Eat like a local at El Milenario

While most people go to Santa Maria del Tule, a town just outside of Oaxaca city, to see El Tule, a giant cypress tree described by Wikipedia as the “stoutest tree trunk in the world”, we go to eat at El Milenario. This is a restaurant that’s full of families on market day, where blue and yellow corn tortillas come hot off the comal, where each table cloth is a different color, where tourists are unusual. It’s a family-run place with an 18-year history, mom is in the kitchen with her two daughters and her son is the host.

While El Milenario is probably described as down home, traditional family food to locals, to us it was surprising and a little challenging. There were ingredients that we’ve never heard of in almost every dish, and I found myself madly scribbling down (and misspelling) herbs and spices as our host named them off. What was a simple vegetable soup to him was a tour through Oaxaca’s kitchen staples for us.

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We ordered a number of specialties including the tlayuda, a large tostada that’s about as close as one could get to a Mexican pizza. It’s a typical snack food in Oaxaca and while we found it to be pretty dry, people line out the door for them after a night of partying (we’re pretty sure you could cross the Americas and count on finding some form of drunk pizza food wherever you go). We also had the quesadillas with flor de calabaza[squash blossoms], and a Sopa loaded with hoja santa (an herb that appears on your plate almost as often as tortillas do in Oaxaca), corn, squash, and squash blossoms. Can you tell we’re obsessed with squash blossoms? And if you didn’t know already, we’re also obsessed with Oaxacan chocolate. If you are too (we know you can’t deny the cinnamony, almondy, cocoa goodness) go for the chocolate cake.

El Milenario
Guerrero #4-A
Across the street from El Tule
Santa Maria Del Tule
Getting there: About 15 minutes from Oaxaca city, take a cab for roughly $8 USD or ask for a bus
Price range: Large meal for two came to about $19 USD
When to go: Lunch on market day, Sunday!

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