By: Kiran Glass and Anna Fisher Lopez
TAKOMA PARK, Md.– Takoma Park added to its ever-growing cuisine when Cielo Rojo, a family-owned Mexican restaurant, opened last week.
Cielo Rojo, which is Spanish for “red sky,” is owned by David Perez, a Mexican immigrant who has worked in kitchens since he was 17. Perez serves as the restaurant’s main chef and his wife Carolina McCandless, who is of Chilean descent, works as the Director of Operations.
The sit-down restaurant serves a variety of Mexican staples from pozole, a classic Mexican soup, to enchiladas and churros for dessert. Their tacos range from $3.25 to $3.75 and can be filled with chicken mole, carnitas or drunken mushrooms, to name a few options.
Cielo Rojo customer Christy Lopez describes an atmosphere that is “distinctly Mexican as opposed to general Latino.”
Tacos are served on tiled tables while traditional Mexican folk songs can be heard from speakers above, and order numbers that customers place on their tables are made from Loteria cards, a quintessential Mexican game often referred to as “Mexican Bingo.”
“The tacos are very Mexican, everything is more ‘seco’ than ‘mojado’” says Lopez, who is of Mexican descent and grew up in Southern California. She describes the atmosphere as “cheerful without being cloying” and says the restaurant reminds her of the Mexican restaurants she loved growing up in California.
“It’s a bustling place,” said Michael Fisher, a guest. “It’s pretty small so all the tables were full.”
For vegetarians like Fisher, the restaurant offers a variety of delicious, meat-free options such as veggie enchiladas, and mushroom and potato tacos.
As with any new restaurant, Cielo Rojo is still adjusting. Within a week of opening, they were experiencing ingredient shortages like lime and tortilla chips, but the issue will likely resolve itself as the owners calculate their average guest count for an evening.
Perez and McCandless first met at an organic vegan restaurant in San Francisco and they’ve made sure that Cielo Rojo can be an option for the vegans of Takoma Park with their “nopales,” or vegan tacos.
Perez and McCandless have made it a priority to provide healthy and quality food to their customers that are ecologically sustainable. Their ingredients are sourced locally and they try to bring in as much organic produce as possible.
McCandless’ parents own Amano, a clothing boutique in downtown Takoma Park. After experiencing the Takoma Park vibe firsthand, McCandless decided the “community’s progressive & family-focused environment” was the ideal place to open their family-oriented restaurant.
As of right now, the taqueria is only open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They have plans to extend their hours to include lunch and brunch in the coming future.
The restaurant replaced a Subway that had been in Takoma Park for over five years.