6364 El Cajon Boulevard, Rolando
If I didn’t already know the word cheba is slang for marijuana, I figured it out soon after walking through Cheba Hut’s door. It might have been the colorful mural of a surfer smoking a joint that tipped me off, or the plastic cannabis plants used as décor. Most likely it was the giant, half-smoked, papier-mâché blunt hanging over the service counter, pronouncing the sandwich shop “home of the blunts.”
Pot-themed businesses are rarely known for subtlety, and Cheba Hut doesn’t disappoint. From the assortment of krispy treats on its Munchies menu to constant cribbing of stoner terminology, the southwestern “toasted subs” chain boasts a score of locations in multiple states, in places where the average clientele are likely to appreciate the shtick. Say, near a university, as with this College Area shop (there’s another in Pacific Beach).
Ever dubious, I scanned a lengthy menu of subs with hokey names such as Kush, Chronic, and Dank to discover they mostly translate to familiar hoagie fare: BLT, roast beef with BBQ sauce, Italian sub.
Chicken breast seems to be the hardest thing for sandwich shops to get right, so I sampled a pinner of Apollo 13, meaning I ordered an 8-inch Greek sub of chicken with olives and feta. I also grabbed a blunt (12-inch sub) of my go-to, California club: sliced turkey with bacon and avocado.
Each features a proprietary house sauce — Greek dressing and chipotle mayo, respectively — which I thought would be the key to these sandwiches. But it’s the bread. The toasted rolls were light and warm, with a crisp yet flaky crust.
As is usually the case with sandwich chains, the chicken breast had a generic, chewy, pre-cooked quality, but the Kalamata olives and aforementioned bread kept me happily devouring it regardless. What I could really dig into was the so-called Kali Mist club, wherein the turkey and bacon get a little jalapeño and pepper jack boost. Both sandwiches included pickle spears, tomatoes, and a lot of shredded lettuce. There’s not a whole lot of meat in there, and nothing special about any ingredients; the sandwich simply exceeds the sum of its parts.
I guess all the cannabis allusions amount to marketing, and it seems to work on the weed-initiated at least. As for everyone else, you don’t have to appreciate pot humor to enjoy the sandwiches, but a fiending hunger doesn’t hurt.