Anthony Bourdain in Oaxaca: 7 Spots Where Tony Ate

Oaxaca is one of the first destinations Anthony Bourdain ever visits – and leaves an indelible mark on him, inspiring many future trips to Mexico. Long known as one of the best food destinations in the country, it’s no surprise that he samples a lot during his time there.

Anthony Bourdain visited Oaxaca twice, to film season 1 (episode 15) of A Cook’s Tour, and again as part of “Mexico” (season 3, episode 4) of Parts Unknown; these were his only two visits to Oaxaca, but two of several trips he made to Mexico.

Anthony Bourdain in Oaxaca Hero

If you’re feeling hungry and planning a trip to Oaxaca, there are lots of great options. However since you’ve found yourself here on a site dedicated to following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Oaxaca, I’m guessing you want to let Uncle Tony be your guide. Read on to discover all of the places Bourdain ate in Oaxaca and plan your meals during your visit.

Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Oaxaca?
The A Cook’s Tour episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV, and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Mexihcah (Triple Alliance) and Ben ‘Zaa/Binnizá/Mén Diiste/Bene Xhon (Zapoteco) people, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

A Cook’s Tour (2001)

Want a throwback? Watching the Oaxaca episode of A Cook’s Tour is a peek back in time to Tony’s earliest days on TV, and his young enthusiasm to try the world.

Mercado Oaxaca

Anthony Bourdain in Oaxaca - Chapulines

He starts his first day in Oaxaca in the best way he knows: with a hefty breakfast. Tony browses the “central market” which is filled with fresh foods and ingredients; there is no official market of this name, and I can’t seem to figure out which of Oaxaca’s many markets he actually visits – if you know, please let me know in the comments.

The first stop is an unnamed stall where he indulges in chocolate de agua and chocolate de leche. These are basically hot chocolates with a soft corn milk texture. He also gets a piece of bread similar to the brioche to accompany the chocolates.  

After a good breakfast, he heads to the Butcher section where there’s meat available for grilling. He goes for the spicy chorizos. After this little snack, he needs to regain his appetite so he walks around peeking at the fruits and vegetables in the market. 

Tony finally reaches the Chile section. He tries the most adventurous dish of the day: chapulines (grasshoppers), marinated in garlic, lemon, and salt. 

After eating a crunchy chapulín, he goes to an unknown stall that’s known for its menudo, a tripe soup Mexicans have after hangovers. The menudo has little strange bits of meat, some crunchy veggies, and hot, spicy broth to warm it up. 

Hotel Posada Canon Devata

When talking with the locals, Tony finds out the iguana is an everyday dish. So, he decides to give it a try despite knowing it will probably taste horrible. 

Back at this hotel, Tony asks the host of his hotel to serve up the iguana Oaxaca style. To prepare the dish, the iguana is first stabbed in the brain, then roasted over a flame to peel the skin off, and finally boiled in scummy water. The bits of the iguana are served as tamales. 

As he eats the iguana, Tony confirms his conjectures about the Mexican dish: it tastes awful and is one of the worst things he’s ever eaten.  (Little does he know, many bad meals are in his future – the risk he takes to find those good ones!)


Anthony Bourdain in Oaxaca - Tamales

On his trip to Oaxaca, Anthony pays a visit to chef Dominga Rodríguez, who is famous for her traditional Oaxacan tamales made with banana leaves instead of corn husks. 

Dominga’s Oaxacan tamales are assembled with corn mill (la masa), then some shredded chicken topped with some mole negro. This concoction is tightly wrapped in toasted banana leaves.

El Compadre

Anthony Bourdain in Oaxaca - Tamales

The last place visited in Oaxaca is El Compadre, a street food joint famous for making delicious pozole, a pork and corn soup, which Tony loves. As he waits for the pozole, Tony gets tempted by the tacos and decides to try them. He gets pork tacos, which, in his words, are the best pork tacos he’s ever had. 


After filling his stomach with pozole and pork tacos, Tony decides to show his driver and guide Martín his appreciation by treating him to a few shots of mezcal and sangrita. 

Mezcal is described by Tony as a little cousin of tequila, and sangrita, as little blood. They stop by Terranova, a restaurant in Oaxaca where mariachis are playing. 

Parts Unknown (2014)

As part of a trip to explore Mexico City, Tony tacks on a few extra days to return to Oaxaca again over a decade after his first visit. He doesn’t visit as many places, but still samples the region’s incredible cuisine.

Mercado de Abastos

As during his first visit, Bourdain’s first stop is one of Oaxaca’s many mercados. In this case, we know he went to the Mercado de Abastos.

There, he tucked into one of the most savory Oaxacan dishes out there: barbacoa with consomme. He follows it up with a visit to a named stall, Vicki’s Place, for other, unnamed traditional Oaxacan dishes.

Restaurante Tlamanalli

His second stop is located in the Teotitlán del Valle, outside Oaxaca city but still within the state of the same name. There he visits Restaurante Tlamanalli to dine with Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo, the chef and restaurateur behind Restaurante Tlamanalli, as well as local Abigail Mendoza and her sisters.

He dines on seguesa (a mole-and-chicken dish), followed by cow and pork brains cooked with chiles, tomatoes, and yerba santa. All of this is paired with mezcal, of course!

Oaxaca Food Tours to Try

There are so many incredible foods to try in Oaxaca that you might be tempted to eat even more than where Tony ate. If so, a food tour is a great option: you can learn more, sample flavors, and even try your hand at making some classic dishes. Here are a few that look good, if you’re still hungry:

Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Oaxaca, or what he ate? Let me know in the comments below.

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Agustina is a content writer and editor currently based in Argentina. She has a long-standing love affair with Italian food and meal. When she’s not indulging in a parmigiana, you can find her eating asado with a good glass of Malbec.

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