Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cielito Lindo - The Place for Mexican in Richmond

My long-time friend 007 and I went out to dinner last night. She resides south of the James. I live north of the James. We take turns (sort of) eating in each other’s neighborhood (neighborhood is very loosely defined). It was my turn to head south. Now, let’s face it, the southside of Richmond is filled with run-of-the-mill chain eateries. I was determined to go outside the “norm.” Thus, I dialed up to peruse options. In its food section, Style Weekly makes a point of only listing non-chain establishments. Kudos to them. There were a fair number of listings from Indian to Mexican to Italian to seafood.

And what was our final decision? Mexican – in the form of Cielito Lindo. This tiny place is located on Forest Hill Ave. I forgot to jot down the actual address, so, we had a bit of an adventure finding the place. The sign is very small with tiny letters. (By the way, the address is 4702 Forest Hill Ave.) The restaurant is small with a short row of cozy booths and a number of stools at the bar. I liked the bright paint colors. There are about an equal number of tables located on the front patio, complete with umbrellas. The night was gorgeous. We sat outside.

Jess, our most excellent waitress, seated us, brought us the requisite chips and salsa, and proceeded to tell us that everything was good. I started with a house margarita ($4.50). 007 wasn’t sure if she wanted one or not. Mine arrived. The mix is one of the best I’ve experienced in Richmond. After sampling this refreshing concoction, 007 proclaimed that indeed the margarita was irresistible and ordered one. The tortilla chips were decent of the run-of-the-mill yellow corn variety. The salsa, traditional tomato with a little hot kick. It took us some time to review the menu and finally decide on our entrees, so we scarfed up the chips in short order. We were down to the last two when Jess appeared with a fresh basket. Ah, a waitress attentive to every need.

The menu contained a number of temptations: Cielito Soup (cream of roasted red pepper and cilantro), Quesadillas with blackened chicken, Nachos with lump crabmeat, Stofado de Carne (Mexican beef stew). 007 decided fairly quickly – Tilapia ala Veracruz $11.95 (sautéed fillet with a verde sauce and green olives and capers). I was sorely tempted by the tilapia and I don’t even like fish! I finally settled on the Carnitas $10.95 (tender pork chunks smothered in a tangy tomatillo salsa verda). Our dinners arrived and were they ever yummy! 007 let me sample her dish without me begging too much. We both liked the combination of the verde sauce with the olives and capers. This dish was so good that the next time I go I will order the fish. My pork was very tender and could be pulled apart with a fork. The tomatillo sauce was not as tangy or puckery as some I have had in other restaurants, but very good, nonetheless. Each dish was served with Spanish rice, either black or refried beans, and warmed flour tortillas. 007 really enjoyed the black beans because of the seasoning. The rice and refried beans were decent, but nothing earth-shattering.

The combination of friendly, attentive wait staff; the best-tasting margaritas in Richmond; and killer dishes like the tilapia make Cielito Lindo the best Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in Richmond. It’s worth heading across the river.


jamie said...

I don't know... we live about 3 minutes from Cielieto Lindo, and have tried it more than a couple of times. The atmospher IS great, we agree whole-heartedly. But the food has always been a little underwhelming.

We're going to give it one more try (because everyone needs a go-to Mexican place close to home) and use some of your tips to try another dish.


tbs said...

Ay que lastima.
Cielito Lindo is tolerable, but caters to Richmond's bolillo palate. (It is close by, though..). I wish they had Bohemia beer. Much better than that Corona (the Coors of Mexico) bellywash.

If you want real Mexican go the Cerro Azul in Powhatan. Or on a Saturday get some homade carnitas under the tent at La Milpa on Hull. Inside La Milpa they have caldo de mariscos on Friday, pozole rojo on Saturdays and menudo siempre en domingo.

And La Milpa is one of the few places in town where you can get cabrito (goat). (It's raw, btw). And there's a halal market on Arch & Midlothian that also has goat. Whole, half, quarters and cut up. And the best lamb in town. I think it is called The International Grocery.

Y no me digas de tilapia. Mudfish.


vtmiller said...

Best brunch in town for the money! They give you a FULL glass of juice, not those tiny thimbles full at most diners. Also the omelette with Spanish sausage (a mashed medley with slight kick) & cheese is to die for; comes with fresh fruit, potatoes and toast - add Bloody Mary and I'm one happy cat ready for a nap on Sundays. Bravo!
Local Resident & owner

Anonymous said...

They are pretty good...but give me Mexico Restaurant any day.