Cafe Society

Original sin: A Chubby's is coming to Santa Fe -- but is it the right Chubby's?

Look closely at that sign in the shadows. Looks like an Original Chubby's is going into the former home of Mercedes Mexican Restaurant at 1385 Santa Fe Drive, doesn't it?

Julian Cordova, the same person who owns the Original Chubby's at 8330 Washington Street in Thornton, is opening this new place, too. But neither are an original Original Chubby's -- unless you're going by files at the Colorado Secretary of State's office, where Julian Cordova has registered the names "Original Chubby's," "Original Chubbys Mexican Food" and "Chubbys." See also: -Smothered: The saga of the Chubby's empire - How four different Chubby's restaurants stack up. --Homegrown Mercedes Mexican Restaurant chain closes several restaurants --Chubby's makes the New York Times, thanks to Gustavo Arellano

Still, there is only one original Original Chubby's. It's located at 1231 West 38th Avenue, in the spot where Stella Cordova noticed a "Cook Wanted" sign at the Chubby Burger Drive Inn in 1967. At the age of 59, she got the job and started the next day -- earning 85 cents an hour, according to the Chubby's website.

Within two years, she'd bought the place -- keeping the name, but changing the menu to include her incredible green chile. And Stella continued working at the Original Chubby's until she turned a hundred. She passed away soon after, in June 2009, but her restaurant -- and her chile recipe -- live on. Today her grandson, Danny Cordova, runs the one and only Original Chubby's.

Julian Cordova is a grandson of Stella's, too, and five years ago she told us she'd "allowed" him to open a Chubby's -- unlike some of the other former friends and relatives who just went ahead and opened their own variation on Chubby's.

But Danny Cordova insists that the original Original Chubby's on West 38th Avenue remains the only true Chubby's.

And so does its website. "There have been many imposters over the years," it warns, "but there is only one original - Grandma's, The Original Chubby's."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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