For me (at least) all roads in Mexico lead either to Michoacan or Oaxaca. This last time they led to Oaxaca for Dia de los Muertos. 12 days is a long time to be in one location. It's a lot of meals and a lot of different sights and experiences. Herewith are some reflections on both...
* Casa Antiqua - located on Cinco de Mayo a block down (towards the zocalo) from the Quinta Real. Well located with easy access to almost everything and every place in Centro. Rooms are comfortable, most had very large bathrooms, staff is young and needs more training. Not all of them speak much English but enough to get by if you need it. The hotel also has a restaurant and small bar. The food in the restaurant is pretty good but they're slow and service can be lacking. I would definitely stay here again.
* Friday Market in Llano Park - from the entrance to the the ethnobotanical garden, keep walking north for about 3 more blocks until you come to the Paseo Juárez el Llano, aka Llano park. Every Friday there is an impromptu market and at the far end of the park is an enormous food court with everything from augas frescas to barbacoa, tamales, menudo, pozole, carnitas, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas and more. There are also a lot of non-food vendors scattered throughout the park selling clothing, bootlegged videos, knives, produce and so on. Go hungry.
* Nieves Chagüita - A friend LOVES the nieves sold on the little plaza outside the Basilica de la Soledad, and he always manages to drag me there on the coldest day in Oaxaca. I, on the other hand, prefer the nieves at Chagüita in the 20 de Noviembre market (1st building as you walk from the zocalo). The flavors are deeper and the texture better. They offer more than 40 flavors but I always seem to get stuck at tuna y coco.
* Terranova - not a lot is open on Sunday morning before 8 or 8:30. We needed breakfast and had already discovered the hotel was too slow, so we set out to find another option and ended up at Terranova. It's located on the east side of the zocalo next to Sushi Itto and Taco Cabana. The coffee was good as was breakfast. We ended up there off and on throughout the 12 days when we needed something easy and quick. Service was always attentive, the food surprisingly good and the cost reasonable. It's not a quaint little hole in the wall serving traditional food with an abuelita in the kitchen, but it does fill a niche for hungry tourists.
* La Biznaga - has been around for as long as I've been going to Oaxaca. It's reliable and the food is almost always well prepared and tasty. The sopa azteca and black bean soup are particularly good, as are most of their salads, which do resemble what most Americans would think of as a salad. They have a full and very extensive bar and it's the only mainstream place I've seen that served pulque. Their Mexican beer selection is good and includes many of the up and coming Mexican craft beers. Wine selection is thin and Mexican wines selection even thinner.
* Las Quince Letras - La Biznaga says good food takes time and uses a turtle as a symbol. Quince Letras is the real deal - and one of the few officially approved - Slow Food restaurants in Mexico. Their waiters even have the Slow Food snail embroidered on their uniforms. As such they use local products that showcase the diversity of products in their region. Their menus and ingredients are seasonal, highlight traditional dishes and adhere to the good, clean and fair Slow Food premise. Like La Biznaga, it is reliable and I've never had a bad meal here. The soups are particularly strong as are most of the moles.
* Tlayudas Doña Ines - Oaxaqueños argue over who makes the best tlayudas the way we argue over who makes the best pizza. Doña Ines may not be the undisputed tlayuda champ but she's definitely on of the top tlayuda queens. In a word...RIQUISIMO. Her atoles are also good as is her horchata. Tlayudas Doña Ines is strictly local. Virtually no English is spoken, but a little Spanish helps. They will welcome you warmly. Super busy, especially in the evenings. Address is:
Ampliación El Bosque Sur
Santa Lucia del Camino
A lot, but not all, of cab drivers know where it is.
The link is to Foursquare, click on the "directions" link and a map will pop up.
* Cafe Brujula - need good coffee, it's here. Cafe Brujula sources local and roasts their own, and it's pretty darn good. They offer decaf and had non-dairy options if needed. There are several stores around town. In addition to coffee and coffee drinks, they sell beans and have a wide selection of pastries and baked goods.
* Cafe Mayordomo - the chocolate folks have opened up a cafe on Alcalá. It's uneven, food can be good...or not. Don't get sucked in by the name.
* Los Pacos - ask a cross section of Oaxaqueños what their favorite restaurant is and chances are good more than a few will say Los Pacos. Mole is the claim to fame here and they do it well. Service can be a bit snobby at times, but the mole is worth the service. They have a sampler of the 7 moles of Oaxaca that allows you to see which one you like best and then order it on the entree. Their nieves are also pretty good. Not inexpensive
* The restaurant in the courtyard in the same building as the Amate Bookstore - delicious. Good breakfast option
* MAPO - the woman's cooperative next to Casa Antigua. Good place to shop for huipiles, jewelry and other artesan items. All made by local women. Selection is usually very good, as are the prices.
* El Baul - textile store located in the same courtyard as Los Danzantes. They have a well curated selection of high quality textiles, i.e. huipiles, blusas, mens shirts, ponchos, serapes, dresses, rebozos and so forth. Prices span from reasonable to "they want how much for that". Discount for cash, they do take credit cards. If you buy something they give you a strip with the name of the weaver, what region and town it was made in and laundering instructions.
* Del Maguey Mezcal - tasting room is in the same courtyard as Los Danzantes and El Baul.
* Praga Oaxaca - we couldn't get in at Los Danzantes nor could we get in a La Biznaga. On the way back down towards Santo Domingo we passed a place with live musicians playing some nice jazz so we went in. They had space for us on their rooftop terrace. It was a small hightop but it was good enough. And so was the food. We had a salad that was supposed to have some fruit in it, and it ended up being more fruit than salad, but we were totally okay with that. I think we had a couple of their steak option which were decent. The potatoes that came with the carne asada were super good. We split a very rich, very dense, very decadent chocolate layer cake 3 ways. This place is located next to Pitiona and if you get stuck and need a decent meal with live entertainment, this is the place.
* Aripo - the Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Artesanías is worth seeking out if you want good folk art. The building is set up so that you can walk through a series of rooms and see all the different art forms that produced in Oaxaca...and everything is for sale. Decent prices. Not a lot of English spoken
There's still more, but I'm out of steam...