This article is from the April 1997 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Restaurants and Other Helpful Hints for Oaxaca

Eat at La Casa de la Abuela. This is a finer establishment and it is in the Zocalo. You can sit near a window and view the happenings below (a window seat is worth the wait). Make sure to order the Parillada Oaxaquenana, a sampler of their best. And for Uncle Pete’s sake, try the chapulines (fried baby grasshoppers)...they are a pride and joy of Oaxaquenos. They are served with guacamole, salsa and corn tortillas, and you won’t find them back home! They are harvested from the bean fields, cleaned, boiled and sautéed in oil, garlic, and onion with a hint of chile. Dinner for two is about 100 pesos.

Have breakfast at La Flor de Oaxacan on Calle Armenta 311. This is where the locals have breakfast. The tamales are wonderful and the Chocolate Espanola (hot cocoa) is to die for. For two expect to spend about 50-70 pesos.

If you are a pizza lover then Pizza Nostrana on Ignacio Allende esq: Macadonio Alcala is an absolute must! These Italian immigrants have blended their recipes with Oaxacan cheese and spices to make the best pizza this pizza critic has ever tasted. The Poblano Pizza is not to be missed. Their pastas are outstanding also. For two, about 80-100 pesos.

For the best seafood and possibly the best meal in Oaxaca, go to Mariscos de Red at the corner of Colon y Bustamante. The shrimp cocktail is outstanding. I also had a plate of shrimp that were sweet, spicy, garlicky, large and very plentiful. There was a wait to get in, but it is well worth it. It was new and not in the guidebooks I read, but the locals recommended it. A full meal for two is about 100 pesos.

Make sure you try freshly prepared tacos made by the street cart vendors on Colon behind the Zocalo during the evening at least once. This is another place where the locals eat. But a warning: the food is ridiculously inexpensive and delicious, so it can become habit forming. About 15-20 pesos per person.

Make sure you go to Santa Maria Atzompa (green glazed pottery pueblo), San Martin Tilcajete (wood carving pueblo) and Teotitlan del Valle (weaving pueblo). All are pleasant, very tourist friendly and much less expensive than in the city craft stores. The money also goes directly to the artisans whom you will get to meet personally. A sitio cab to Atzompa is about 4 pesos and the bus back about two. To Tilcajete take the bus to Ocotlan and ask the driver to let you off in Tilcajete which is before Ocotlan. It costs about 6 pesos to get there. It is more expensive to return as the day gets later. It cost us 30 pesos to get back (it was getting dark), still reasonable considering it is about a 40 minute drive. Wait for a return trip near the square, past the blue and white market (red "Gansito" sign with duck above the door), which is across from a church on the main street. The sitio to Teotitlan was about 50 pesos (can’t recall exactly), but again 30-plus minutes away and worth the money. We would skip Arrazola (another wood carving pueblo). We found it a dud with little charm and inferior quality compared to Tilcajete. We ran out of time for San Bartolo Coyotepec (black pottery pueblo) which we will visit next time. Above all, bargain courteously and show respect when entering their homes. Ask before taking pictures of people since some prefer not to have photos taken and also hold religious beliefs that taking their photo can make them ill.

The main bus station is across from the Abastos market. You can catch the bus to Ocotlan or just about anywhere else from here. There are two sets of sitio stations. One is located on the street behind the main bus station, which is where you will find the Atzompa sitio. The other is across from the bus station, but a few blocks down past the Abastos. This is where you will find the sitio for Teotitlan. The bus station can be gotten to from a bus for about two pesos. A taxi will take you from the Zocalo to the bus station or directly to a sitio for about 15-20 pesos.

For the best internet access go to Terra Nostra at Morelos 600. General Director Juan Pablo Ortiz Gutierrez is very well educated, is very customer focused and speaks perfect English. E-mails are twelve pesos each.

If you get sick (I got a cold) or need water or toiletries, there are plenty of pharmacies open early in the morning and late in the evening.

If you like hot cocoa, go to Chocolate Mayordomo on 20 de Noviembre at Mina and buy several boxes to bring back home. They make excellent gifts. I purchased only two of the green boxes (cocoa with cinnamon) and wish I had brought back more, several more.

The Temazcal indigenous steam bath and full body massage is well worth the price of 300 pesos for about 2 hours total. They are located on Reforma 402, tel (951) 611 65. Inquire early in your trip since they will probably be booked solid if you just drop in.

Cash in all those pennies and spare change lying around in drawers and car ash trays to convert to small pesos so that you can give some to the poor citizens of Oaxaca. This money will really go a long way considering the exchange rate and you will feel great being able to help.

Stop and see the Santo Domingo Church even if you are not a religious person. It is absolutely breathtaking inside!

Bring a versatile camera and use as much film as you can afford!