La Carta de Oaxaca
Here’s how you say it: Wa-ha-ka.
La Carta de Oaxaca
This restaurant is a standby for a generation of Seattle residents who discovered it when they first opened years ago. You can find it in the Ballard area, which is full of trendy restaurants and tourist attractions so it’s a natural location.
It’s run by the original family that also runs El Mezcalito. There are three generations involved, and they all follow the directions of the Matriarch.
For many, La Carta de Oaxaca was the first time they had tasted Mexican food as it was meant to be. They offer dishes that are much more traditional than the standard fare offered in Americanized restaurants.
Yes, they offer tacos, but try the fried corn rolls filled with potatoes, pork chorizo, and topped with guacamole, queso fresco, and salsa. They’re called Molotes and they’re much more delicious.
Oaxaca is a city in southern Mexico, located in the state of Oaxaca.
It’s the historical center of one of Mexico’s major cuisines, known internationally.
Wa-ha-ka. Say it again.
The diet in Mexico is generally based on staples such as corn, beans, and chile peppers. Oaxacan cuisine is similar, but the addition of a wide variety of local ingredients influenced the tradition and produces many unique dishes.
It was the first cuisine to receive UNESCO culinary heritage status
The variety of climates in the state, and the diversity of cultures have contributed to making this cuisine the most varied in Mexico.
Many mountain ranges, a central valley, and coastal areas each contribute different ingredients. You can find seafood from the coast, the valley grows a wide variety of vegetables and there is a year-round supply of tropical fruits.
The seventeen recognized indigenous groups in the state contribute their own cooking tradition to the mix, which adds to the variety. The cooking methods range widely. One group is known for its pit barbecuing. Many others use roasting or grilling in their food preparation.
The flavors are rich and layered, spicy, and subtle at the same time.
Iguana is one ingredient as well as grasshoppers and local cheese and chocolate. There are tiny avocados that hint of licorice, corn fungus, herbs unique to the area, and many types of chili peppers.
Chocolate is well known as an ingredient of Mole, but it is also often drunk in a hot preparation with spices and other flavorings.
It all revolves around corn, which is a dietary staple in Mexico.
Tlayudas are a large pizza, usually served as street food in Oaxaca.
La Carta de Oaxaca serves a version topped with beans, quesillo, asiento (unrefined pork lard), cabbage, avocado, chorizo, and steak.
Mole’ Negro Oaxaqueño
This sauce comes in a wide variety of flavors. In Oaxaca, each of the seven regions makes a mole’ unique to them.
Mole negro is a jet-black sauce served over chicken or pork with rice. Regional varieties also include a citrusy mole verde, a fiery mole amarillo, a fruity mole manchamantel, a rare chichilo, a sweet-n-spicy rojo, and a smoky coloradito.
The house specialty is a black mole’ with chicken or pork ribs, white rice, and tortillas.
Camarones al Mojo de Ajo
If you’re near the ocean, you can’t miss these delicious seafood treats. Lime, chile, and garlic marinated and sautéed prawns, with rice and pinto beans.
Halibut is local and fresh, so try the Pescado Tacos.
They are stuffed with sautéed halibut topped with lettuce, guacamole, and chipotle sauce.
5431 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle, WA
Happy hour: Monday-Thursday from 9–11 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 3–5 p.m. and also 10 p.m.-midnight.