Ariete's Michael Beltran to Open Cuban-American Diner in Coconut Grove

Ariete's Michael Beltran to Open Cuban-American Diner in Coconut Grove
A few months since celebrating Ariete's third anniversary, chef and owner Michael Beltran is planning to open a second restaurant in the neighborhood, Chug's. Expected to debut in April, Chug's is billed as a modern Cuban-American diner, where Beltran will serve breakfast sandwiches and fritas alongside French toast sticks and pastelitos.

"This all came out of left field," he says. "When I was approached about doing something here, I couldn't turn it down."

Chug's, which will take over the recently shuttered Bookstore and the Kitchen space on Main Highway, will open on a temporary, yearlong basis. If the concept is successful, Beltran hopes to extend his stay.

"I've always loved the location and I've eaten at the Bookstore all the time," he says. "I was very sad when they announced their closing, so being able to do something here is special. The concept of Chug's is something that's always been on my mind, but I never really had a name for it. I hope the city accepts us with open arms and we have the opportunity to be there for a very long time, but for now it's 12 months."

Chug's, which is widely known as Beltran's nickname, will serve all-day breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. Morning highlights include Abuela’s Breakfast, a plate of white rice, fried eggs, black beans, and maduros; a breakfast sandwich with fried eggs, ham, and papitas served on Cuban bread; Beltran's best-selling French toast sticks from Ariete; and a rotating cast iron pancake that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The lunch and dinner menu will feature a lineup of Cuban fritas, including the Classic, made with chorizo, papitas, and ketchup on fresh potato bread; the Pop’s, stuffed with blue cheese and caramelized onion; and the Americano, with American cheese, Chug sauce, and butter pickles. Other items include a duck medianoche sandwich with duck confit, orange mustard, country ham, and Swiss cheese; a quarter-pound burger with dijonnaise; and a house-made egg salad sandwich with house mayo, smooth mustard, and chive.

"I've always loved breakfast," Beltran says. "My fiancée and I always ask ourselves where we can eat a good breakfast. Honestly, I could eat it three times a day. I'll also have an opportunity to combine my Cuban heritage and culture with the things I've learned over the years, especially Southern breakfast food."
The restaurant will also serve as the home of Pastelito Papi, Ariete chef Giovanni Fesser’s wildly popular pastelito company. Fesser will oversee Chug's sweets and baked goods, offering pastelitos in a variety of flavors such as buffalo chicken, frita, PB&J, and guava.

"Gio is one of my best friends," Beltran says. "As we discussed the future of Pastelito Papi, we wanted to find a way to give it its own platform. It's an opportunity to see how people enjoy them on an everyday basis."

The space will also include a large outdoor patio and a grab-and-go station with items from local vendors.

In addition to Chug's, Beltran is gearing up to open Leña, a wood-grilled concept, inside Time Out Market Miami sometime in the spring.

"There was no Cuban food in Coconut Grove before Ariete," Beltran says. "We're building off of that with Chug's. It's an opportunity to cook Cuban food the way my grandparents taught me. I get to feed families off of my own family's food, and I find that so enjoyable. This food is built for families."

Chug's. 3444 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Breakfast will be available all day with a selection of breakfast-only dishes served from 7 to 11 a.m. Lunch and dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Opening in April.
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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
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