class residents of major American and Canadian cities tend
to have their favorite all-day Sunday brunch haunts
clean, diner-style restaurants dishing up home cooking in
a comfortable familiar environment. Six days a week from 1
to 6 pm Los Almendros serves such a function for local Oaxacans.
Tucked away on a cobblestone privada close to Blvd.
Manuel Ruiz in Colonia Reforma, a few blocks northeast of
the baseball stadium, Lionel Leyva with wife Soledad and family
have been greeting friends and new devotees since 1974. You
cant help but feel at home in this Cheers-esque setting
as you watch Lionel greet his own set of Frazier Cranes.
Upon entering the quadrangle-shaped comedor youre struck
by its warmth and amiability, without a trace of pretension.
Wooden tables with traditional colorful woven cloths are covered
with thick plastic. Walls are adorned with framed photos of
the owners with family and patrons of celebrity
but rather actors, singers and songwriters. Two mounted deer
busts serve as testimony that the Leyvas do things their way,
and the throngs of faithful as evidence of approval.
The menu is limited to perhaps 15 or 20 authentic Oaxacan
plates, some of which are appetizers. You can choose daily
specials not often found in other local eateries. All is á
la carte, so begin with one or two of the modestly priced
botanas, perhaps memelas or an appetizer sized grilled
meat dish, each of which is accompanied by salsa and guacamole.
The house mezcal is noteworthy and definitely worth sampling
if nothing else. For this visit Lionel had a tobalá
and a surprisingly smooth gusano.
Although we arrived relatively early for this comida,
by the time we were ready to order entrées, surprisingly
the Sunday staple of Barbacoa de Borrego (bbq goat)
had been sold out to patrons who knew better than we did to
order ahead or for take-out. All was not lost, however, since
my wifes main dish of tender pork ribs was prepared
in the same style as one of the traditional barbeque recipes,
baked in a tangy sauce and enveloped in foil. Try the black
beans with aromatic flavor of hierba de conejo as a
side dish to any of the grilled or baked meats. I began with
a generous, piping hot serving of absolutely spectacular caldo
de espinazo with an assortment of carrots, beans, potatoes
and requisite pork, flavored with chili pasillo and
accompanied by a dish of sliced lime, chopped onion and serrano
chili for added acidity, spice and texture. That, after appetizers
and some of the better tortillas Ive had in a while
should have been enough, but the tongue in its traditional
mole called out to me. With whole black and green olives,
and a tomato based sauce flavored with onion, garlic, raisin
and almond, this bowl of lean, succulent sliced meat ranked
with the best. To complete the meal, if you havent had
cajeta, the goats milk caramelized sweet, try
it here in a light gelatin, alongside a cup of café
Just as the regulars returned to that immortalized Boston
bistro every week, you too will be drawn back to Los Almendros
time and again, if not on a subsequent visit during this trip
to Oaxaca, then upon your return
and greeted just as
warmly as the old gang.
Notes: Comida only, 1 6 pm
Beer, spirits and liqueurs
Full meal incl beverage 50 80 pesos
Comedor Familiar Los Almendros
3ra Privada de Almendros #109,
Col. Reforma, Oaxaca
by Alvin Starkman
Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com
Alvin Starkman, together with his wife Arlene, operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com), a unique bed and breakfast experience providing the comfort and service of a downtown Oaxaca hotel, with the quaintness and personal touch of country inn accommodations. Alvin has written over 200 articles about life and cultural traditions in Oaxaca, takes tourists to visit the usual sights as well as for more off-the-beaten-track experiences, consults to documentary film companies working in Oaxaca, and together with acclaimed chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo, runs Oaxaca Culinary Tours (http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com).