The Mexican state of Oaxaca is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world, with a bountiful natural larder to match – so it's unsurprising that the produce there has been inspiring chefs and cooks as long as anyone can remember.

Thomasina Miers of Wahaca (named for the area) was one of the first chefs to bring these incredible flavours to London, leading the charge for a Mexican food revolution that led to the opening of cult restaurants like BreddosEl Pastor and more. And the drinks industry followed, falling in love with mezcal, a smoky spirit made from the agave plant.  

In the name of research, we followed our stomachs all the way to Oaxaca City to hoover up grasshopper tacos, cactus leaves and fresh, zingy tomatillo salsa at the city's many restaurants. Here are some of our unmissable Oaxacan pitstops.

La Popular

Swap the crowds and tourist traps of the Zocalo for La Popular, which is, er, popular. Serving proper Mexican and specifically Oaxacan snacks, like grasshopper tacos and tlayudas (think giant, paper-thin flatbreads), the tiny restaurant is a great place to see and be seen in and, of course, drink mezcal at. Plus it's cheap.

García Vigil 519

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Los Amantes Mezcalería

Head to this small, rustic-yet-funky drinking den for a talk by barman Xavier Amayo, who truly knows his stuff. The space also has a massive bar where you can get a tasting flight of mezcal and learn everything that you never thought you'd need to know about the smoky spirit.

Allende 107, Ruta Independencia

In Situ

You can get your greedy chops around nearly 200 different types of handmade mezcal at trendy In Situ, where bar owner Ulises Torrentera is considered to be a mezcal expert. We recommend getting the mezcal and food pairing for a proper Oaxacan dining experience.

José María Morelos (Av. Morelos) 511

Los Danzantes

This traditional fine-dining restaurant is widely credited with being one of the main forces behind mezcal's current boom and makes its own superb take on the spirit.

Calle Macedonio Alcalá 403, Ruta Independencia

La Mezcalerita

La Mezcalerita is a firm favourite for its extensive mezcal collection, great food, local beers and its roof terrace, where you'll find people dining and drinking until the early hours of the morning.

Calle Macedonio Alcalá, Ruta Independencia

Criollo

Possibly one of the most good-looking restaurants we've ever been to, Criollo occupies a discreet side street away from Oaxaca City's main drag – and yet it's the second site from Enrique Olvera, whose name you might recognise from Netflix's Chef's Table. Head here for a brilliant, great-value tasting menu that plays on Oaxacan classics with tacos, flame-grilled fish and mole.

Francisco I. Madero 129