When one of Austin’s most well-respected chefs decided to open a neighborhood Mexican restaurant, it seemed like he would have a sure-fire hit on his hands. Still, in 2019’s turbulent dining scene, even the most approachable concepts can falter. Less than a year after debuting in Northwest Hills, Cielo Bistro Mexico has closed.
The news was announced October 29 via a Facebook post from co-owner Charles Mayes and shared on Cielo’s business page. Reached by CultureMap, Mayes declined to comment further on the reason for the closure.
Taking over the former El Arroyo space at 7032 Woodhollow Dr., Mayes opened Cielo in January along with The Brick Oven owner Jay McBride and former Republic National Distributing sales manager Joel Morales. The team had a lot of pluses in their column, including an underserved location and a regional Mexican menu featuring ceviche, street corn, enchiladas, and carnitas.
The most promising factor for success was Mayes himself. The chef is a household name, at least among a subset of longtime Austin diners. In 1997, he established Clarksville classic Cafe Josie, and the cashew tamari dressing he created for Mother’s Cafe & Garden decades ago remains one of the most popular items on the Hyde Park eatery’s menu.
Still, Mayes’ name was not publicly associated with interior Mexican food. Though his stint living on the Pacific Coast of Mexico during the ‘70s inspired a lifelong love — and encyclopedic knowledge — of the cuisine, his resume lists bygone Austin staples like Gilligan’s and Treaty Oak Cafe.
Meanwhile, a new crop of interior Mexican concepts glinted in Austin’s eye. Cielo failed to garner the adulation of newcomers like the east side’s renowned Suerte or downtown stunner Comedor.
Despite this setback, Mayes has proven to be resilient. Whether it's through a new restaurant or another line of packaged sauces like Austin Josie, it seems certain that Austin hasn’t seen the last of him yet.