Lazaro Azar, music critic for the Reforma newspaper came in from Mexico City with a twinkle in his eye. He had a big surprise for me. Knowing that I am passionate about corn and that the purpose of my trip to Oaxaca was in part to do research on this state’s corn kitchen for an article I published in the Daily Meal) he took us to Itatoni, Antojeria y Merenderia. They were one of the first people to start resurrection almost lost corn varieties but they did not get well organized and Masienda beat them to the punch and is now distributing native corn in the US and elsewhere.
Set in a converted driveway with seating at little wooden tables with benches, not conducive to long leisurely meals. but perfectly fine for a quick snack to satisfy an “antojo” or for brunch. It is a “merenderia” after all.
What they serve here mainly is snack food , nutritious, delicious and toothsome, totally unlike the processed garbage sold here and fed to the multitudes who carefully store it on their bodies. The street-side outdoor kitchen in front consists mainly of built-in clay comales manned by several women making all sort of corn dishes. This restaurant has a mission: to foster diversity by growing and utilizing the different varieties of Oaxacan corn in tandem with local growers, mostly small farm owners, working in artisanal age-old ways.
The menu is simple and the flavors of six different varieties of corn are pure and extraordinary. The star dish is the simplest: A tortilla shaped on an hoja santa leaf whose anise flavor fills your nose and your palate. I like it plain with a little Oaxaca quesillo but they also serve it with beans and other things as well. It’s really too bad that the table sauces are so undistinguished, even bland and boring. There’s only so far simple flavors can truly satisfy.
We also had the tetelas made from corn from the Mixteca
This is no urdinary taco
and for dessert