Contemporary Eats in Oaxaca With Chef TJ Steele

In the city of Oaxaca in souther Mexico, one just doesn’t know where to begin with the region’s endless mezcal and mole lists—we narrow it down with the help of a chef. TJ Steele is the Executive Chef  Claro, a Oaxacan-influenced restaurant in Gowanus that specializes in corn, barbacoa, consommé and an endless list of mezcal. Steele was the youngest executive Sous Chef at Union Square Cafe before a stint at Tia Pol. A chance trip years ago to Oaxaca inspired Steele’s affair with the city and ultimately led to him launching El Buho Mezcal. Steele continues to live in Oaxaca part-time, has taco-inspired tattoos, and knows the city inside-out as a local. In 2017, Steele opened the doors to his own restaurant focused on food from his favorite Mexican region. 

JT Steele

Photo: Courtesy of Gabi Porter

Oaxacan food scene – you really can’t go wrong eating in Oaxaca, says TJ Steele. There’s everything from street food to middle-of-the-road and high end dining options all with local cuisine. TJ Steele shares his favorite contemporary kitchens in Oaxaca City– BUEN PROVECHO!

Criollo —  Francisco I. Madero 129, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca

“Dinner at Criollo is a well-thought-out tasting menu showcasing local ingredients and it’s one of the things I love most about dining here. You’re always in good hands with anything Chef Luis Arellano puts out.” 

Origen — Miguel Hidalgo 820, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca

“This is a great example of modern takes on Oaxacan classics and, in my opinion, one of the best. Chef Rodolfo’s presentations are at the top of the Oaxcan food scene.”

Pitiona — Calle de Ignacio Allende 114, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca

“This is Oaxaca meets molecular gastronomy. They do lots of fun takes on the classics, like sopa de fideos with goat cheese spheres. There’s even “churros” frozen tableside in liquid nitrogen.”