MERIDEN — A new Puerto Rican takeout spot is preparing to open this month for to-go breakfast and lunch.
El Jibarito Takeout is replacing what was formerly the Lunch Box at 620 E. Main St. The Lunch Box closed sometime in 2019, Economic Development Director Joseph Feest said.
Since leasing the space Sept. 1, owners Chely Garces and Wilfredo Ribot have completely renovated it, including adding new appliances and a wall to separate the kitchen and the front ordering counter.
“Only the (range) hood remained,” Garces said. “Everything else is new, brand new.”
Before it can open, the space needs final permits, an inspection by the fire marshal and then final health department approval. Garces is hopeful it will only be a few more weeks.
The walls in the eatery are a new peach color with lime green accents. In the front of the store, framed photos show scenes of Yuaco, Puerto Rico, the home of Ribot’s family. The photos show the coffee making process from plant to ground beans, and Ribot’s mother working with plantains.
It was Ribot’s family’s involvement in the restaurant industry, both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland, that inspired him to get involved. He will be the full-time chef for El Jibarito Takeout.
“We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time, it just now came true,” Ribot said.
They plan to serve breakfast sandwiches and omelets, with classic Puerto Rican dishes for lunch, like yellow and white rice.
Ribot and Garces said they’d love to open a sit-down restaurant eventually, but for now are happy doing something quick with less investment, especially with the unknowns of the coronavirus still affecting restaurants.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with this COVID-19 so we wanted to do something where people can come and go, we can offer delivery and keep the sales running,” Garces said.
Garces said they’ve already had a positive response from the community, from social media to people stopping in almost every day, eager to see if they’re open yet.
“It’s not just Puerto Rican (people) ... it’s like a lot of people in the neighborhood too,” she said. “Even though they don’t know how to call the place, they’re like ‘I can’t wait for you open.’”
El Jibarito Takeout will be open from around 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and available for delivery through GrubHub and DoorDash.
Feest said El Jibarito definitely seems to be a type of restaurant people are interested in, especially if they can deliver.
“It’s always a positive when you see a new restaurant opening, especially during a pandemic,” Feest said, adding that this is the best time for customers to support their favorite establishments.