The Original Chubby's never had to call itself "the original" until other Chubby's locations began popping up around town, some which even called themselves the Original Chubby's. But there's only one original, and that's the Chubby's at 1231 West 38th Avenue, which Stella Cordova purchased in 1967; it's been run by Stella's grandson, Danny, since she passed away at the age of 100 several years ago. But even the original is no longer what it used to be: This weekend the burrito and burger joint moved into a spacious new building directly behind its first home, which will soon be demolished to make way for parking.
Although the sign outside includes the words "Burger Drive-Inn," the Cordova family hasn't added a drive-up window. The name is actually a nod to Chubby's early history as a burger shop; Stella Cordova worked there before she bought the business and added Mexican food — like the signature atomic-orange green chile that has helped many Denverites stave off hangovers over the decades.
The new building, complete with actual tables and chairs inside, opened over the weekend to lines out the door. Even at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon during a Broncos game (when these photos were taken), there was a line at the counter. Otherwise, not much has changed except for two new self-serve soda dispensers.
There's plenty of space for the late-night crowd, which will no longer have to jostle for elbow room while waiting for chile-cheese fries and Mexican hamburgers. And no more wolfing your Chubby's order in your car or attempting to down a burrito while walking home: That's what change and progress brings. But with that change comes a slightly less gritty, less unique Chubby's that will have to build its own character and mythology to match the original's fifty years of Denver fast-food history.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.