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Cheba Hut Offers Kitschy Fare

Cheba Hut is at 6364 El Cajon Blvd.
Cheba Hut is at 6364 El Cajon Blvd.
Courtesy Photo

As sandwich shops come and go, there will always be gimmicks that each respective company will employ in order to attract customers to their all-too-familiar product. From Subway and Submarina, to Jersey Mike’s and Quizno’s, sandwiches have become a key component in the bustling world of fast food restaurants. And whether or not the mainstream is ready for this, there will soon be a new name added to the list of franchised sandwich shops that are infectiously spreading across America, and that name is Cheba Hut.

Founded in 1998 by young entrepreneur Scott Jennings, the original Cheba Hut was conveniently located near the campus of Arizona State University. With a specific audience in mind that included college students and people seeking out higher quality late-night food, Jennings set out to create a brand that would encompass just that. Cheba Hut offers a variety of “Toasted Subs” and yes, the “Toasted Subs” are always in ironic quotation marks (more on that below.)

The variety of sandwiches Cheba Hut has available is astounding, with 29 different combinations possible. Though it’s not the variety that sets them apart from the rest of the pack; it’s the clever marketing. All 29 of Cheba Huts’ sandwiches are named after various strains of cannabis, or some sort of related stoner lingo. For instance, if you wanted to order a barbecued roast beef sandwich, you’d order the “Chronic.” Or if you were in the mood for BLT, you’d be ordering the “Kush.” On my third trip to San Diego’s Cheba Hut location, I decided to try the sandwich listed as the “Kind.” It ended up being a combination of turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese and mushrooms, served on an 8-inch wheat roll.

They also offer several different types of bread: white, wheat and garlic “herb.” It seems that anything that may be misinterpreted as a double entendre is placed in quotation marks at Cheba Hut. The sandwiches come available in three sizes; a 4-inch portion is known as a “Nug” an 8-inch sandwich is called a “Pinner” and the footlong is, of course, the “Blunt.”

Yes, Cheba Hut has done what no other fast food restaurant has ever attempted to do, and that is to embrace a demographic of people who constantly have the munchies. And what better way to attract a clientele than to pander to them. The menu is a detailed list of counter culture terminology that any fan of Phish or 311 will surely find hilarious. I could list all the different sandwiches here, but that would certainly ruin one of the highlights of your first Cheba Hut experience; laughing at the sandwich names as you wait in line to order.

However, worth noting is that my favorite sandwich, in contrast to the higher-end sandwiches like the “AK-47,” which is a French Dip, or the “White Widow,” which is a grilled chicken ranch sandwich, was the “Schwag,” whose description includes bologna, chopped onions and cheddar cheese. Though even with just those elements, one can’t help but find it all strangely appealing, and can almost guarantee hungry visitors will find themselves, on a late night visit, ordering a “Schwag Blunt.”

The inside of Cheba Hut’s San Diego location is decorated less like a traditional restaurant and more like a giant dorm room with a built-in deli. Framed posters of the Dave Matthews Band and Sublime grace the walls, as do the mandatory images of Bob Marley and Pink Floyd. On the eastern wall of the dining area is a mural depicting two surfers sharing a joint before paddling out in the sunset of the Pacific Ocean. As expected, the restaurant soundtrack consists mainly of stoner anthems ranging from Sublime to Dave Matthews Band.

Even without the stoner innuendo, most sandwiches I enjoyed here stand out against the competition. Perhaps it’s their special “home grown” sauces that add an extra element of flavor, or the fact that Cheba Hut’s sandwiches are generally larger than most others, or just the kitsch value in coming here for the experience of ordering a “Pakalolo Blunt” with chips and a soda. With reasonable prices ranging from $3.50 to $8.00, there’s no reason to not tip the struggling college students working there … unless you yourself are a struggling college student. Speaking of, readers in the college area will be pleased that Cheba Hut offers a delivery service ($10 minimum.)

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: (619) 269-1111
  • Name: Cheba Hut
  • Address: 6364 El Cajon Blvd.