Tasting our way through Southern Mexico's cultural and culinary capital
If you're looking for a true gourmet Oaxacan experience, though, the gorgeous Mission-style Casa Oaxaca, with its upstairs dining patio overlooking the kaleidoscopic downtown street hustle, is where you'll find some of the most forward-thinking menu items that still pack an authentic local punch. Salsa is mixed and ground to tasted tableside in traditional molcajete mortar. Start with the exquisite, crunchy jicama taquitos filled with fried grasshoppers, cuitlacoche (corn smut), and quesillo cheese. Then, as the candlelight and atmosphere take hold, move on to absurdly tender venison bathed in ethereal mole amarillo and juicy slices of duck breast covered in nutty, deep orange mole almendrado.
Finally, for desert, slip back out into the captivating streets and share the refreshing carrot-apple-pecan ice cream flavor Beso Oaxaqueño, as the hypnotic local marimba music known as son istmeño drifts from the zócalo.