El Biche Pobre is one of the most longstanding restaurants in Oaxaca, with a reputation for good, traditional Oaxacan food in a relaxed environment. El Biche Pobre Oaxaca Restaurant opened its doors downtown (Jalatlaco neighborhood) in 1973. It subsequently inaugurated a branch on nearby Calzada de La República. Both restaurants maintain a strong following of both locals, and to a lesser extent tourists, serving traditional Oaxacan foodin a relaxed, pleasing environment.
This visit to “Calzada” for a Saturday comida gave credence to extremely positive commentaries received by this reviewer over the past two decades, but not without a couple of surprises which remove the eatery from the company of the exceptional.
Ambiance and Service at Oaxaca Restaurant El Biche Pobre
The restaurant consists of two levels, similar in decor, each with about a dozen wooden tables with smart, locally produced colorful cotton tablecloths. Matching chairs are lightly padded. Detracting from the otherwise comfortable ambiance of the main floor dining room is the distraction of the television and the continuous din of street traffic.
Service was swift from the get-go, drink orders taken almost immediately upon seating, followed by the arrival of a basket of crisp tostadas with crackers and mayonnaise, along with bowls of green and red salsa, guacamole and marinated chipotle chiles. The condiments, though not exceptional, were freshly prepared and tangy.
Main Courses Live Up to Billing for This Traditional Oaxaca Restaurant
El Biche Pobre is noted for food which enables the tourist to sample Oaxacan food the way it has traditionally been prepared, and residents of Oaxaca to eat as close as possible to a home-cooked meal at the residence one’s grandparents and great grandparents. The tortillas, however, are machine made and less than ordinary, thereby detracting from what otherwise would have made for flawless meals all round.
Oaxaca is known for its tlayudas, or oversized tortillas, prepared either open-faced or folded, traditionally made with asiento (pork fat paste), refried black beans, melted quesillo (oaxacan string cheese), shredded lettuce and sliced tomato, served either plain or with grilled cecina (pork), tasajo (beef) or chorizo (sausage). This tlayuda did not disappoint, and ranks with the best in other local restaurants or roadside eateries.
The pollo a la plancha (grilled chicken) is served with french fries and salad, but for the calorie conscious double salad is offered upon request. The protein is perfect for the diet crowd since it consists of a healthy serving of boneless breast, lightly seasoned and with little oil.
Wonderful Mole Amarillo de Res
The most impressive dish was the mole amarillo de res (beef with yellow mole), absolutely exceptional. In fact without knowing better this writer would have guessed that it was based on the recipe of his late comadre, well-known Mexican chef Esperanza Chavarria Blando. The beef, along with both green beans and chayote cooked to the perfect point of crunchiness, was served swimming in a bowl of amarillo — just as the recipe has been prepared, generation after generation.
The mole maintained its appropriate degree of heat, and complexity — flavored with fresh hoja santa, clove, cumin, peppercorn, chile guajillo, and other requisite ingredients. That said, and given that the quantity of beef was typical for a Oaxacan comida (one might say “just enough”), tortillas or blandas handmade on the comal would have provided a much better starch for sopping up the generous helping of mole (typical as well).
Price Somewhat Surprising, but for Quality Oaxacan Fare, Fair Enough
The bill for three, excluding gratuity, came to just over 350 pesos, for the complimentary tortilla chips, salsas and guacamole; three main courses; three soft drinks; and two micheladas (beer, served with a spicy mixture of usually lime juice, tabasco, tomato, worcestershire, and sometimes maggi). The one dish priced higher than it perhaps ought to have been, was the tlayuda, at 75 pesos. At the other end, one could not put a value on the quality of the mole. And all alcoholic beverages are quite reasonably priced, with domestic beer at 20 pesos, and quality brands of mezcal at 30 pesos.
El Biche Pobre is definitely worth a try. For good, traditional Oaxacan food in a basically pleasant environment, this Oaxaca restaurant should not disappoint.
El Biche Pobre, Comedor Familiar
Calzada De la República No. 600,
Hours: 8 am to 8:30 pm, 7 days