In the spring of 2019, acclaimed chef/restaurateur Michael Beltran expanded his restaurant empire with the small, unassuming pop-up Chug’s, located just blocks from his Coconut Grove restaurants, Ariete, Navé and The Taurus. The scrappy little spot was Beltran’s take on an American diner with a Cuban spin, a tribute to both classic American cookery and his rich Cuban heritage. With the popularity of Beltran’s other city-wide concepts, there’s no surprise that it quickly became a beloved go-to for neighborhood residents and Miami natives alike.
During the COVID-19 crisis Chug’s went from everyone’s favorite local spot for Cafecito, handmade gourmet pastelitos and traditional Cuban fare with a twist; to a café & bodega, pivoting into food and supply delivery where half the restaurant turned into a curated grocery store with everything from pantry staples to packaged foods. No longer just a pitstop for joggers, dogwalkers, busy Groveites and freelancers looking for a place for a bite and gratis Wi-Fi, Chug’s became a neighborhood haven for those in need of supplies, a pick-me-up and a little comfort. Coming next month, Beltran and his team at Ariete Hospitality Group (AHG) will be celebrating Chug’s third incarnation when chef’s “little restaurant that could,” which has been closed for months, relaunches as a permanent and expanded full-service diner and modern-day ventanita.
Credit: Chug’s Diner
The restaurant now occupies the same space it once did – all 677 square feet of it – but expanded outward to a total of over 4,500-square-feet of indoor-outdoor dining, bar and café space. Now, instead of a tiny space no bigger than a pocket-sized grab n’ go, Chug’s boasts an airy, open design scheme with plenty of natural light, a ventanita for a morning, afternoon or late-night pick-me-up, an inside grab n’ go counter, full diner-style counter seating, a café/lounge area and an indoor full-service dining room. The expansive, newly renovated outdoor courtyard will offer plenty of colorful seating and serve as a sanctuary where guests can dine and imbibe al fresco in a lush, tropical setting.
Credit: Blue Shell Media
Like a true diner, Chug’s will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week with an exclusive selection of breakfast items available ‘til close. Inventive and hearty, all-day dishes include: salmon tostada with fried Cuban bread, Chug’s famous cast-iron pancake, a badass breakfast sandwich and more. Those “in the know” know all about Beltran’s longtime collaborator, chef Giovanni Fesser, best known as Pastelito Papi. Prior to Chug’s original opening, his incomparable pastelito creations were found only at Ariete and the occasional pop-up. The launch of Chug’s meant the permanent home for Fesser and that will be doubly true with Chug’s 2.0. Available to-go until sold out or for enjoyment on site seven days a week, a variety of Pastelito Papi’s precious pastelitos will be on offer daily.
Moving into lunch and dinner hours, diners will have access to a plethora of options ranging from Soups, Salads and a variety of Handhelds. Standouts include a wedge salad, the famous Chug burger, Pop’s Frita with Maytag blue cheese, and pan con bistec and minuta sandwiches. Entrees were designed to deliver the delicious in generous helpings and rustic soul. Must-trys will include media noche pierogi; meatloaf with tamarind ketchup, veggie casserole, pollo empanizado, and masitas –pork belly masitas with fufu de platano and mojo onions. Sides will include mac n’ cheese, whipped mashed potato, white rice & black beans, and harina. Overseeing the kitchen will be executive chef Monika Dominguez, formerly of the Wynwood stronghold, KYU.
Unlike most diners, Chug’s will feature a full bar with a curated cocktail list on par with what cocktailers have come to expect from any Ariete Hospitality Group concept. The sweet side of all-things-AHG is corporate pastry chef Devin Braddock. For Chug’s she is creating a special menu of treats designed as meal-enders as well as an array of sweets, treats, cakes and pies packaged to go. As a nod to Miami’s rich Cuban culture and love for pan Cubano, the talented pâtissière will be serving up freshly-baked Cuban bread made in-house. She will also be bringing back some of Chug’s signature desserts, including the goat cheese flan and decadent arroz con leche.
If you’re as excited as we are, make sure to keep your eyes out on more updates on the Chug’s front, and follow them on Instagram here.
Cover photo credit: Blue Shell Media.