I learned about Cheba Hut while updating our late night food guide. Unfortunately, that has usually meant removing places that aren’t open anymore. So I got pretty excited to learn that not only was there a new place, but it has really great reviews so far too. That immediately qualified it for our next Spotlight Series.
I had to double-check this, but this is the first restaurant that has been part of our Spotlight Series. So before we get to the interview, let me tell you about the place. It has all the psychedelic decorations and movie posters you might expect from a marijuana-themed restaurant. We’ll talk about it more later, but don’t let that throw you. There wasn’t anyone smoking or anything like that anywhere in the restaurant.
I’m pretty paranoid about COVID, but everyone is wearing masks and they have a full, open-air bar that means way more circulation than your average restaurant. I felt plenty safe.
They actually have a huge menu. I ended up getting the AK47, their take on a French Dip. I suppose part of it might have been because I’ve fallen into a bit of a food rut during quarantine, but I made an audible MMMM noise when I bit into this thing. And despite all my finicky food impulses on Joe’s recommendation, I got the Island Sweet Skunk. Even describing it sounds weird to me. Cream cheese, jalapenos, and strawberry jelly….but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t taste friggin delicious and I wished I had gotten a bigger one. The bottom line is the sandwiches were really good.
Not only was the food good, the owner, Joe DeMaioribus, but was also a really nice guy. Take a few minutes to learn about him, opening a restaurant during a pandemic, what they are already doing to help the community and how you can help too.
EAA: Thanks for taking some time, Joe. So how did you end up in the marijuana-themed sandwich shop business?
Joe: I was working at Jersey Mikes and pretty quickly moved up from the staff to GM to Assistant Operator
EAA: So you’ve been in the sandwich business for a while now?
Joe: Yeah. About a year and a half ago I started looking for options. I really connected with Cheba Hut’s attitude and philosophy. And it fits in really well with Austin. It just really made a whole lot of sense.
EAA: What do you say to the people who might be a little squeamish at the idea of going to a marijuana-themed restaurant?
Joe: I’d say it’s not just for stoners. When Cheba Hut started in Arizona it was really more about being counter-culture, and individuality, and self-expression. People aren’t lighting up in the corner or anything. Come give us a try.
EAA: What’s it like opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic?
Joe: It’s pretty scary. And it feels weird to say this, but there have been some bright spots. As I said, I’ve been in the restaurant business for a while and this is absolutely the best staff I’ve ever worked with. They’re so amazing, it’s obvious that they’re amazing even after only being open a few weeks. It’s making this whole situation a whole lot better.
EAA: What’s next?
Joe: Getting ready for the fall. We don’t have the details all worked out yet, but we are planning to have some sort of video game tournament. We want to have some entry fees and then have those go to charity.
EAA: Very cool. And didn’t you say you were already donating food places?
Joe: Yeah. We’ve already sent food to a lot of local businesses and hospitals. Just trying to help out people on the front lines in all this.
EAA: What would you tell people thinking about coming to Austin?
Joe: It’s a good and a bad thing for me, but there is no bad food here. There is something worth eating everywhere I go. It’s also so much greener than many people think. When people think of Texas, they think deserts and tumbleweeds. They don’t think about the Greenbelt. It’s amazing how easy it is to get to nature in this town.
I encourage everyone to go check out Cheba Hut for themselves at 3016 Guadalupe. They have 10% discounts for Service Industry personnel every night from 10 till close.
Do you have a local business or know of one that should be a part of our Spotlight Series? Write us and let us know.