Too often you hear people say that it you want to get good food at a restaurant, you need to go to Boston, or perhaps Cambridge, Somerville, or Brookline because there aren't any good options in the suburbs. This couldn't be further from the truth, as while the cities and towns along or near Route 128 do have their fair share of generic chains and middling restaurants and bars, there are also a treasure trove of outstanding dining spots that can be found if you do some research. And one such place is a little Mexican eatery in South Braintree called Cielo which would probably be considered a destination spot if it were located in a neighborhood such as Boston's South End or Cambridge's Inman Square.
Cielo is located in the space just south of South Braintree Square where Viola Restaurant and Wine Bar had once been, set along the Monatiquot River which meanders for about five miles through the town before emptying out into a small bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The dining spot takes advantage of its riverside location with an L-shaped outdoor patio that mostly faces Washington Street, but which also has a few comfy seats behind the restaurant that overlook the river itself. The interior of Cielo is much different from its predecessor, being reworked so that it isn't quite as much of a tight squeeze as it was when it was Viola. An attractive bar takes up much of the space toward the back door which leads to the patio, while a variety of seating options (high-tops, low-tops, and booths) are set up throughout the rest of the space. Walls with earthy colors, a floor that has the look of reclaimed wood, posters and prints on the walls, and Mexican music being quietly piped into the room all give the place an authentic overall feel to it.
The people behind Cielo have connections to the state of Jalisco, which is in the western part of Mexico and is known in part for its tortas and its tequila (and more on the latter in a bit). Therefore, it is no surprise that one of the best items on the menu is the torta ahogada, which is basically a sandwich stuffed with pork and beans and covered in a moderately spicy guajillo chile salsa. Another dish commonly found in the west of Mexico is the chiles en nogada, which is a wonderful meal made up of poblano peppers stuffed with ground beef and fruit, and covered in a rich walnut sauce topped with pomegranates and cilantro. Yet another item with roots in Jalisco is a savory pork and hominy stew that includes guajillo peppers and cabbage. Pork lovers should take note of the cochinita pibil as well, which includes slow-cooked pork (a bit like pulled pork, but more chunky) in a slightly peppery annatto achiote marinade and served with rice and black beans. A marvelous guacamole is served tableside at Cielo, and it can be adjusted to the diner's tastes--for instance, the amount of onions in the dish can be changed to the customer's liking as needed. Excellent versions of burritos, tacos, and enchiladas are offered at Cielo, including the always-popular enchiladas mole poblano with chicken, while desserts include such decadent items as flan and churros (the latter of which is a must for lovers of cinnamon). Drinks include beer, wine, and margaritas, along with an outstanding list of tequilas that range from the basic 1800 Silver to a high-end option from Don Julio, along with Wild Shot mezcal (organic tequilas from Casa Noble are available as well).
Braintree already had an impressive Mexican restaurant in El Sarape (in the East Braintree/Weymouth Landing area) before Cielo came around, and now this South Shore community is lucky enough to have two great options for Mexican fare. And with Cielo comes more proof that the suburbs of Boston have some dining spots that rival some of the best that the city and its immediate neighbors have to offer, along with the added benefit of easy parking and--in the case of Cielo--prices that definitely won't break the bank.
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