A server passed by as we waited for our table, and on her trip back to the kitchen, we asked what gorgeous dish she had just delivered. The soft-scrambled eggs, she explained, adding with a knowing smile, “It’s amazing, and so is everything else here.” It turns out she was right because every single thing at Chug’s is at least as good as you hoped it would be. That is, after all, the idea behind Michael Beltran’s ode to an American diner, to reinvent and recreate dishes we’ve known all our lives into something better. He does it by adding a bit of flavor from his Cuban heritage and Miami upbringing to mostly traditional diner dishes. That was evident on the first thing we got, the wedge salad, a hunk of fresh lettuce looking so pretty it’s ready for a party, with an herby green goddess dressing, the kind of custardy boiled eggs you find in ramen and (here’s where the Cuban heritage part comes in) hunks of steak-cut bacon, cooked with smoked maple syrup, that’ll remind you of chicharrones.
Lured by the plate that passed by earlier, we scored the soft-scrambled, a tower of just-done eggs dusted in parmesan and draped over a War and Peace-sized hunk of perfect white bread. The burger too is flawless, inspired by a Big Mac, with a couple of beefy patties oozing American cheese with lettuce, special sauce and bread-and-butter pickles. For dessert there’s another reinvention, this time by the group’s corporate pastry chef, Devin Braddock: her take on the Burger King Hershey’s pie, layers of whipped cream and chocolate and caramel and cookie crumble that’ll take you back to getting one from the drive-through in a triangle-shaped box—but, of course, every layer something better, something finer.
Like everything we ate, the vibe here too is spot-on, looking simultaneously hip and historic, lots of natural-colored wood and comfy booths and ‘50s rock loud enough to get brunch going but not too much for the hangover crowd. All this ambiance is thanks to an extensive 2021 renovation that fortunately kept the takeout window for those wanting just a quick cafecito and croqueta. It turns out that the server didn’t oversell Chug’s—everything is good, very good.