The quality and diversity of the area’s restaurant scene continue to earn attention and accolades from national food media.
The Mexico City native [chef/co-owner David Perez] marinates pork overnight with the usual suspects (annatto seeds, cumin, allspice, garlic) and some proxies (orange, grapefruit and lime juices for the traditional bitter orange), then wraps the meat in charred banana leaves for a multi-hour cook in the oven. Despite the alternative cooking method, despite the substitutions and despite the fact Perez has never visited the Yucatán, his version of cochinita pibil hits all the right notes for me. It’s like he has a sixth sense for a dish that he’s never tried on its home turf.
Cielo Rojo opened in early 2019 at 7056 Carroll Ave. in Takoma Park. The “fine-casual” Mexican restaurant has been praised multiple times by food critics, namely for its pozole soup, tacos, and outdoor dining. Former Washington City Paper food editor Laura Hayes praised the restaurant last December, naming its Quesa Birria one of the “13 Best Under $35 Dishes D.C. Area Restaurants Served in 2021”.
Additionally, Eater D.C. included the restaurant in their article “Where to Find Outstanding Mexican Food Around D.C.“
Earlier this year, it was announced that Cielo Rojo will relocate to a larger location in Takoma Park to accommodate an expansion of the restaurant.
Washington City Paper’s Nevin Martell reported in January that Cielo Rojo will move to the former Healey Surgeons location at 7211 Carroll Ave., adjacent to the Takoma Park fire station. “With the help of DesignCase—which oversaw the design of Maydan and Immigrant Food—the new location will feature 120 seats inside and another 30 seats on the patio, an open kitchen, 16-seat bar, and private dining room for 20-30 diners,” Martell wrote.
The existing Cielo Rojo location at 7056 Carroll Ave. will be transformed into San Pancho Burritos, a fast-casual restaurant serving Mission-style burritos, which became popular during the 1960s in the Mission District of San Francisco. San Pancho Burritos is projected to open in the fall.
“We wanted to stay in Takoma Park because the people here are very loyal,” co-owner Carolina McCandless said to Washington City Paper. “They have been so good to us, especially during the pandemic.”
Photo: © lunamarina / Adobe Stock (h/t @justupthepike)