Cielito Astoria: A Little Piece of Heaven
Located on the Pacific shores of México lies a little piece of heaven called Sinaloa. While this magical region is known for many things, Sinaloa is particularly famous for the cultural dish: aguachile. Not to mention, plenty of other equally inspiring Mexican “norteño” dishes like chilorio, eggs with machaca, and the gobernador taco. However, good food is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a good quality fiesta. Culturally, the state is also well-known as the birthplace of one of the most important musical genres in Mexico: La banda sinaloense. Meaning you should dance, and not walk, to Cielito Astoria for great music, cocktails, and, of course, authentic Sinaloa cuisine.
From the moment you walk in, the banda music and corridos embrace you while the atmosphere immediately transports you to any friendly seafood restaurant in Mazatlán. Every detail of the menu has been hand-selected by the owner Alex Arias, a native from Culiacán—who has been living in Astoria for almost 15 years now. He started from the bottom as a dishwasher in a Greek restaurant and, eventually, climbed his way up to a management position, learning the ins and outs of the restaurant industry. All of this experience gave him the courage to finally open up his own restaurant, Cielito Astoria. His restaurant is a true success story that now includes other projects like Frida Midtown in Manhattan, a new restaurant specializing in a Mexican and Peruvian fusion (his two favorite cuisines), as well as a few other projects like Día de los Tacos and Infiernito, which are in the works to open soon.
But let’s get back to the food—the main star of this culinary gem in Astoria. For starters, we recommend ordering the Nachos Cielito. Beyond the classic guacamole and pico de gallo salsa (tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lemon juice), these nachos come with french fries (instead of chips) and a heavenly base of beans. The secret? The beans are frijoles puercos Sinaloa style: a flavorful mix of beans with manteca (AKA butter), olives, chorizo, and Monterey Jack cheese. For your next course, we recommend trying the tacos de birria, cooked Baja style. To put it simply, these tacos were delicious. However, there are plenty of other taco options to choose from, like our personal favorite—shrimp tacos, which contain an exciting mix of colors and flavors. The portions are, as we say in Mexico, “Muy bien reportados,” meaning: very generous.
While tacos are always a crowd-pleaser, no visit to Cielito Astoria would be complete without trying the house specialty—the Aguachile Mazatlán. This dish comes with your choice of green or red chilis and a hearty helping of shrimp, octopus, cucumber, red onions, avocado, cilantro, and a lot (or never enough) of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Yum! As much as the food at Cielito Astoria has created a buzz around the neighborhood, many patrons flock to this establishment for the incredible selection of Mexican beers and cocktails.
You may have even seen one of their viral cocktails, like the Te Fresaes, trending on Tik Tok. This particular cocktail, which contains strawberry, kiwi, fresh lemon juice, and tajin, is accompanied by a traditional ice-cold paleta (AKA an ice pop) that’s especially enjoyable on a warm summer’s day. All of Cielito’s cocktails are made with fresh fruits and homemade syrups. However, the real secret “sauce” which makes these cocktails so delicious is the added sweetener—piloncillo (a raw form of pure cane sugar). Which ultimately makes this masterpiece a true homage to traditional Mexican and Latin-American gastronomy.
For some, popsicle cocktails and loaded nacho fries may err on the side of being too experimental. However, we’d argue that the authenticity and freshly made in-house ingredients prove that this restaurant is more than just a trend. Why just a quick look around the restaurant, and you’ll find Sinaloa locals as well as some of the biggest stars from the region’s thriving music scene coming together to enjoy a tiny piece home. Arias has done a superb job at marrying the delicate balance of classic recipes and contemporary culinary cuisine at Cielito Astoria, making this new and exciting restaurant not only the official Sinaloa (culinary) embassy in Queens but a must-visit for anyone passing through Astoria.
33-02 36th Ave / 718.786.4800 / @cielito_astoria