Capitol Hill seems like the perfect spot for the pot-themed sandwich shop Cheba Hut, which boasts a menu riddled with Thai Stick, Pacalolo and Kali Mist. Those are sandwich names, of course, although founder Scott Jennings says that since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, folks often mistake his eateries for dispensaries. Once open — Jennings is shooting for April 11 — the Colfax Avenue shop, located in the former Capitol Hill Market building, will be the sixteenth in the group.
Cheba Hut got its start in Arizona in 1998, when Jennings opened his first sandwich shop as a counterculture alternative to the big fast-food chains. "It was kind of risque back then, especially in Arizona," explains Jennings. "But I've always liked to poke people. It's kind of like an F.U. to the man.
"But we're foodies at heart," he continues. "If the sandwiches weren't great, we never would have made it." That menu of sandwiches covers more than twenty different combinations on Cheba Hut's proprietary bread, which Jennings says is the foundation of what makes the food great. There are also salads and plenty of munchie-driven snacks, from rice crispy treats to pretzel nuggets to "not'chos" — nachos constructed on a bed of Nacho Cheese Doritos.
And each store develops one or two house-special sandwiches on their own as part of the culture that Jennings encourages, making sure that every location has its own identity. "The only thing we want to be consistent is the eating experience. It's hard to do in today's cookie cutter world," he notes. "But if the guys aren't happy on the line, we aren't doing the right thing."
Taking over and rebuilding the Capitol Hill Market had its challenges. "It was an old convenience store," says Jennings. "And I mean old. So we ran into a few issues." And although a target date has been set, gas, electricity and final inspections could move that date back. But the liquor license has been taken care of, so Cheba Hut will be ready to serve a full bar once open. The 2,200 square-foot space will also have a 700 square-foot patio.
Festivities planned for the grand opening include live music from local musicians and ranch-dressing chugging (with house-made dressing, of course). "Once we lock down the date, we'll cook up some other stunts too," Jennings adds.
The Cheba Hut empire currently includes locations in Arizona, Colorado, California, Oregon, New Mexico and a single store in Wisconsin, all with the same brand of marijuana humor woven through the menu and theme, because, as Jennings proudly states, "we can call a sandwich whatever we want in this country."
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.