Oh food, my favorite part of traveling. While Puerto Escondido doesn’t exactly have the food scene of Oaxaca City (to be fair this would be hard to do as Oaxaca City’s food could give me wet dreams) it is still in the Oaxacan state so, if you know where to go, you can dine like a king for cheap. The main thing I recommend eating while in Puerto Escondido is fish tacos, because you’re on the beach, this is where fish tacos were meant to be eaten. I have three favorite fish taco joints and I can’t really judge them against each other because they are so different, so just try them and decide which is your favorite.
Smoked Fish Tacos was our first love in Puerto and we still love their fresh, citrus flavor. I recommend trying their tacos de camarones de la plancha (grilled shrimp tacos), just remember to ask for a la plancha because their default is battered. Smoked Fish Tacos is about a 10 minute walk from the Rinconada, the main drag of Carrizalillo (the steps to descend to Carrizalillo just past the public restrooms). Also, while smoked fish isn’t my favorite flavor their smoked fish tacos are what they’re known for, so if you like smoked fish definitely try them out.
If you’re looking for something a little closer to the beach, because the midday sun is just too damn hot to be walking in, Tacos Dorados is a new, but brilliant option. It’s located right on the Rinconada and still has decent prices (about 40 pesos per taco, give or take 5 pesos based on what seafood you get). I love their pulpo (octopus) and sesame crusted fish tacos paired with a limón-mente margarita (lemon-mint).
Last, but definitely not least, in the fish taco line up is Pepe’s Fish Tacos. Pepe is a bit of a local legend, more mystery than man who cooks up the best coconut battered fish tacos generously covered in pineapple salsa that I’ve ever tasted all in his front yard about 5 minutes out of La Punta. The thing about Pepe’s it’s an adventure to find him and he wants to keep it that way but, I’m sorry Pepe, the story of these tacos is just too good not to tell. We found out about Pepe via Trip Advisor and from the reviews gleaned that it might be a bit difficult to find, but armed with Kane’s innate sense of direction and nose for sniffing out amazing food, we thought we’d manage it no problem. Well after a 50 peso cab ride to La Punta and about an hour wandering through every single street in the little hippie town being eaten alive by sand flies, we had almost given up on Pepe.
Not to be one to be thwarted on his hunt for good food, Kane started asking people on the beach if they knew where Pepe’s was and, by sheer luck, he found a gaggle of European girls who just knew enough English to point down the beach, to tell us to look for the chain link fence and pink tables, and to say, “it’s worth it”. So on we went into the setting sun, sand flies still swarming my ankles, looking for alleyways with pink tables. When we finally found it, we had long left the tourist center of La Punta and were instead seated on cracking wooden picnic benches in the dirt front yard of a two room house that only had one room of electricity. Pepe called out from his palm frond covered outdoor kitchen, “Hola amigos” and when realizing we were white tourists said, “Sit down, I get you tacos.” This wasn’t a place where you ordered what you wanted; hell there wasn’t even a menu in sight. Instead, you sat down and enjoyed whatever the chef designed to give you.
So we sat. I patted the overly excitable puppy who decided she wanted to sit next to us throughout dinner and laughed with Kane at the experience of it all. When I needed to wash my hands I asked for the bathroom, got pointed in one direction…and ended up in Pepe’s bedroom. Feeling awkward I washed my hands as quickly as possible and returned to find Kane chatting with the girls at the end of our bench sipping on homemade coconut mescal that Pepe had just decided we wanted. As I sipped the free booze and savored the delectable taste of fish tacos crafted with love, and likely a little weed given the sweet smoke in the air, I thought, this is why I travel, for these weird, wonderful, experiences that make the perfect, almost unbelievable stories. So if you want an adventure I challenge you to try to find Pepe, but be warned he doesn’t keep opening hours of any kind and moves often. Good luck my friends, Pepe is worth it.
Other Cheap Eats
Obviously there is more to where to eat in Puerto Escondido than fish tacos and in that vein I recommend La Parrilla Mixteca for moist lengua and al pastor off a spit (in my opinion, the best way to al pastor). La Parrilla Mixteca is a big, clean establishment about 5-10 minutes up the road from Puerto’s main supermarket, Chedraui. To get there, just hope in a cab, ask for La Parrilla Mixteca (most cab drivers will know where it is) or Chedraui and walk up the street to the left of Chedraui. You’ll know it when you see their waiters and chefs in white coats, red tables, and pastor spit cooking out front.
Also close to Chedraui is a pozoleria called Las Cazuelas that sells authentic, generously portioned pozole, a traditional type of hominy stew that is often served with pork. The options are blanco or rojo and I recommend the rojo if you prefer spice (however, don’t be worried, Mexican food generally is served with a mid-level of spiciness so it’s not too hot, but that you can add more heat al gusto, i.e. if you’d like, with the constantly on offer salsas).
Less Than Mexican Options
I’ll be honest, while I love Mexican food, if you’re here for a while (our current trip to Mexico is a month long) sometimes you just can’t help but crave something a little different, that’s where these options come in. It may sound strange to recommend a shawarma and falafel joint in Mexico, but El Sultán serves up great pita wraps for cheap. El Sultán is located on the Rinconada just two houses down from the lavanderia (laundry) place we use when in Puerto, making it a great lunch stop post dropping off laundry and before heading down to the beach for the afternoon. I also really like that El Sultán is committed to the environment as they do not serve plastic straws (which have been banned on Playa Carrizalillo) and your wrap will come in an eco-friendly banana leaf (or sometimes biodegradable paper if they’ve run out of banana leaves).
If you’re headed to Zicatela to watch the surfers battle the Mexican Pipeline and you’re craving a pile of meat head on over to Brad’s Split Coconut, a Texas-style BBQ joint at the very beginning of the Zicatela beach (almost looking out over Playa Principal). This American expat stand by serves up large portions of tasty meat at a very affordable price compared to what you’d pay for a similar meal in the US and even offers poker tournaments on the weekends if you’re lucky enough to show up when Brad’s decided he wants to play. There’s occasionally live music during the high season, just check their Facebook page to see what’s on when you’re there.
El Espadin is the type of restaurant that you’d go to even if it served terrible food, just to see the view at least once. From its perch on the left of the cliffs over looking Carrizalillo you’ll get a stunning sunset over the bay if you make a reservation around 7 pm (as Puerto is near the equator sunset doesn’t move too much throughout the year, but just to be sure, check the sunset times for when you plan to go). Luckily enough, the food is actually pretty wonderful and not too out of budget for even a backpacker, with most of the mains coming in around 200 pesos ($10 USD). I recommend the pescado a la veracurzana for fish lovers paired with a mescal miel cocktail. El Espadin also doubles as a fancy resort for the well off that, if I wanted to spend $185 USD per night I might actually go to simply for its great location (it even has its own stairs down to Carrizalillo) and its beautiful villas. This is saying a lot as I am not the resort type, but it is a beautiful hotel.