The quality and diversity of the local restaurant scene continue to attract national and local media attention.
My go-to places tend to be comfortable neighborhood spots with hands-on chefs/owners like Queen’s English, Martha Dear, Ruthie’s All-Day, Frankly…Pizza!, and Cielo Rojo. (It hadn’t occurred to me but it looks like all the restaurants on that list — except Ruthie’s — are run by married couples. Which I guess means I’m drawn to a place with great food that feels like a dinner party.)
Cielo Rojo was featured again by Eater D.C. last week for its Spiked Ponche Navideño cocktail:
A boozy Mexican Christmas punch ($14) is filled with chunks of fresh fruit and spices at this Takoma Park spot known for vegan enchiladas, pupusas, and tacos. The vodka-based drink combines pieces of apple, pear, orange, guava, and tejocote with tamarindo, ginger, hibiscus and piloncillo sugar. A non-alcoholic version has everything but the vodka.
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”; the Washington Post’s Tim Carman listed the cochinita pibil platter as one of the D.C. Area’s 25 Best Tacos, and Eater D.C. has included the restaurant in their article “Where to Find Outstanding Mexican Food Around D.C.“ The restaurant was also featured in Washingtonian Magazine’s Taco issue, which was published last August.
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.
“We wanted to stay in Takoma Park because the people here are very loyal,” co-owner Carolina McCandless said last January. “They have been so good to us, especially during the pandemic.”
Photo: © lunamarina – stock.adobe.com