Statesboro’s newest restaurant, Chazito’s Latin Cuisine will open at 11 a.m. on Saturday at 441 South Main, between Three Tree Coffee and Big Boy Cookies.
They have a full day of grand opening celebrations planned, including roasting a whole hog in the parking lot, a tradition they will continue each second Saturday. Live entertainment throughout the day will include a steel drum band, an 11-person salsa band and “Eclectic Muse” a local favorite.
In addition to great Latin and Cuban food, they will have Mojito Bars open on both floors featuring more than 50 brands of rum from all over the world.
Owner Chaz Ortiz, grew up in Lancaster, Pa., which is near Philadelphia. He is very proud of his Puerto Rican heritage and that is on display in his transformation of the Statesboro restaurant. Chaz came to the Savannah area in 2005 to be closer to family and to attend Georgia Southern University majoring in logistics.
While attending GSU, he was offered his dream job with Gulfstream and traveled the world as an international warehouse specialist. He worked for Gulfstream for eight years before being bitten by the entrepreneurial/food truck bug.
“My wife and I started out in a tent on River Street sharing our food during special events,” Ortiz said. “The popularity of our food and its uniqueness was something people loved. One night after watching the movie ‘Chef,’ my wife encouraged me to get a food truck. I purchased an old Frito-Lay truck and my grandfather and I built my first truck in the driveway of my home.”
In 2013, Chaz left Gulfstream and began working full-time out of his food truck in the Savannah area. His business took off and his truck became popular at special events, weddings and around Savannah. In 2016, when his dad was laid off from his job, he took this opportunity to purchase a second food truck, which his dad operates.
With changes in Savannah in regards to food truck regulations that required all food trucks be operated out of a commissary kitchen as their base, Chaz purchased his first restaurant in Pooler.
“Our goal with that location, which is actually an old Tastee Freeze, was to simply use the kitchen for prep,” Ortiz said. “But people would see our trucks parked outside and would knock on the doors wanting us to serve them.
“We responded to their request and opened our first restaurant there. Because of its success, I began looking for other locations. I really wanted to get back to Statesboro and started working events here with the food truck. When our friends Jonny and Hannah Womack had their grand opening of Big Boy Cookies last year, we brought our truck down for it and killed it. We loved the location and knew this was where we needed to be. The building owner, Frank Parker, really worked hard to recruit us to Statesboro and ensure we have a successful opening.”
Chaz and his team have completely renovated the restaurant. The main dining room includes a pictorial timeline of the company’s history. The bar has the entire front of a food truck complete with working lights and the back of a food truck greets you when you enter. The ceiling has a map of Puerto Rico, highlighting where his family is from.
The expanded menu includes all the food truck favorites like the Cuban sandwich, which is their most popular seller, and Chaz’s personal favorite – The Loco Mofongo. The menu is diverse, the atmosphere is fun and inviting and the prices are going to please patrons.
Chaz’s mom, Maria Irizarry, retired from her job in Pennsylvania and has purchased a home in Statesboro. She will serve as the restaurant’s operations manager.
Chaz’s energy and love of people and great food is very welcoming.
“There is no way I would be back in Statesboro today and enjoying the success of my business if it were not for the tremendous support from my wife, dad, mom and grandfather,” Ortiz said. “Family is everything to me. I have been very blessed and grateful for the support of my family and friends.”
Chazito’s wants to be known for more than great food and service. Chaz wants it to be a fun place to hang out. Every Wednesday night they will host Music Bingo by The ROCK FM 106.1. Thursdays will feature “geek trivia,” the number one trivia game in the nation and Friday nights they will have acoustic music. Saturday brunch will include a bottomless mimosa option.
You can check out the full menu and learn more about Chazito’s history at www.chazitos.com They will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. They are closed Sundays.