I had lunch at one of the cafes that border the zocalo. El Jardin’s menu promises that it is, “El major café del sureste de Mexico. (The best café in the southeast of Mexico.)” This might be an overstatement, but the open-air dining and small, but interesting, selection of regional favorites, including mole negro and rojo and chapulines (grasshoppers), means this is a good and interesting place for visitors to begin sampling Oaxaca’s gastronomy. I had the chile relleno in salsa and was pleased by the filling: a mixture of cheese and chile. The salsa was abundant and delicious. I was glad to have a basket of tortillas to enjoy every last drop if its rich, spicy goodness. The chile was also accompanied by a savory white rice prepared with chicken stock, a splatter of beans, and one tortilla chip. Among the few disappointments was that the beans were made the authentic Oaxacan way—with epazote (which is reportedly good for the stomach), but there’s something about the flavor that’s too epazote for me.
The other disappointment is the security guard the establishment has hired to shoo off vendors. Part of the dynamic of the zocalo is the incessant, relentless really, cycle of people offering a whole list of things. I am not saying I love this cycle and that it doesn’t get tiring, but this is a part of what tourists should expect in Mexico, particularly in areas such as the zocalo. Of course, I am biased because I am too fond of the Little Businessman, but there’s something even more disturbing in watching this guard go after each of the vendors with ire as his repellent. Not very appetizing, if you ask me.