of Zapotec ruins, just outside of Oaxaca City. (Monte Alban houses the ruins of the political center, and Mitla the ruins of the religious center.) They are interesting and kind of obligatory if you're staying in Oaxaca for any length of time. I'm glad I went. But to be honest, all the ruins are starting to blend together for me, so I wouldn't consider this a major highlight, and wouldn't prioritize it among my recommendations to friends. If you're a big ruins fan, of course, ignore me.



What about you? What are your favorite gems in Oaxaca? I love Oaxaca and will definitely be coming back, so I could use all the advice I can get!

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