Like that thrift store denim jacket that somehow works for every single occasion, Chug’s biggest strength is its utility. The Coconut Grove Cuban diner can be several different restaurants—sometimes all at once—and every winding path of the Chug’s experience will lead somewhere great.
You can come early for a quick weekday breakfast of cafecito and the best pastelitos on this planet. Or maybe you want to have a lazy Sunday brunch with cocktails and a phenomenal cast iron pancake. A pan con bistec for lunch is a good call—as is a fun, boozy dinner with entrees like an outstanding masitas de puerco and a meatloaf that’ll make you an instant member of The Meatloaf Fan Club. You could even come solo, sit at the terrazzo counter, and let the classic diner nostalgia wash over you while you eat pie and drink a martini.
There’s just no other restaurant in Miami that wears as many hats, and still manages to look excellent in all of them.
Like any great diner, there’s something familiar and comforting about Chug’s. It has the DNA of a classic diner, with booths, counter seating, and laminated menus you can flip through on each table. But its familiarity stems from more than just design details. The restaurant is largely informed by Miami Cuban food, but it also isn’t afraid to riff on the staples. Their pastelitos are filled with unique rotating ingredients, including an unbelievably good PB&J version. They serve medianoche pierogies, a guava gimlet, and include an oxtail jus for dipping with the pan con bistec. It makes this place feel like the past, present, and future of Miami Cuban cuisine all at once.
We know that’s not normally how time and physics work, but Chug’s somehow figured out a way to bend those rules. And in the process, it’s become one of our favorite restaurant(s) in town.
The pierogies have a beautiful golden brown crisp on the outside, and are stuffed with a fantastic filling that consists of lechón, ham, Swiss cheese, potato, and mojo onions. Whether it’s your first or fifth time here, order these.
Chug’s pastelitos are our favorite versions in Miami—thanks to the delicious and interesting rotating ingredients they stuff them with. Our favorite is the PB&J, which they normally serve daily. Order them, whether you want something sweet for breakfast or use them as a side dish during dinner.
Pan Con Bistec
This is a pan con bistec that’s doing an impression of a French dip. There’s a side of oxtail jus for dipping and—unlike lots of versions in Miami—the Cuban bread isn’t pressed crispy, but is kept rather light and fluffy. This is a good thing, because it can absorb even more of the excellent oxtail jus.
This is a meatloaf that makes us wish more places in Miami offered meatloaf. It’s served with glazed peas and carrots, mashed potatoes, and a few supersized bacon bits placed atop the meatloaf. But the star of the plate is that incredibly tender meatloaf. The tamarind ketchup beneath it is a solid supporting actor too. And, yes, we realize we’ve said meatloaf four (make that five) times in this paragraph. Meatloaf. Now that’s six.
This is one of the best burgers in all of Miami, and tastes like the highest aspiration of a fast food burger. It’s also huge, with two patties, American cheese, pickles, and a secret sauce between a sesame seed bun. Despite its size, it’s constructed masterfully and has never fallen apart on us.