Thereare two exceptional restaurants along Highway 190, along the traditional touring route encompassing Santa María el Tule, Teotitlán del Valle and Tlacolula. Tour guides in Oaxaca know which restaurants to visit in the course of a day touring sights in the eastern central valley, heading out of Oaxaca towards Mitla and Hierve el Agua. But by renting a car or using colectivos or second class buses, one is basically left to his own devices, or chance.
There are two good restaurants en route to Santa María el Tule, Tlacolula, Teotitlán del Valle, and further beyond, with top-notch food, yet in different yet equally pleasing dining environments. They are intestinally safe restaurants easily encountered while visiting the craft villages, market towns, ruins, and other sights travelers to tend to explore on a day’s touring out along Highway 190.
Doña Chica – Best Restaurant in Mitla
Doña Chica is located on the main street of Mitla, just as one exits the highway to head to the pre-Hispanic Zapotec ruin. It comes up quickly on the right side of the road, so eyes must be peeled.
When deciding whether to stop for lunch before or after visiting the ruin, consider where one has already been in terms of remaining level of energy and the fact that it will be a good hour before returning after having seen the ruin and the adjoining handicraft marketplace. Usually during that hour or so, the sun is beating down.
The restaurant was renovated in late 2007, and that freshness of ambiance has been kept up. The washrooms are immaculate. It’s semi open-air, with a rustic yet crisp decor, river reed (carriso) walls and smart concrete columns no doubt intended to emulate the majestic limestone structures at the Mitla ruin.
It’s hard to go wrong ordering. Often appetizers are provided on-the-house. Doña Chica provides an excellent opportunity to indulge in vegetables; there are two particularly impressive salads, one with predominantly a medley of freshly steamed veggies, and the other a more traditional green salad. A visiting chemist once asked to see the liquid compound used to disinfect the produce, and was pleasantly surprised that the disinfectant on hand was, in his words, “the best around.”
El Tigre – Authentic Oaxacan Food in an Exquisite Mountain Setting
If electing to continue on to Hierve el Agua along that same Highway 190, take the old highway and just before the cut-off to San Lorenzo Albarradas, on the left, stop at the combined comedor and fábrica de mezcal known as El Tigre. The eatery of Sara and Hilarino is the third and final building.
El Tigre runs without electricity. All food is prepared over an open flame, either on a grate where pots are placed to boil liquids such as coffee or simmer stews, or on a metal comal. Meat and produce arrive fresh every day or two, and are kept in Coleman-like coolers. Mezcal is on the house.
There’s usually a daily special, if one arrives early enough, but otherwise the menu consists of: memelitas or quesadillas as entradas, and main courses of scrambled eggs with chorizo, cecina (thinly sliced pork with a dusting of chile), tasajo (thinly sliced, salted and lightly seasoned beef), grilled chorizo, or eggs over, in each case prepared on the comal with little grease or oil. Side dishes consist of beans and / or fresh veggies, and of course freshly made tortillas hot off of the comal. Salsas are made fresh daily.
El Tigre serves authentic Oaxacan food typically eaten by the locals. One would be hard-pressed to find another tourist around. The few tourists who have had the fortunate experience of indulging at El Tigre have raved of having had one of the best meals encountered in all of Mexico: El Tigre doesn’t even take a back seat to the likes of Casa Oaxaca, La Biznaga or Los Danzantes …. each impressive, yet in a different way.
Doña Chica and El Tigre are at opposite ends of the dining spectrum, but both equally satiating. And for a real treat, different from these two culinary experiences, perhaps consider cena / dinner with a real Oaxacan family, dining with Rocio of Casa Santiago in Teotitlan del Valle, or contact Rocio for a lesson on making tamales de amarillo and hot chocolate, beginning with grinding the cacao beans.
Please click here for restaurant recommendations along the western routes.