El Asador Vasco • Basque Restaurant, Wine • $$$-$$$$ • (F)
Basque-style grilled meats the house specialty, the seafood as good as any in the city, a nice wine list, live mariachi music, dining on the second-story balcony with views of the Zócalo, the interior stone archways giving the place an old-world ambiance, El Asador Vasco has by far the finest dining on the plaza. Look for the entrance beneath the portales in the Bar del Jardín. And be sure to arrive early to secure a table on the balcony with views of the plaza, or call ahead for a reservation.
- West side of the Zócalo; Around the Zócalo, Centro Histórico; Daily 1 p.m. to midnight; MX$100 -250; Most major credit cards; phone 951-514-4755; www.asadorvasco.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Reservations recommended during high season.
La Casa de la Abuela • Oaxacan Restaurant, Wine • $$-$$$ • (A)
With unbeatable views of the cathedral from its second-story perch, this upscale bistro creates faithful renditions of Oaxacan classics, including molotes, empanadas, tlayudas, traditional soups, and several of the seven moles, among many other delectables. Adorning the walls, antique black and white photographs and a yellowing 19th-century map of the city evoke the México of old. The decent wine list and excellent dessert menu seal the deal. Look for the entrance on Hidalgo Avenue, across the street from the Alameda de León plaza. And be sure to arrive early or call ahead to reserve a table with a view.
- Hidalgo 616, northwest corner of the Zócalo; Around the Zócalo, Centro Histórico; Mon - Sat 1:30 - 11 p.m., Sun 1:30 - 10:30 p.m.; MX$75 - 200; Most major credit cards; phone 951-516-3544.
El Andariego • Oaxacan Restaurant • $$-$$$ • (E)
Set in a lovingly restored colonial mansion, the hotel Parador San Miguel retains many of the excesses of that era — stain glass windows, wrought iron gates, green granite columns, and, and ... the list goes on and on. Inside, the wide corridors lead to twenty-three hand-carved cedar doors, each opening to a spacious room or suite with a high ceiling, the decor exclusively handcrafted Oaxacan or Méxican. (Check availability or reserve online at booking.com.)
The hotel's upscale restaurant, El Andariego, every bit as refined as the restored colonial mansion it resides in, features fine renditions of Oaxacan classics — the moles here are as good as any in the city. For comida, bargain hunters will be pleased with the always tasty menú del dia, served after 1 p.m., costing a mere 80 pesos. The only downside to this place is the disappointing wine list, which is limited to a few South American and Spanish vintages.
- Independencia 503, one block west of the Zócalo; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Daily 7:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.; MX$80 - 200; Most major credit cards; www.paradorsanmigueloaxaca.com; email@example.com.
Pizza Nostrana Spaghettería • Italian Restaurant, Pizza, Wine • $$-$$$ • (S)
Decent Italian fare, attentive waiters, and old-world digs draw visitors and locals aplenty to this Centro Histórico trattoria across the street from the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. The small wine list features vintages from Italy, Spain, and South America, mostly.
- Alcalá 501, corner Allende; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Daily 1 p.m. - 11 p.m.; MX$100 - 200; Most major credit cards; phone 951-514-0778.
Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante • Oaxacan Restaurant, Wine • $$$-$$$$ • (C)
All three of Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo’s "Casa Oaxaca" restaurants infuse their Oaxacan dishes with Mediterranean flavors to great effect. Throw in some snappy, professional waiters and extensive wine lists and you have three the finest restaurants in the city. This one, however, Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante, may be his finest, with dining available, depending on the mood, either downstairs in the immaculate courtyard among the city’s elite or upstairs on the terrace with views of the imposing south wall of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo.
Still, both of his other restaurants are standouts as well, especially Casa Oaxaca, the restaurant of the intimate 7-room boutique hotel of the same name, located two blocks west on Calle García Vigil, as well as Casa Oaxaca Café, located about a kilometer northeast of the Centro in the Reforma neighborhood.
- Constitución 104-4, between Cinco de May and Reforma; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Daily 1 - 11 p.m.; MX$120 - 250; Most major credit cards; phone 951-516-8531; www.casaoaxacaelrestaurante.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Reservations recommended.
Restaurante Catedral • Oaxacan Restaurant, Wine • $$$-$$$$ • (F)
From early in the morning until late in the evening, it’s luxury all the way at this upscale Centro Histórico Oaxacan, where superb cooking, gracious service, and a refined decor attract the upper strata of Oaxacan society. Dine indoors beneath the high ceilings and viga beams or outdoors, weather permitting, beneath the sky in a stone-slab courtyard with a tranquil fountain at its center, classical music softly playing in the background. Topping it all off is the wine list, featuring vintages from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Spain, and France. Somehow, this all comes at a reasonable price, with the main entrées costing between one and two hundred pesos. Check online for the complete menu.
- García Vigil 105, one block north of Independencia; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Wed - Mon 8 a.m. - 11 p.m., closed Tue; MX$120 - 250; Most major credit cards; phone 951-516-3285; www.restaurantecatedral.com.mx; email@example.com.
Los Danzantes • Méxican Fusion Restaurant, Wine • $$$-$$$$ • (Y)
The walk through the long, drab hallway of the centuries old colonial building that fronts the Los Danzantes restaurant does nothing to prepare you for the arresting sight of the courtyard that is the Los Danzantes restaurant. Enclosed on one side by the exterior wall of a vine covered colonial building and on the other three sides by high walls of abode bricks laid geometrically and illuminated by spot lights. The floor is earthy flagstone. Rounding this all out is a tranquil fountain lit and flowing into a huge pool. This one of the most striking dinning spaces anywhere. Not to be outdone by the surroundings, the menu — which seems designed to please all palates — fuses traditional Mexican cuisine with the contemporary to create innovative and delicious pasta, seafood, poultry, meat, and vegetarian dishes. Desserts are first-rate. Waiters are attentive, yet not overly. They also run La Cava, a Wine and Mezcal package store with possibly the best selection of wines in the city. So it is no surprise their wine list is excellent with a emphasis on Méxican vintages, but still a respectable selection from Spain, Italy, France, Chile, and Argentina. Recommended is the house red on the Los Danzantes label (their blend of four Méxican varietals). If on a budget, Los Danzantes is the one place to make an exception for.
- Alcalá 403, half-block north of Bravo; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Daily 1:30 - 11:30 p.m. (bar closes at 1 a.m.); MX$150 - 250; Most major credit cards; phone 951-501-1184; www.losdanzantes.com/web/restaurantes/oaxaca.
- Díaz Quintas 117, corner Margarita Maza; North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico; Daily 1 - 11 p.m.; MX$100- 200; Most major credit cards; phone 951-512-9252; Reservations recommended.