Where to Eat Mole in Oaxaca
Mole could be seen as a symbol of Oaxaca. Just as Oaxaca is very diverse, with a variety of terrains and ethnic groups, so is mole. Spicy or sweet, it is made from a wide selection of ingredients, both native and European. Mole negro (black mole) is the best known, but there are many different kinds.
Calle de Mariano Abasolo 121, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Oaxaca is known for its moles. The most famous is mole negro, the black mole—a thick, rich mixture of ground chiles, nuts, chocolate, and other ingredients. But that’s not the only type of mole you’ll find here. Los Pacos specializes in these rich sauces and you can sample seven different kinds to compare and see which you like best. If you find one you really love, they sell mole paste to take home with you, so you can prepare Oaxacan mole yourself. Los Pacos has two locations. The original is on Belisario Dominguez in the Colonia Reforma (north of the city center). This location is more popular among locals, and has an outdoor children’s play area. The other is on Abasolo in the historical center. The centrally located one has a roof terrace, perfect for enjoying warm evenings in Oaxaca.
20 de Noviembre Loc. 39, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Inside the Mercado 20 de Noviembre you’ll find many food stalls to choose from. The Comedor Maria Teresa (Local #38) is a good bet. They have excellent mole, which you can enjoy with chicken and rice, or in enchiladas, as pictured above. A full Oaxacan breakfast starts with a chocolate de leche and pan de yema. The chocolate is served in a bowl to make it more convenient for dunking your bread. Later in the day choose a tlayuda or caldo de pollo. You really can’t go wrong!
Reforma 402, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Run by the talented Chef Pilar Cabrera, who also offers cooking classes through Casa de los Sabores, La Olla is an unpretentious restaurant offering Oaxacan specialties. Head to the upper-level dining room, which is more spacious than the ground floor, with artwork by local artists. The moles are delicious, but to start, order the squash blossom soup. A beautifully arranged bowl with squash blossoms and seeds with some queso fresco and cream is placed in front of you, then the waiter pours the soup over it. It tastes as good as it looks. Open 8 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. La Olla offers a set meal between 1:30 and 4 pm - check the website for the daily menu.
512 Calle de Manuel García Vigil
Mexican food is extremely varied, and even just considering the cuisine of the state of Oaxaca, there is great diversity. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is where the land thins to the narrowest strip between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Here the weather is hot and sultry and the food has its own distinct flavors. Zandunga restaurant in Oaxaca city serves specialties from the Isthmus region, including some seafood dishes, and a few kinds of mole. You’ll also find an impressive list of over 60 types of mezcal. All meals begin with complimentary totopos (the regional tortilla chips) and minilla (spicy fishmeal), and salsa. Then take your pick of items from the menu. Maybe some molotes de platano or garnachas to start, and then the enchiladas with two types of mole for the main course. It’s all muy sabroso.
Calle de Manuel García Vigil 105, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Most of Oaxaca‘s better restaurants are quite new, but La Catedral has been around since 1976. It is a Oaxaca institution, and besides reliably tasty food, you can also expect a lovely atmosphere and seamless service. You can pick a spot in one of the indoor dining areas, or in the lovely back courtyard next to the fountain. The menu at La Catedral is extensive and includes Oaxacan specialties such as mole negro and mole amarillo, as well as chiles rellenos and sopa de guias (soup made with zucchini shoots), but my favorite dish is the huitlacoche crepes. They also offer a buffet on Sundays from 2 to 7 pm that is popular with well-to-do Oaxacan families.
Avenida Miguel Hidalgo 616, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
La Casa de La Abuela is a Oaxaca mainstay, on the corner between the Zocalo and the Alameda, Oaxaca’s two central squares. Find the entrance on Hidalgo street, and climb the steps up to the second floor. As soon as you enter you’ll see a big clay comal and a woman making fresh tortillas, the sign that this is the real deal: authentic Oaxacan food. They serve local specialties including four kinds of mole (almendrado, coloradito, amarillo and mole negro). Choose a spot by the window to enjoy your meal while you watch the action in the square below.
Domicilioiconocido s/n, San Sebastián de las flores, 68259 San Pablo Etla, Oax., Mexico
This huge buffet restaurant, designed to look like an old hacienda, offers more than 120 dishes every day. Hacienda Santa Martha has extensive grounds with play areas for kids, an artificial pond with pedal boats, and even movies for kids projected inside an old DC-4 airplane. Sample seven different kinds of mole, have meats and seafood grilled to your liking, and fill up on soups, salads and almost any Oaxacan dish you can imagine. It’s a great option for families and picky eaters because you can choose what looks tastiest - or try a bit of everything until you find something you like. Hacienda Santa Martha is open from 1:30 to 6:30 pm daily except Monday.