Each of the three main touring routes leading out of the City of Oaxaca, towards the west and north, is blessed with a good, safe reliable restaurant.
There are three, good, reliable and intestinally safe restaurants in a diversity of pleasing dining environments, each along a different one of the three traditional touring routes leading out from the City of Oaxaca in a westerly direction.
Azucena Zapoteca – The Fine Oaxacan Restaurant of Woodcarver Jacobo Angeles
Along Highway 175 heading towards Ocotlán, after passing the black pottery villageof San Bartolo Coyotepec, at the cut-off to San Martín Tilcajete, on the left side of the highway is the brightly painted exterior of Azucena Zapoteca, a combined restaurant and gallery. It’s the brainchild of famed Oaxacan alebrije woodcarvers and painters Jacobo Angeles and wife María Mendoza, run by members of their family.
Jacobo has spend a great deal of time traveling throughout the US, promoting his craft, and accordingly is very cognizant of the expectations of Americans when it comes to level of cleanliness and service, and quality of fare.
Dine inside, or on the outdoor patio while the children play on the swing set. Ask the cook making tortillas from scratch on a comal over firewood, to let the kids approach, and perhaps have a brief hands-on lesson about the art of making tortillas. Staff always obliges.
It’s difficult to encounter a bad dish. However favorites include chile en nogada (a pepper stuffed with fruit and meat with a nutty cream sauce and pomegranate garnish); pajarito (thinly sliced seasoned pork wrapped around melted Oaxacan string cheese or quesillo with steamed vegetables, atop a tasty salsa); and Azucena Zapoteca (a vegetarian dish comprising a large stuffed chile lightly coated with egg batter, floating on a green sauce).
Usually at least one complimentary appetizer is provided: soup of the day, and / or tostadas with bean purée, guacamole and salsa. Often small shots of mezcal are also offered, albeit the house spirit appears to be a blend made especially for tourists … a bit too sweet and certainly not 100% pure.
La Capilla – Zaachila is Known for its Mole and This Restaurant
La Capilla is located on the outskirts of Zaachila (noted for its Thursday market and its downtown ruin). The restaurant makes for a convenient stop for any meal, while touring the alebrije village of Arrazola, the 16th century church and monastery complex at Cuilapan, or even San Bartolo Coyotepec since from there to Zaachila is only a ten minute traverse across a short valley plain.
La Capilla is often used by the locals, including residents of Oaxaca, for large events such as weddings, quince años, birthdays and anniversaries, because of its size. Seating is on benches alongside long pine tables, sheltered by thatched roofs. Service is swift. The restaurant is noted for its moles. But if something else piques the appetite, order it; and then simply ask the waiter if he would mind bringing a small taste of two or three different moles. He’ll likely comply. Of course the alternative is to go to one of the two branches of Restaurante Los Pacos, in the city, and order their sampling of seven moles. But for a real tasting of moles the way they’re made for Oaxacans, La Capilla is the better choice.
Chefi – Touring the Etla Route
Chefi restaurant has been around for about five decades. It’s located on the left side of the main street entering Villa Etla, a couple of blocks from the highway. The restaurant is large, non-descript, but serves up only traditional Oaxacan food. Don’t look for fancy, don’t look for presentation, and don’t look for a lot of other patrons there during typical tourist dining hours, since it caters to locals who tend to eat their comidas much later in the day than Americans and Canadians. But the food is wholesome, safe and arrives quickly … at least by Oaxacan standards. The house mezcal is particularly good.
Chefi makes a good lunchtime stop on a day while visiting the Wednesday market in Etla, the hand-made paper factory and the Center for The Arts in San Agustín Etla, the early ruin and community museum at San José el Mogote, or even after a visit to the pottery village of Atzompa.