Word of Mouth

Chubby's makes the New York Times, thanks to Gustavo Arellano

From northwest Denver, with love. Chubby's has made the New York Times -- and not surprisingly, it's thanks to Gustavo Arellano, author of the weekly column Ask a Mexican as well as the new book Taco USA. In that scholarly tome, which traces the rise of Mexican food in the United States, Arellano calls the Mexican hamburger at Chubby's "the dish that best personifies the Mexican-American experience, a monument to mestizaje."

The Mexican hamburger got its start at Joe's Buffet in the late '60s, but reached its pinnacle of perfection in the hands of the late Stella Cordova, who took over the original Chubby Burger Drive-In at about the same time.

In "Mexican Food North of the Border," published today by the Times, Arellano dishes up a satisfying serving of facts and figures. But it's the fact that he'll eat just about anything -- including a Mexican hamburger at the original Chubby's -- that makes his research so convincing. Notes the Times:

Mr. Arellano is far from a Mexican-food purist. ("You would have to go back to before the Spanish conquest: no carnitas, no cheese, no beef, no thank you.") Some of his favorite Mexican-American foods are the Sonora dogs found in Arizona, bacon-wrapped hot dogs stuffed into soft bolillo rolls with salsa, pinto beans and mustard; the breakfast burritos stuffed with Tater Tots served at a chain called Taco John's that he tried in Brookings, S.D.; and the Mexican hamburger at Chubby's in Denver, a hamburger patty pressed into a burrito with beans and crisp pork rinds, then drowned with green chile sauce, which he anoints the single greatest Mexican dish in the United States. That burger/burrito mashup is, he says, "the dish that best personifies the Mexican-American experience, a monument to mestizaje."

And it doesn't get much better than that. Or a Mexican hamburger at Chubby's. Accept no substitutes.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun