Where Locals Go When Their Tastebuds Crave Something Different
By Amber Dunlap
Don’t get us wrong, Oaxacan cuisine is exceptional. But sometimes your tastebuds might crave something more familiar. When that happens use this list as a handy guide for where to eat when the pangs for pizza with fluffy flour crust, deli-style BLT’s, char-grilled hamburgers, pulled pork sandwiches, buffalo-dressed wings, perfectly seared steaks, and appetite-quenching salads become too loud to ignore.
First up on our list is Boulenc, a European-style bakery and restaurant in Centro notorious for turning first-time visitors into repeat customers. We’d be shocked if you managed to visit Oaxaca and not get to this recommended spot at least once. Their fresh-baked sourdough bread and drool-worthy pastries are definitely a lure, but it’s Boulenc’s menu of French, Italian, and international favorites like deli-style reuben sandwiches on rye, wood-oven pizzas with floury sourdough crusts, egg sandwiches on homemade english muffins, spicy poached egg shakshuka, and perfectly cheesy croque-monsieurs that truly explain the line of eager diners spilling onto Calle Porfirio Diaz at all hours of the day. Come for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three. It’s always worth the wait should you have to join the queue.
Hours: Monday to Sunday 8:30am to 10:30pm
Location: Calle Porfirio Díaz 207, Centro, Oaxaca
Tucked away on the eastern edges of Centro, Onnno Loncheria is a laid back and off-the-beaten-track breakfast and lunch option if mouthwatering sandwiches, standalone salads, and American breakfast classics like french toast, scrambled eggs on brioche, and yogurt parfaits get your stomach grumbling. Originally just a grab-and-go sandwich shop around the corner from its current location, Onnno has transformed into the go-to spot for connection, conversation, and a little “taste of the states” in Oaxaca. The dynamic duo behind it all, Estefanía Alvarez and Gustavo Coutiño, combined their food-centric upbringing in Chiapas and experience working in hotels and restaurants in Cancun, Tulum, and New York, with some of their favorite design and culinary discoveries while traveling, including the shared table concept inspired by a cafe they visited in Denmark. Need a menu recommendation? Go for their tocino (bacon) sandwich layered with 150 grams of crunchy bacon, slices of avocado, roasted tomatoes, lettuce, and a homemade aioli. Then, follow it up with a kombucha, cardamom latte, or cold brew coffee with cacao.
Hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm; Sunday 9am to 4pm
Location: Mártires de Tacubaya 308, Centro, Oaxaca
3. Ilegales Bar
Ilegales opened in 2017 when owner Miguel Martinez and his chef and co-founder Mario Cruz decided to try their hand at a gastropub in Oaxaca. Their inspiration? The many dishes Chef Mario learned to make in the kitchens of the United States. The name itself is a nod to Miguel and Mario’s shared experience of being in the United States illegally – Miguel in Philadelphia, Mario in New York. In other words, the Ilegales menu is a satisfying collection of some of the best “stolen” American bar food staples ever to grace Oaxaca’s streets. Come for the wings dressed in buffalo and barbecue sauce, the bacon and cheese-topped baskets of fries, the pita pizzas, and the build-it-your-way burgers. Or go for some of their lighter options like a caprese panini, falafel wrap, pastrami sandwich, or greek salad. Then, wash it all down with a cocktail or one of the beers off their artisanal beer menu. If there’s still room, order their New York-inspired cheesecake for dessert.
Hours: Monday to Sunday 1pm to 9pm
Location: Oaxaca – Tuxtepec 5, San Agustín Yatareni, Oaxaca
4. The BBQ Pit
Fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, perfectly smoked Texas-style brisket, charcoal-grilled burgers, and pulled pork smoked on-site in a 200-liter oil drum…not something you’d expect to find buried between the taco stands and ever hot comales of Oaxaca. Chef Daniel Robles, the mind behind Oaxaca’s one-and-only barbecue-focused restaurant, is on a mission to introduce Oaxaqueños to the true meaning of the southern United State’s favorite food style, something he personally developed an unquenchable hankering for while working as a chef in Nashville, Tennessee. While he and his team have successfully turned many locals onto barbecue since The BBQ Pit’s opening in mid-2019, he’s also inadvertently attracted quite the expat following here in Oaxaca too. Nearly everything you’ll find on The BBQ Pit’s menu is sourced and prepared in-house, from the buns of their pulled pork sandwiches and burgers to the dry rub, dressings, and sauce served with them. We should also mention Chef Daniel’s other gig, Wings Company, located in the same location. Combine any of the items off The BBQ Pit menu with an order of wings bathed in a range of sauces, including garlic parmesan, spicy barbecue, lemon pepper, and a chimi pesto sauce that is to die for!
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 1:30pm to 8:30pm; Friday and Saturday 2pm to 9:30pm
Location: Prol. Melchor Ocampo 1109, Eliseo Jimenez Ruiz, Oaxaca
Mexita is where Oaxaqueños go for authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas and pastas. Everything on their menu, from the Fior di Latte mozzarella to the San Marzano tomato sauce, limoncello, balsamic vinegar, and pasta is made from scratch by Mexita’s owner and chef Enrico de Rosa, a native of Naples, Italy. Though slightly beyond the limits of the city center, Mexita’s sophisticated space, authentic flavors, and impeccable service are well worth the 20-minute walk or 5-minute cab out to Reforma for that late lunch or dinner. Start with their bruschetta, a fresh homegrown salad, or perfectly fried calamari and then bookend your straight-out-of-Italy meal with their chocolate profiteroles and a shot of limoncello.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 2:30pm to 10pm; Sunday 2pm to 9pm
Location: Federico Ortiz Armegol 105, Reforma, Oaxaca
For generous portions of authentic German cuisine in a rooftop terrace setting that overlooks the iconic Santo Domingo Church, Berlina belongs at the top of your list of non-Mexican cuisine in Oaxaca. Their menu of smoked sausages, currywurst, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, dumplings, goulash, freshly baked German bread, and apple strudel is comfort food for Germans and non-Germans alike. Everything on Berlina’s menu is strictly German and prepared by a proper German-born chef, save for their long and beloved list of artisanal beers from across Mexico and Europe. Their location in Oaxaca’s Centro is a little tricky to find. Just enter through Los Danzantes restaurant and take the stairs to the left up to the second floor where you’ll bump into Berlina’s sprawling and plant-filled open-air dining room.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 8:30am to 10pm
Location: Calle Macedonio Alcalá 403, Centro, Oaxaca
7. El Morocco
The story behind El Morocco, Oaxaca’s very own “Little Morocco,” begins in Montreal, Canada of all places. The restaurant’s founder, Alejandra Aquino, had spent several years waiting tables at an authentic Moroccan restaurant in Montreal to help pay her way through school when the idea struck to bring Moroccan cuisine back to her hometown. Eager to support Alejandra’s idea, the owners of the restaurant took her under their wing and trained her on how to prepare a full menu of Moroccan classics, from lamb couscous and chicken skewers to hummus, moussaka, falafel, and traditional Moroccan mint tea. They even traveled with her to Morocco to help her as she picked out all of the authentic Moroccan decor that now makes dining at El Morocco such a transporting experience. When you go, save room for their homemade baklava and rotating menu of delicious desserts too.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12pm to 9pm
Location: Valentín Gómez Farias 403, Centro, Oaxaca
Adamá has been turning heads almost as soon as it appeared on Oaxaca’s restaurant scene in January 2021. Adamá’s menu of middle eastern and mediterranean classics like shawarma, hummus, falafel, and baklava may be comfort food to the already acquainted, but for many a Oaxaca local Adamá is their first introduction to this variety of savory international cuisine. The kitchen’s core ingredients, like garbanzo beans, fresh herbs, and many of the spices needed, are readily available at the local markets, while their lamb is delivered fresh from a farmer in the nearby community of Benito Juarez. By the effortlessly romantic ambiance, almost nightly reservation-only seating, and gorgeous presentation of every dish, you would never guess this is Israeli-born Hagar Aviram’s first venture into the restaurant realm.
Hours: Thursday to Saturday 2pm to 10pm; Sunday Brunch 11am to 5pm
Location: Callejón de Aldama 101, Xochimilco, Oaxaca
For Japanese cuisine and hospitality in a gorgeous outdoor courtyard setting, head to Ramen-Ya, also known as Kintaro. Their menu of rice and ramen dishes, served by the half or full portion, is reasonably priced, far cheaper than you’d expect for such a classy setting and quality meal. Their half-portions barely break $5 USD, meaning there’s room in the budget for their matcha, lychee, or tempura ice cream with chocolate and berry sauce for dessert or a bottle of authentic Japanese sake to pair with your savory meal. Ramen-Ya is open for lunch and dinner, but the moody candlelit vibes after sunset truly elevate the entire dining experience.
Hours: Wednesday to Monday 2pm to 11pm
Location: Calle de Ignacio Allende 316, Centro, Oaxaca
10. Che Gaucho
Slightly more off-off-the-beaten-tourist-path is Che Gaucho. In fact, unless a local points you to this beautiful and tucked away Argentinian steakhouse 20+ minutes walk from Centro, you’re unlikely to ever find your way to it. Che Gaucho is a can’t miss if perfectly grilled steaks, Argentinian empanadas, pastas, salads, and lasagna are what your tastebuds are after. This family-run restaurant, started by Juan Carlos and Agustina Suarez nearly four decades ago, pays homage to the owners’ Argentine roots. Many of the dishes on Che Gaucho’s menu are family heirloom recipes straight from the family kitchen in Buenos Aires. Today, their son Lucho manages their grand and gorgeous restaurant in Reforma. Pop in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert and come to know firsthand why local’s call this one of their favorite alternative menus in Oaxaca.
Hours: Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 11pm; Friday and Saturday 8:30am to 11:30pm; Sunday 8:30am to 8pm
Location: Calle las Rosas 700, Reforma, Oaxaca
About the Author
Amber Dunlap is a freelance travel writer originally from the United States. Since early 2016, she’s been moving from country to country all over Latin America, but it’s Oaxaca that has ultimately captured her curiosity these days. You can follow her street-by-street Oaxaca explorations on her personal travel blog or over on Instagram at @nomapsamber.