Cielo Rojo in Takoma Park, MD - Report

Visiting friends in the Takoma Park neighborhood, we landed at this serious, tiny spot for sophisticated Mexican. What a surprise!

Two of the four dishes we had were great, one of them maybe in my DC Hall of Fame. That one is the flautas de camote. A couple of thick tortillas are rolled and hard fried (think of the shell used for fried ice cream) and then stuffed with a sweet potato mixture. Along with the remarkable guacamole, two sauces and other bits of lettuce, tomato, and pepita, this dish had so many flavors going on. Spectacular.

The other great dish is the Quesa Birria, tortillas stuffed with stewed beef served alongside a densely flavored and kicky broth you can dip the tortillas in. Served with chopped onion and cilantro, sliced radish, and more of that great guac, if you put all the tastes together the result is outrageous.

The other two items we had were good: a brunch item of a thick corn waffle topped with greens, a sauce, more pepita, and a few other items. We also had a platter of two quesadillas which they let you mix and match. We got the nopales and the chicken mole which had a nice hit of cinammon but was otherwise not complex.

This is a serious kitchen on a mission.


I’m not sure that they’re still doing it, but during the pandemic they offered fresh masa on their takeout menu so you could make your own tortillas, tamales, etc. at home.

I’ve eaten here three times and every meal was outstanding. This is now a destination restaurant for my wife and me. I don’t remember any details, however, as all three trips were pre-pandemic.

I’ve gotten the fresh masa from that place in Hyattsville the restaurants use. I believe anyone can get it, but they only sell a minimum of five pounds. I tried that once and failed miserably at making anything that would form into something manageable. It all just fell apart. There must be a trick to it…

Thanks for the tip!

I’m not sure if there’s a “trick”, but we had no difficulty making fresh tortillas and tamales with the masa. I’d never done it before, and we just followed Rick Bayless’ instruction.