There are two things this city can never have enough of: Cuban food and cafecito ventanitas. And there’s more of both headed our way this summer. This August, Chug’s, chef Michael Beltran’s Cuban diner in Coconut Grove, reopens its doors and it’s sticking around permanently. Opened as a small, temporary café in the spring of 2019, Chug’s quickly gained popularity with its interesting mashup of concepts. Part Cuban restaurant, part American diner and part coffee shop, it was a casual spot to grab a cafecito (from the window, no less), order up a simple breakfast of eggs and Cuban toast or enjoy a quick pastelito snack to-go. That all changed in 2020 when the eatery pivoted to a bodega to better serve folks during the lockdown.
Then came the renovations and a much-needed expansion, which Beltran undertook on a wing and a prayer. “It has been an unexpected, wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking journey from where we started with Chug’s to where we have arrived,” says Beltran, who has overseen all aspects of the diner’s demolition, construction and design. “When we first popped up, we didn’t have so much as a plan as a hope for something more permanent. Seeing how Chug’s was welcomed by the community, the same one I call ‘home,’ made it evident that there was a place for Chug’s in Coconut Grove long-term.”
That day will soon arrive—TBA this August— and folks can expect a number of changes and welcome additions. The small shop will now occupy 4,500-square-feet of indoor/outdoor space with 150 seats total, plus a full diner-style counter with plenty of stools. Food is getting an update as well. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served and things are getting chef-y with more pastelito varieties from Pastelito Papi (Beltran’s frequent collaborate and chef Giovanni Fesser), gourmet twists on Cuban classics (think PB&J foie gras buñuelos) and a whole suite of desserts by Devin Braddock, Ariete Hospitality Group’s corporate pastry chef. Executive chef Monika Dominguez will also be serving up sandwiches (pan con minuta, pan con bistec), meatloaf, pollo empanizado and other Cuban-American comfort foods.
It’s all very exciting, though the best part of the relaunch has got to be the booze. Chug’s secured a full liquor license in the reno and it’s wielding it well with a menu of creative cocktails that pair well with your breakfast tostada and your evening masitas de puerco. There’s the coffee-based, vodka-spiked carajillo, a guava gimlet and something called a Dirty Coke Flip with rum and scotch that’s got us very intrigued.
Check out Chug’s when it opens next month, and follow the restaurant on Instagram for the latest.