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Cilantro

/ Updated on June 16, 2017
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Cilantro owner, Gladys Fernandez, honed her restaurant skills in the Adams Morgan area of Washington, D.C. Like many of us, she slipped the surly bonds big-city craziness and headed for Rehoboth Beach. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The food biz can be habit forming, and it wasn’t long before she began to hear the come-hither Siren song of the whisk, spatula and fryer. She had her eye on a great spot on Rehoboth Avenue, and when Blue restaurant closed, she was there to, in her words, “bring you the finest, most succulent and original culinary delicacies from Mexico” in the form of Cilantro.

There are hits and misses at Cilantro, and our experiences so far have been mixed. One of the issues we have found to be fairly consistent is their inability to get food out of the kitchen in a timely manner. Our server, though quite friendly, seemed to spend a fair amount of time in the weeds, but I suspect the slow kitchen more than him. Gladys told one of my trusted advance guard that her philosophy is, “La comida preparada en el momento.” Roughly translated, “each dish is prepared fresh when ordered.” It’s a lofty goal, and one that still, even in this rewrite, seems to need some fine-tuning when they’re packed on a summer Saturday.

We also hope they turn on the air conditioning when it really heats up in the summer. It DOES get warm in there. Unfortunately, the same issue occasionally marred otherwise good summer meals when Blue, and before them, Taste, occupied the space. If I want to sweat, I’ll sit in one of their outside seating areas both in the front and the back. The hostess gave us a choice of inside and out, and we were amused because there was really no difference temperature-wise — except there was no breeze inside.

The showstopper on the appetizer menu is the Taquitos Dorados de la Merced. These are different from the tightly rolled “Cigarillo”-style taquitos you normally see. They are large, crispy and loosely wrapped (not unlike myself), and are stuffed with your choice of chicken or beef. They are generously topped with guacamole, lettuce, sour cream, pico de gallo and white, crumbly queso fresco (a mild Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk). We had the chicken and loved it. Next time I might order two of these dishes, add a couple of cold Modelo Especials and call it dinner.

The Foodie’s network of spies suggested the Sopa Azteca. Firm cubes of mixed vegetables basked in a light tomato broth with chicken, cilantro, tortilla strips, cheese and avocado bits. It’s sort of like Tortilla Soup, actually, but perhaps a bit thinner. The freshness of the vegetables was a value-added. We also ordered the Guacamole Molcajete. On both of our first visits, it was not served in a molcajete (the Mexican version of the mortar (bowl) part of a mortar and pestle, hewn from lava rock). However, on our most recent visit, it was. So all is forgiven.

Another tasty nosh is the Corn on the Cob. It’s slathered with what tasted like a spicy chipotle mayo and is pretty much a meal in itself. The Queso Fundido en Cazuela consists of a casserole of Oaxaca cheese (pronounced “wah-hock’-ah”), melted and mixed with Gladys’ very tasty Chorizo sausage, mushrooms and red poblanos. You can sop it up with your choice of corn or flour tortillas. Get the flour. They’re not quite so toothsome and leave more room to taste the chorizo and the peppers.

One of my favorite Foodies-in-Waiting is a Chicken Mole expert. It’s the first thing he tries at any Mexican joint. Mole is like pizza, barbecue and any other regional ethnic favorite: There are many different preparations, and no two are the same. The one made by your sweet Abuelita is always the best, of course. The verdict? He loved it. The mole sauce, redolent with dried chilis, chocolate, raisins, peanuts, pecans obviously has other ingredients that are kept under lock and key. It has a depth and richness that is unequaled anywhere else in Rehoboth Beach. My Foodie friend asked me to beg Gladys to kick up the price a buck and put on another piece of pollo. Please?

The Tacos Callejeros are also quite good. The trio of soft tacos is offered with beef, chicken OR that delightful chorizo. Why the “or?”  Annoyingly, they won’t give you one of each meat. Of course, it’s their restaurant, and they can do what they want. But it’s my website, so I can complain about it. It just doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Arbitrary rules like that just end up leaving people with a negative vibe. I finally cajoled young Carlos (our server) to order me a chorizo and two chickens. They were simply delicious. I hope they didn’t fire him.

The Enchiladas Suizas are simple and perfectly wonderful. The chicken filling is firm and well spiced, and the wonderful little corn wraps are topped with salsa ranchera, melted white cheese and sour cream (aka the slang, crema). Don’t miss the Tacos de Pescado, either. They are crunchy with curtido (red cabbage), a selection of red or green salsas and, of course, that spicy mayo sauce.

The Tostadas Chilangas are crispy, golden brown corn tortillas topped with beans, lettuce pico de gallo, your choice of pollo or carne, queso fresco and an assortment of salsitas. They were described by one of my trusted Foodettes (she is terminally cute, and of the Mexican persuasion) as “much like my grandmother made.” Need I say more?

Carlos (the master of the smiling upsell) talked us into getting the Flauta Rellena dessert. Freshly fried slices of plantain surround a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a warm, crispy, cinnamon-encrusted Flauta, filled with banana cream and drizzled with chocolate. Thank you, Carlos.

Visitor feedback is certainly mixed. Cilantro still seems to have problems getting the food out of the kitchen before people starve to death. And when it does come out, it is not consistent. This is certainly a problem, especially with the very experienced and consistent Mariachi restaurant just around the corner.

Cilantro Cocina de Mexico is located on the south side of Rehoboth Avenue in the second block from the ocean. Check out their dinner menu here. Give them a call for off-season hours (302) 226-1000. (L., D., Bar) Price range: Moderate.

Off-season Specials & Hours

Specials & Moods change quickly. Always call a restaurant first.

pp = per person.
BOGO = buy one, get one.
Bloody = bloody mary.
domestics = American-made beers (e.g., Bud).
imports = foreign beers (e.g., Heineken).
Rails = non call-brand alcohol.
Prix Fixe = one set price.
Mains = entrees.
Margs = margaritas.
Chix = chicken.
AYCE = all you can eat.
Lite = Miller Lite
drafts = draught beer.
Early Birds = arrive before a certain time.
Apps = Appetizers.
bottles = beer in a bottle.
à la carte = order off the menu (no prix fixe).
crafts = micro/artisanal brews (e.g., Old Leghumper Lager)

122A Rehoboth Ave.
(302) 226-1000

Sunday
Open for lunch and dinner 11-10
Monday
Open for lunch and dinner 11-10
Tuesday
Open for lunch and dinner 11-10
Wednesday
Open for lunch and dinner 11-10
Thursday
Open for lunch and dinner 11-10
Friday
Open for lunch and dinner 11-10
Saturday
Open for lunch and dinner 11-10
The Rehoboth Foodie

About the Author

"My goal is to promote Rehoboth Beach dining while remaining honest and impartial. I don’t gush unless a place deserves it, and I don’t pull punches, either. With so many good places to eat around here, it just doesn’t make sense to waste the calories — or the money — on anything less." View all articles written by The Rehoboth Foodie

Add Your Comment
  1. Cathy says:

    Very good food dessert was amazing

  2. Mark says:

    I took my wife out for her birthday. She had a friend that went and she said it was very good. Coming from California I have tried lots of seafood. I have had fresh and I have had rotten. I got the Ceviche and I got the fish Tacos. She got the steak fajitas. The fish in the Ceviche was rotten, but the shrimp was very good and the avocado. I asked for a negro modelo which was the best thing I had there but the lime in the drink was rotten. Then came the fish tacos and the fajitas. The rotten smell from the fish overcame my wife and I and we lost our appetites. She tried the beef fajitas and didnt like the taste, I tried them and they were not that good. I tried a bite of the fish taco and it was foul, and I spit it into a napkin. I felt so bad for them that I actually paid, and I want to call them and tell them the fish is bad. Someone else will let them know. 1 hour later I am still nauseous. I will not go there again, and will not recommend it.

  3. Mark S. Hammel says:

    I took my wife out for her birthday. She had a friend that went and she said it was very good. Coming from California I have tried lots of seafood. I have had fresh and I have had rotten. I got the Ceviche and I got the fish Tacos. She got the steak fajitas. The fish in the Ceviche was rotten, but the shrimp was very good and the avocado. I asked for a negro modelo which was the best thing I had there but the lime in the drink was rotten. Then came the fish tacos and the fajitas. The rotten smell from the fish overcame my wife and I and we lost our appetites. She tried the beef fajitas and didnt like the taste, I tried them and they were not that good. I tried a bite of the fish taco and it was foul, and I spit it into a napkin. I felt so bad for them that I actually paid, and I want to call them and tell them the fish is bad. Someone else will let them know. 1 hour later I am still nauseous. I will not go there again, and will not recommend it.

  4. Yummy Bear says:

    A friend picked CILANTRO as her choice for a dinner treat . We both ordered beers but was told her selection was out of stock so she changed her order and our server then returned with hers to inform me that my selection was now out of stock too. Rut rho, hope it gets better I kidded our server who was notably embarrased.

    We ahared the shrimp/crabmeat quesadilla(special item) which arrived uber fast from the kitchen and was served with a slightly spicy dipping sauce. A perfect noshing food for two or four, nicely filled with seafood. Her entry, chicken mole looked fantastic but her reaction at the end was ‘good,not fantastic’. I had the 3 fish tacos (special) made with sauted tilapia but had hoped for more seasoning on the fish.The bigger omission was no lettuce,onions,bean, etc to assmble the tacos with,just salsa and a side of rice.The fish was cooked perfectly,just made for a small bland taco.

    Service via Mike” was perfect but the kitchen let us down a bit.

  5. Food Lover says:

    Unfortunately this restaurant is just not good. And it’s dirty. It just feels like somebody opened up a restaurant in their garage. The owner needs to focus on the quality and skill of the kitchen staff. You get what you pay for when it comes to cooks.

  6. James Duckett says:

    We so looked forward t to this new experience in Rehoboth DE only to be so sadly disappointed. There are so many good restaurants in Rehoboth this just so sorely lacked in comparison. The food was not fresh at all. I would guess it was under food lamps for a very long period of time. Seriously do not spend your hard earned money here.

  7. Local Joe says:

    Cilantro was nearly empty on a busy Saturday night. Our pitcher of margaritas barely refilled the glasses once for our party of four. Our queso appetizer was baked hard, and the guacamole lacked flavor to the point where our companions asked for lemon to spice it up. Our entrees were simply awful. The beef steak was thin and had an almost-bad flavor, served on top of half-cooked potatoes. The corn on the cob that was supposed to come with the steak was ‘out’. Empty restaurant, no corn. My enchiladas were edible but what little chicken was in them was dry and lacked flavor. There was barely any cheese or sauce on them, and only two small enchiladas for $18. The plate was filled with rice and beans. The stuffed pepper was barely edible and quite small – other restaurants serve two peppers for the same price. Our fourth dish had little squares of beef that were overcooked and looked like dog food. Our bill for all this came to $140 – outrageous considering the quality of the food!

  8. Jane says:

    I ordered the salmon at $18 per serving. There were no substitutes for the rice…the salmon was overcooked and tasteless. The rice was overcooked and tasteless. The service was grudging. The sangria was forgettable. With all the wonderful restaurants in Rehoboth, I will choose another restaurant in the future. I will not be back.

  9. Katie says:

    Went to Cilantro for the first time last night with two friends and loved it. Staff very friendly, good service, waitress remembered my friends like extra lime in their pitcher of maragritas from the last time they were there, which wasn’t recent. Margaritas excellent, shrimp appetizer was great, nice rich, full bodied tomato sauce seasoned just right, shrimp was good. Liked the corn on the cob, altho it will be even better when corn is in season, the chile rellenos and black beans were a hit too. One of my best restaurant experiences since I moved to Rehoboth about a year ago. Looking forward to going back. Oh yes, the salsa was good too, nice to be served a salsa that wasn’t out of a jar.

  10. Kevin Bliss says:

    We had a nice dinner there last night. The service was very good. My complaint was the serving size. It began with a small serving of guacamole given the price (compared to restaurants in Washington, DC). As for the entree, two of us both ordered the rellenos. Served in a small white dish, it reminded us both of airline food in terms of presentation, and was about as generous.

    So while the quality and service was very good, they lost me on quantity. For me that is very important and a factor that can trump quality and service.

  11. Mary Ann Warner says:

    We have been twice. The first time (2 months ago) the food was good but the service was not. The second time we went was with a party of 7 and the food was awful (no one liked their dish..steak was over cooked, fish was tough, tacos were bland) and the service was bad. The only thing good was the margaritas.
    We will not be going back to this restaurant.

  12. Linda D says:

    We went last night,a Saturday. No wait for a table should have been a warning. The booth where we were seated was broken; our every move rocked the folks behind us. Likewise, we were often unexpectedly propelled forward into our plates. We had slow service, missing appetizers. Two of us experienced fish that was not fresh. The manager inquired why we had not eaten our entree,removed them, and returned to inform us that they had benn tasted by the chef and pronounced”fine” . We wont be returning.

  13. CB says:

    We were delighted with our dining experience last evening. We ordered a margarita and strawberry daquiri and both were perfectly prepared. We had a new appetizer that consisted of chorizo, mushrooms and melted cheese served with three warm, fresh corn tortillas. It was fabulous. Our meals were the enchiladas verdes and the tostado chilangas both of which were freshly made and delicious. When thinking about Mexican food in Rehoboth, Cilantro is the place.

  14. Lynne R says:

    I have tried Cilantro twice. The first time, the food (enchiladas verdes) and margaritas were delicious, but our waiter was terrible. He seemed very willing to serve us, but lacked training on when to take plates away (we were still eating) and how to take orders et al. We returned last weekend with a party of 8 people and were again very disappointed by the service. Different waitress, but she was clearly in over her head (orders were wrong, mixed up) and we waited 1/2 hr to 45 minutes for our food. The solution is very simple – training. I hope that Cilantro can spend some time training their waitstaff as their food on the whole is actually quite good. Just don’t order the steak – it is very thinly sliced and overcooked.

  15. Trelynda says:

    Love the sangria and the hot bartender Kymmmr. Can’t wait to try the food!

  16. T&T says:

    Thanks again foodie. My wife and I went last night. It wasn’t very hot out, so it wasn’t very hot in the restaurant. We ordered your suggestions. We like the place and we’re going back.

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