If you're seriously watching your pesos but want to try some authentic, good local fare, a tasty option would have to have a Oaxaca style meal at any of the many popular, family-owned and operated food stands in one of the Main Market buildings, which serve HUGE Oaxacea meal plus juice or drink for 30 pesos or so. They will be more than happy to explain the selections available (but only in Spanish). By all means do try a local drink made from slightly fermented, uncooked rice seasoned with spices called "Ochata", it's creamy white, thick and absolutely delicious! Here are more options for satisfying the cravings of the barrel:
RESTAURANTS AND EATERIES:
El Meson Restaurant – Taqueria (All-You-Can-Eat Buffet)
Address: around the corner from the zocalo at Hidalgo No. 805
Phone: 515 – 2729
A popular eatery of Oaxaceños that features an all-you-can-eat breakfast or dinner buffet for $ 3.50. A selection of local dishes and specialties along with an assortment of fruit and vegetable platters, including desserts, are yours to exclusively sample. It's a good way to know some of the local staples.
Restaurant Las Mañanitas
Address: Rayon No. 221 at the corner of Fiallo [across the street from Pochcalli Institute]
A simple, quiet little place that serves tasty, inexpensive local fare. Service is fast and friendly. They'll even take the time to explain any new or unfamiliar items on the menu.
Restaurante El Amigo
Address: 20 de Noviembre between Hidalgo and Independencia
You just can not get any cheaper than this! At El Amigo, the charcoal-roasted chicken dinner for just $ 7 (seven dollars) includes a whole roast chicken, salad or cole slaw, sky-high stack of steaming corn tortillas, rice pilaf, soft drinks all around, and a selection of salsas and picantes. The atmosphere is plain, but the food is good and definitely filling enough. It's a good late night spot right in the market district.
Casa de Cartera (The House of the Guelaguetza)
Address: Murgia No. 102
Phone: 514 – 7585, 514 – 4603
You may just want to splurge a bit and try this elegant restaurant-bar which features a dazzling show in the style of Oaxaca's annual Guelaguetza festival in July . Now platters are Oaxaceña style meals. Their colorful, musical shows start around 8:30 pm nightly. Call for reservations.
Hacienda San Agustin
Address: Km. 2 Carretera to San Agustin Yatareni
Phone: 517 – 6477
Another great family spot for Oaxaceños is the Hacienda San Agustin. Not on the "tourist track" since it's out of the zocalo, the Hacienda offers a huge all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner buffet of typical Mexican and Oaxacea dishes, charcoal-grilled meats and sausages, mole, exotic fruits and desserts, beers and other alcoholic drinks including excellent samples of local mescals, with more food, drinks and selection than you could possibly manage in a week. All this at the manageable price of 40 to 50 pesos – most definitely worth the price. Some afternoons and evenings there's live entertainment too.
A Final Note on Cheap Eats
Another option is a really low-cost but excellent meal at a "Rosticentro". These are open-air barbeque establishments which will sell you a whole roast chicken with salad, potatoes, salsa and, of course, a stack of warm corn tortillas for two people, all for the paltry sum of $ 4.50 – that's right, four dollars and fifty cents! I still have not figured out how they make any money off that one. Apparently they do however, because the joint is jumping from morning till late. They're all around town but a good one to try is at Mina No. 1. 108 – 3 in the market district. Just look for the smoke from the grill or follow your nose. Pick up some soft drinks from the supermarket across the street on the corner for 6 pesos (about $ 0.60) each and you'll be all set.
La Perla de Matatlan
Address: 6a. de JP Garcia and Mina
Phone: 4 – 09 – 79
Hours: Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm
Sunday 10am to 2pm
"La Perla" store with virtually every square inch of available space crammed with bottles of mescal in a staggering variety of quantities and prices. If you want the lowdown on how mescal is produced, from the Maguay plant to the bottle, they'll be more than happy to give you the whole story – all three hours worth! (but only in Spanish) As this is the main product of the region, and one of which can justly be proud, you just got to buy a bottle or two while you're in the region. Which kind to buy? Do not worry; they give free samples to help you "decide". Extra worms are available just a few steps away in the city's main market building.