Isis Aparicio added the “El” to emphasize that her restaurant was a little different – but still related – to her sister’s restaurant with a very similar name.
El Cielito Lindo (roughly translated as Lovely Sweet One) opened its doors in October 2016 in a small strip mall close to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln downtown campus. Home to several previous eating establishments, El Cielito Lindo is a bit small, but exudes a welcoming warmth and coziness.
Aparicio’s sister, Janelli Sanchez, steers Cielito Lindo (note the absence of El), which opened a few years ago in the First and West O streets area.
Both restaurants feature authentic Mexican food, although according to Aparicio, El Cielito Lindo offers more platter options as well as serving beer and margaritas.
El Cielito Lindo is part of three Mexican eateries in Lincoln associated with Aparicio’s family including El Chaparro at 13th and F Streets.
Aparicio got her start waitressing and eventually managing her father’s (Fortunato Sanchez) second El Chaparro on North 48th Street. After that restaurant closed in 2016, Fortunato urged her to open a Mexican restaurant to continue serving their loyal customers. The Q Street location was available, and Aparicio fell in love with the location and ambiance. All three eateries offer authentic Mexican cuisine from the Guerrero region of Mexico. “Spicy and saucy,” Aparicio says.
And keeping things in the family, Aparicio’s mother, Isis Vargas, oversees the El Cielito Lindo kitchen.
One might wonder if there is any competition between family members and their respective restaurants. Aparicio smiles and responds that each of the establishments has its own regular customers with the menus pretty much mirroring one another.
“Some may say that something is better at one or the other,” she said, “but I feel it is all the same and just depends upon what people like.”
The El Cielito Lindo lunch customer base basically comprises workers from the Federal Building and staff from nearby businesses. The evening and weekend crowd is primarily college students, while families with children are also establishing a presence on weekends.
After more than a year of operation, Aparicio said that the business has met expectations.
“Things are at a pretty good pace … we see a lot of regulars coming in,” she said. Aparicio did report one surprise – a bit of a slowdown during the summer months when most of the UNL students are away.
El Cielito Lindo presents a most exhaustive menu with copious choices. While any of the menu items can be orders for lunch or dinner, Aparicio points out that the first dozen options are more lunch portions with the remainder of the 30-plus entrees larger quantities.
Various combinations of burritos, tamales, enchiladas and tacos, as well as huevos rancheros, huevos with Mexican sausage or ham, Mexican style huevos, and steak and huevos number among the lunch portion items, ranging from $6.50 to $6.99. Several items allow the customer to choose the item’s type of meat – steak, shredded beef, tongue, spicy sausage, shredded pork, seasoned pork, chicken or ground beef.
The remainder of the expansive menu features choices including beef, chicken, pork, shrimp or fish in such entrees as meat or shrimp quesadillas ($4.99 to $10.49); tortas, five tacos or burrito ($6.99); chicken enchiladas in mole ($9.99) and seasoned chicken, chicken in cream sauce, chicken in chipotle sauce or grilled tilapia ($11.99); beef, chicken or a combination of beef, chicken and shrimp fajitas ($11.99 to $13.99); and shrimp – deviled, garlic, onion or cream sauce ($12.99).
Customer favorites rival between the Dos Enchiladas (choose your meat and red or green sauce, $6.99) or one of the fajita offerings – beef or chicken ($11.99), or a mix of beef, chicken and shrimp ($13.99).
Aparicio believes in her restaurant – that it delivers really good authentic Mexican food for its customers. She concludes, “You can go to other local Mexican restaurants and have a good experience there, but nothing like at El Cielito Lindo.”