My family and I ate at Chiringo on a recent weekend, when the weather was beginning to suggest autumn. The restaurant is in Grayton Beach, just on the other side of the dunes. It occupies a street corner wooden structure, and has two stories.
The ground floor is divided into an open-front counter tapas bar and the main bar, which has elevated tables and seating. Upstairs is a more conventional dining room, with two- and four-tops, plus a little dining alcove. The furnishing is casual and beachy, with wood, glass and metal, painted and unpainted. The upstairs dining room is well ventilated, and the staff can adjust windows and shutters to temper any unfriendly weather.
The menu is the same all day, and it’s possible to snack or chow down as the spirit moves you. There are appetizers, a salad, sandwiches, rice bowls, fried baskets, a “chill bar,” and a kids menu. Our server Bobbie took drink orders and left us to make up our minds.
We were all hungry, so we decided to give the menu a good run. My five-year-old daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner) found the dining room somehow very stimulating, and had trouble staying seated. Fortunately the place is casual, and nobody minded the two of us straying onto the porch to get a view of the Grayton scene. A strawberry lemonade lured her (and me) back to the table, where my wife had already made up her mind.
We started off with grouper frituras, two-bite chunks of fried grouper with aioli and tomato-cucumber salsa. TD isn’t much on apps, but she helped out this time. The tender and succulent fish was lightly breaded with rice flour, giving it an extra crunch.
Other starters were albondigas, ground beef meatballs in a tomato rioja sauce, topped with shredded Manchego and green onion; and shrimp crujidos, sourdough toast topped with roasted red pepper hummus, blackened shrimp salad and mixed olive tapanede. The chill bar offers oysters on the half shell by the dozen or the half-dozen, roasted mahi escabeche with caperberries, pickled vegetables and lavash, and shrimp cocktail with a side of pineapple salsa. They all sounded great.
For the main course, TD chose a children’s meal of rice flour-fried shrimp with a fruit cup. My wife ordered a roasted pork butt sandwich with aioli, pineapple salsa, cilantro, arugula and tomato on toasted brioche bun. I ordered the Chiringo burger, two four-ounce patties with white cheddar, pepper jack, arugula, tomatoes, caramelized onions and a house-made “awesome sauce,” also on toasted brioche. Both of our main courses came with fries.
We had arrived early, but by the time the apps had come the place was filling up, with three families (one celebrating a birthday) and a number of kids. TD stared intently at them, a sure sign that she wanted to go over and introduce herself, but she’s a leisurely enough diner as it is. She ate half her meal (with our consent Bobby had brought TD’s food out right away) and was about to wiggle away when our food arrived. Bobbie may have been monitoring the situation.
It’s a good thing we were hungry. Both sandwiches were extra large—mine had height as well as breadth. The brioche buns were plump and buttery. The fries—shoestring style—were piled in a small haystack. I immediately cut my burger in two. There was no way I was going to finish it all at lunch. The twin patties were juicy and flavorful. The toppings—sweet onions, tangy cheese and just the right amount of the sauce (a blend of ketchup, worcestershire, spices, et. al.)—held it all together. Half was plenty. The fries just had to be finished.
My wife’s piled-up pork was melty and savory, and the pineapple salsa (with hot pepper) cut deftly through the richness. She finished her sandwich but took most of the fries home.
Other main course options are Chiringo mixed green salad (available with various proteins), grouper sandwich, rice bowls with roasted mojo pork, grouper, chicken or vegetables, and fried shrimp or chicken baskets.
Chiringo offers one dessert—Li’l Chubbys, vanilla ice cream sandwiches made with thick chocolate chip cookies. We asked for a single order, which turned out to be two sandwiches sitting on a mound of chocolate ganache. They’re a tricky cross between finger- and spoon-food. Very tasty, but I’d suggest you bring someone along to share. Like the name says, they’re Li’l, but Chubby.