Earlier this week, one of Charlottesville’s hottest restaurants was burning the midnight oil ahead of its move to a newer and larger space in time for a Thursday reopening.
Guajiros Miami Eatery has moved down the street from its current location at 817 W. Main St. to 114 10th St. NW in the Tenth Street Warehouses development.
The owners of the popular breakfast and lunch spot said they were working around the clock to open for breakfast at 8 a.m. Thursday: spending Monday moving equipment down West Main Street, Tuesday with an inspector from the Health Department and Wednesday putting the final touches on the new space.
“We’re working very hard to set everything up,” Harvey Mayorga Jr., who runs Guajiros with his brothers, told The Daily Progress.
Guajiros first moved to West Main in the fall of 2020 after it outgrew a smaller space in the Woodbrook Shopping Center off U.S. 29 north of the city. The Woodbrook real estate was a third of the size of the 3,200-square-foot West Main location and simply wasn’t able to accommodate the demand for Guajiros’ blend of Cuban, Venezuelan, Colombian and Nicaraguan flavors.
Going on four years later, Guajiros found itself in a similar position on West Main.
“We outgrew the place,” said Mayorga. “We’re very blessed that on weekends it’s about a 45 minute to an hour wait.”
The new space at Tenth Street Warehouses totals 4,155 square feet, not including a 600-square-foot patio, allowing Guajiros to nearly double its seating capacity to 149. It also includes a full-service bar.
A little more than five years ago when Guajiros opened at Woodbrook Shopping Center, the growth of the business and the expansion of the restaurant was unimaginable, Mayorga said.
“This was not planned at all,” he said. “For the sake of doing something good, we had to grow.”
Guajiros’ new real estate on 10th Street has sat vacant for nearly a year, but its former tenant was popular among the Charlottesville brunch crowd. Peloton Station, what was billed as a "cycle-centric tavern and bike kitchen," closed at the end of 2022, saying "the business will not support a second lease."
Guajiros’ quick turnaround between West Main and 10th Street has been so important to the Mayorga brothers because, they said, they want to keep their customers happy (by getting food in their mouths) and their employees happy (by keeping their days without work to a minimum).
And it has been a quick turnaround, given Guajiros is planning some changes for the new space.
Previously closed on Wednesdays, Guajiros will now be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week. In addition to adding a workday to the week, the Mayorgas are also adding a new night shift. Sometime in early to mid-February, Guajiros will reopen after lunch service from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday for cocktails and a selection of small bites.
Inspired by a business trip to Mexico with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Mayorga said he wants to bring some of that country’s late-night flavors and fun to Guajiros. It will also give the cooks more room to experiment with the restaurant’s menu items, he said. Mayorga said he already has some experiments in mind, including a birria ramen.
No matter what changes come, Mayorga said he and his brothers are dedicated to keeping Guajiros both elevated and accessible.
“At the end of the day, we have one goal: to provide white-glove service at a place you can walk in wearing flip-flops,” Mayorga said. “We want to give people an experience like they’re stepping into our living room, like they’re coming home.”
Since opening at Woodbrook Shopping Center in 2019, Guajiros has been a family affair. Danilo Mayorga runs the front of house, Harvey Mayorga Jr. the bar and business accounts and Sebastian Mayorga the kitchen, cooking recipes out of their mother’s kitchen. Father Harvey Mayorga Sr., who owned a bar, club and band in his home country of Nicaragua, is the restaurant’s bookkeeper. Even their grandmother will stop by from time to time to make sure the beans are being cooked properly.
While Guajiros’ menu is inspired by Cuban, Venezuelan, Colombian and Nicaraguan dishes, the inspiration for the restaurant itself is closer to home: the ventanitas of Miami. A ventanita, Spanish for “little window,” is a small counter-service coffee shop. Ventanitas can be found serving up cortaditos, croquetas, pastelitos and cafecitos throughout Miami, but are most concentrated in Little Havana and Calle Ocho.
“There’s no social class at the ventanita,” Mayorga Jr. said. “A janitor can share a coffee with a lawyer from Miami Beach. They don’t know each other’s last names or what they do, but they share a coffee together at the same time and place each morning.”
When he and his brothers first had the idea to bring the idea of a ventanita serving huevos rancheros, tostones rellenos and pan con lechon to Charlottesville, they never had any idea a restaurant so firmly rooted in Latin American cuisine would thrive in a city where only 6% of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
Mayorga Jr. jokingly blames his wife for the business’ success and expansion. He said he was satisfied at Woodbrook Shopping Center until his wife spotted the West Main location was up for lease four years ago while she was commuting to her job at the University of Virginia. He was reluctant to expand the restaurant, but she kept insisting.
“Go big or go home,” he said with a laugh.
Go big they did.
There was no grand opening planned for Thursday.
“We’re just going to open our doors,” Mayorga Jr. said.
The commercial space Guajiros is vacating on West Main will remain empty for now, according to Katherine Hurt, property manager with Capital Real Estate which owns the building. Hurt said the company is open to a variety of businesses taking over Guajiros’ old space, though it is currently set up to host a restaurant with two kitchens.