South of the Zócalo
Only a few good sit-down restaurants sprinkle the neighborhoods south of the zócalo. A quartet of them, three well known for Oaxacan cuisine, and one for seafoood, stand out.
Local folks strongly recommend the no-nonsense, country-style (but refined) La Flor de Oaxaca (Armenta y López 311, tel. 951/516-5522, 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun.), a block east and half a block south from the zócalo’s southeast corner. Along with spotless linen and very correct service, you’ll get the customary bottomless plate of warm corn tortillas to go with your entrée. The mole-smothered regional specialties come mostly in four styles: con tasajo (thin broiled steak), con pollo (chicken), con cecina (roast pork), all about $8, or sola (without meat, $6). Besides those, you can choose from an extensive menu of equally flavorful items, such as tamales Oaxaqueños (wrapped in banana leaves, $5), pork chops ($8), several soups, spaghetti, and much more. Vegetable lovers get started off right with their crisp ensalada mixta (sliced tomato, cucumber, onion, avocado, and lettuce with vinegar and oil dressing, $4). Credit cards accepted.
A block west and two blocks south of the zócalo’s southwest corner, Restaurant Tayu (20 de Noviembre 416, tel. 951/516-5363, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily except Sun.) allows you to step back to Oaxaca “as it used to be.” Take a table and relax in the refined, old-world, TV-free ambience. Mornings, select from a host of tasty breakfasts ($3–5); afternoons, choose one of their four-course $5 comidas that include a choice between several hearty entrées, such as short ribs, chicken, chiles rellenos, with soup, rice and dessert included. Arrive 2:30–4:30 p.m. and enjoy their live instrumental music.
Lovers of fresh seafood can join the loyal brigade of local folks who frequent the airy and unpretentious Restaurant La Red (The Net), one of five Oaxaca branches (corner of Bustamante and Colón, tel. 951/514-8840, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily), one block south of the zócalo’s southeast corner. Customers get their heart’s delight of generous seafood cocktails ($5), heaping bowls of shrimp ($16), fish fillets ($10), octopus ($12), and much more.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition