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Kristy Andersen, Tampa, FL - USA
Everybody must have their favorite places in Oaxaca so I am not surprised nobody has mentioned the ones I have found -- there are just SO many great places in Oaxaca.
We stayed at Suites del Centro, which is very new, having just opened in June. It is a fabulous place, all red tiled floors, spacious one- and two-bedroom suites with separate courtyards, plush towels, wrought-iron furniture, Talavera ceramic wall lights, hot showers, plenty of air flow -- honestly, one of the best hotels I have ever been in. Lilia Porras is the gracious, charming, old-world hostess of Suites del Centro, and she also owns a less expensive hotel (Hotel Bel Aire) whose pool she will let you use -- I think she also owns the equally charming, less spacious (much less pricey) Posada del Centro. If you are on a budget (even if you are not) I highly recommend it, also -- both places have Lilias artistic touch. There were three of us -- myself, my husband and my son -- and we all loved Suites del Centro.
Although her hotels were tops, we did not much care for Lilias restaurant suggestions, which included breakfast at the Posada del Centro (it did have great O.J.) and dinner at La Casita at the Zocalo (albeit, good chile rellenos). Instead, around the corner from our hotel, we discovered Cafe de Alex, a place that was usually packed with Mexicans and Americans, all vying for some of the best, most wholesome food in Oaxaca. We only ate breakfast there but were pleased to discover a hearty breakfast, great coffee (which seems to be hard to find in Oaxaca), wonderful baked breads, and good service (if it was not too jammed with people).
The market food was actually very good and did NOT come back to haunt us. The main food building is the second one, and is worth a trip just to see the steamy, high-ceilinged wing that houses vendor after vendor of charcoaled entres -- beefsteak!
(In Mexico city, our amigos turned us onto a Sunday tradition -- bar-ba-coa. This roasted cows head (they sell only the meat, no skull) is quite tasty, almost like roast pork -- but it is gamey, lingering on your fingers all day long)
We had another dinner at La Cinquieme Lettres, and it was very good, quite authentic. But I think the Ensalada Mixta contributed to my physical demise a few days later (parasites from the agricultural water).
We had coffee and desert at Mario's Terranova in the Zocalo on our last night -- how I wished afterwards that we had one more night because the menu was intriguing and the food was very good.
Do not neglect Monte Albán, the ancient city that once perched majestically atop the mountains that surround Oaxaca -- it is a fascinating step back in time, and easily a half-days adventure. Again, we were surprised to find great food here, at the restaurant at the museum. And it is a great place to dine, in a patio overlooking the spectacular city of Oaxaca.
Whatever you do, do not leave Oaxaca without trying the fabulous corn tamales, wrapped not in corn husks but in banana leaves, stuffed with chocolate (molé poblano sauce) and a smidgeon of chicken.
Now who can fault a city that loves its chocolate?!? Not me.
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