We just got back from two weeks in Oaxaca (late August 2008) – both the city and Puerto Escondido. This is our second trip to the city and the first to the coast. Some highlights and recommendations:
La Biznaga (on Garcia Vigil, near Santo Domingo): This place is always so good. It has a bright and airy courtyard with a retractable roof in case of rain, as it sometimes does in the rainy season. The food is traditional Oaxaca with a twist. They have dishes with traditional mole, but it will be topped with a rather untraditional goat cheese. The menu (only in Spanish) is listed on giant chalkboards. There are plenty of choices of appetizers, soups and salads. The main courses are divided by meat, chicken and fish. You really can’t go wrong here.
Los Danzantes (on Alcala a block or so south of Santo Domingo): This is a super modern and cool restaurant. I was, unfortunately, a bit under the weather that day, but we went with 14 friends and they all liked their food. Standouts included duck tacos and the red snapper.
Marco Polo (near the Llano park) was as good as ever. I went there three times – two lunches and a breakfast. They are only open for lunch and breakfast. It is also a great patio and very relaxed place. It’s very popular with the locals and it’s nice to be in a non touristy place. Get the whole snapper cooked in their woodfired grill. They will split it open and put different sauces on it.
As for Puerto:
We stayed the first few nights at Villas Carrizalillo http://www.villascarrizalillo.com/
Incredibly beautiful and overlooks a small bay with good swimming. Lots of the beaches in the area have too strong of an undertow and too large of waves that make surfing good, but swimming really dangerous. This isn’t the case here. There are some small waves (and it’s a good place to take surf lessons) and about 5 or 6 small family owned palapas that rent you chairs and offer you drinks and food. We initially tried to one to the very far end of the beach (from the hotel) and was adequately served by the affable 11 year old Jesus. The fish was decent and the beer cold.
Probably the best part of this location is that we had a prime view of the guy who goes out into the bay and gets fresh oysters and scallops. We saw him swim out with a small inner tube outfitted with a net in the inside. He came back a few hours later. We approached him as he was setting up shop and got five huge scallops. He cleaned them up and chopped them and put them back in their shell with lime and some hot sauce. Amazing.
Las Tugas is the Portuguese restaurant in the hotel. I think the deal is that it just changed owners and concepts. The chef – Elizabeth – is from Mozambique and along with Mario from Portugal, they make great food. There is special Portuguese menu that requires you call ahead for traditional dishes like feijoada. It takes them a bit to get all the ingredients together. We got a rice and seafood dish that was great – spiny lobster, shrimp, mussels, crabs, and a white fish with a great broth and rice. We also ordered off the regular menu one night – Mozambique shrimp and a grilled shrimp – both good. The view is incredible with an open air restaurant under a massive palapa structure. Sunsets are magnificent there.
Los Crotos is on the adoquin and is a great ocean front seafood restaurant. Anthony Bourdain once said in his show that everything tastes better when your feet are bare and in the sand. I agree. You can also be sure that your fish will be super fresh as you eat on a beach area overlooking the small fishing port. We ordered red snapper veracruzana (tomatoes, onions and green pepper sauce) and one pan fried with a chipotle and mayo sauce. Both excellent and went perfectly with a few Victoria beers.
La Torre is a small place at the end of the sort of main commercial street near Carrizalillo beach called the Rinconada. There are lots of other restaurants including a second branch of the popular Cafecito on this street. La Torre has great steaks, which is something a bit harder to find on other menus. The chef is from Mexico City and brings a more northern Mexico approach to a weekly Friday special of ribs with barbeque sauce and pinto beans.
There is a “little Italy” of sorts on the adoquin with some good wood fired pizzas and homemade pastas. We went looking for a place called Alto Mundo, but ended up at another bustling Italian restaurant when we couldn’t locate it. Sorry, but I can’t remember the name, but it was a busy place with a wood oven that you see right when you walk in. Good homemade pastas.
Midway through the week, we moved to Hotel Santa Fe. Nice hotel right at the beginning of the strip of restaurants and bars lining Zicatela. The restaurant has lots of vegetarian options and good seafood – kind of pricey, but good food. The hotel has three separate pool areas, which was a nice break from battling the surf. The chili rellenos were top notch. I had big shrimp veracruzana. You can order the snapper or the shrimp in a number of styles – garlic sauce, grilled, with a chipotle mayonnaise sauce, Mexicana, etc.
Happy to answer any questions you have about the two cities!