Now this is a jewel of a secret, deserving of only our closest friends. Virtually nobody except Oaxacan transplants knows about this charming mini market, restaurant and takeout station, but it stocks everything we need, including the elusive chapulines -- real grasshoppers roasted with garlic, lemon and lots of salt. We can buy the basics for our kitchen, including oversize tortillas called tlayudas, paste to make mole (black or red) and quesillo, Oaxacan cheese in long strips wound into a ball.
We prefer to let the Lopez family cook for us, however, in their little cafe. They're masters of the Oaxacan tamal -- a delicious version of chicken steamed in a banana leaf and dressed with mole oaxaqueno (a sweeter mole containing almonds as well as red chiles, spices, chocolate, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds). Chase it with champurrado, a luxurious chocolate atole (a thick drink made with masa, milk and vanilla).
We're a little sorry to be sharing Mini Mercado Oaxaca with the masses. But then, we never could keep a secret this delicious.