Oaxaca is famous for its regional mescals. And mezcal has become the new 'it' drink. Previously, people abroad viewed it as a cheap tequila with a worm ('guisano'), but for those who know better, artisinal mezcal cannot be compared to tequila. While most are almost 40% alcohol, some are smooth enough to be sipped and enjoyed, I relate them to a more of a whiskey than a tequila. Los Dazantes is a famous brand that is exported to the US, Canada and Europe.
My friend Rebecca Bailey has been living in Oaxaca for years. Originally from Australia, she settled in Oaxaca on her around-the-world tour (as Aussies do). She built an amazing website Que Pasa Oaxcaca. Check it out for 'everything you need to know about Oaxaca', including resto's, drink venues, live music, film festivals, etc. Oaxaca is an art filled city that despite its small population has something going on, nearly every night of the week! Rebecca introduced us to this Mezcaleria (Mezcaleria Los Amantes, 107 Allende) next to the Casa Crespo restaurant.
Back to the Mezcaleria. This small, artfully decorated shop is not much bigger than a generous walk-in closet, large class jars line the walls, and on most nights it has a good mix of travelers and regulars. Tasting are 100 pesos for three glasses, and you can enjoy your drinks to the ballads of a solo guitarist. A large bottle of 750 ml goes for between 400 to 700 pesos (approximately 30 to 50 Canadian dollars), but this is all small batch artisanal mezcal that you would not be able to find at home. Another line of mezcals from the restauranteur who owns Los Danzantes was also very smooth and runs for 140 pesos for a small 200 ml bottle.
A Mexican nieve (which means snow) is like a cross between a gelato and a sorbet. Nieves have a higher water content and are more ‘icey’ than a gelato, and the ones that are dairy free are more similar to a sorbet. At the Basilica de la Soledad, there is the Plaza de la Soledad, an entire square full of nieverias with flavours ranging from regular fruit flavours, to cheese, mezcal, cajeta (caramel with goat’s milk), coconut, etc. It makes for a great nieve experience, but the usual rule applies - if it is very touristy, it’s probably good, but not the best. My favourite queso nieve was in the town of Tule (giant tree), and my favourite mamey nieve, at the El Pachote, Organic Market in Oaxaca.
Sadly, I don’t have enough pictures to show how amazing all the food was, but here are a few pics and recommendations showing the best deals I found and my favourite splurge:
Los Danzantes (403 Alcala, Centro): Offers a Menu del Dia on Wednesdays and Fridays for lunch, offers a three course meal plus coffee, juice and a shot of mezcal) for 115 pesos and 140 pesos including a glass of wine (reserve ahead). Their dinner menu while much more expensive looked incredible.
Casa Oaxaca (La Constitución 104, Centro): The best dinner I had in Oaxaca. A fresh salsa was prepared at your table with a mortar and pestle and in addition to the regular bread basket they also brought us a blue corn tlayuda with ricotta. Steph and I shared: a stuffed chile poblano with ceviche, grilled octopus with rice and huitlacoche (corn fungus), grilled red snapper, and a delicious chocolate mousse for desert. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take good pics, bus I’m still thinking about that octopus!
Biznaga (12 Garcia Virgil, Centro): Named after a well known and extremely slow growing cactus (probably why their moto is very very slow food). Of the medium to high priced establishments in the city, biznaga offers the best value. Great ambience, an innovative menu and generous portions. They also have great soups you can purchase for 35 pesos! A great option if you had a big lunch, but still want to have a sit-down dinner.
Menu del Dias - If you are looking to enjoy a nice long lunch, check out some of the menu del dias. Most restaurants offer a three course meal, ranging from as low as 35 pesos ($3 CDN at a typical Mexican restaurant) with 115 pesos ($10 CDN - Los Danzantes).