- Alex Springer
Anyone taking serious stock of Utah County's food scene will eventually arrive at Chubby's (multiple locations, chubbyscafeut.com). It's a just-slower-than-fast food burger joint that has been slowly taking Utah's smaller cities by storm; Chubby's currently operates locations in Pleasant Grove, Saratoga Springs, Vineyard and Tooele, with another location set to open in Payson sometime this year. With its "all-American food" vibe and homage to classic burger joints of a bygone age, its presence in more rural areas of Utah makes perfect sense. When your only competition is the same fast food burgers available anywhere in the state, all you have to do is make better food, and you've got it made.
Chubby's is an old-school burger joint packaged in new-school digs. Its Southern inspiration adds some layers of nuance to the restaurant's menu, which successfully sets it apart from other local burger slingers. In addition to a wide range of burgers, diners can get fresh, golden brown scones ($2.99) dusted with powdered sugar and served with honey butter, along with sides like mac and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw and hush puppies. Though it's hard to stray from Chubby's near-perfect beer battered fries, I appreciate the fact that I can mix up the sides that I'd like to try with a gourmet burger.
The Southern influence doesn't end with the sides, however. Chubby's offers blimp-like po' boys ($7.39) overflowing with crispy fried shrimp and Cajun remoulade, tender pulled pork ($5.99) sandwiches, and cool, creamy banana pudding ($3.29) for dessert. These Southern staples are great when the soul food craving hits, but Chubby's will always be a burger place at heart. If you're a fan of larger-than-average hamburgers with cool shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, lots of sauce and toasted buns, Chubby's has something for you.
I started with a guacamole burger ($7.29) based on a friend's recommendation, and was not disappointed. In addition to the smooth, creamy guac, this burger has bacon and pepper jack cheese, along with a sizeable dollop of mayo. Avocado of any variety tends to go very well with a burger, but guacamole is always a bit of a crapshoot—more often than not, burger guac tends to drown out the flavor of avocado—but Chubby's hits the right balance. Even with the mayo, this burger stays true to the source material of its guacamole for a burger that gets gooey right when it needs to. Adding a slice of melty pepper jack cheese and salty bacon help cut through the creamier notes for precisely what one wants when the guacamole burger craving strikes.
For something a little less subtle with its flavors, the pastrami burger ($6.99) is the way to go. It's true enough to the pastrami burger formula that has made it a Utah favorite, but Chubby's adds some small flourishes that make their version unique. In addition to thick, black-pepper-coated pastrami, they add a tasty pile of grilled onions, Swiss cheese and pickles to the mix. These unconventional party crashers successfully bridge the gap between a hamburger and a Reuben, which may qualify them for the Nobel Prize—I'll have to double check, though.
While burgers are the stars at Chubby's, they still treat their chicken sandwiches with a lot of love. The grilled chicken mushroom bacon swiss ($6.99) combines a stellar list of grill-friendly ingredients that can't really go wrong. Chubby's takes the time to make sure their grilled chicken doesn't dry out, and it's well-seasoned before it hits the bun. The Southern crispy chicken ($6.79)—with its gooey pepper jack, smoky barbecue sauce, tangy coleslaw and crunchy pickles—is another bold entry in the menu's chicken section. I'll also always be a sucker for a Malibu chicken sandwich ($6.79); Swiss, ham and honey mustard atop a tasty piece of chicken is one of my love languages.
Like most burger joints worth their grease, Chubby's is also home to a wide range of frozen desserts that pair particularly well with one of their signature burgers or sandwiches. Their premium shakes ($3.99) come in flavors like peach cobbler, banana cream and coconut cream pie, which diffuse classic Southern desserts into thick milkshakes—again, I believe, qualifying them for international accolades. Plus, they offer Oreo and banana puddings ($3.29) in parfait cups layered with pudding, whipped cream and crumbly cookies.
While I'd be glad to have a Chubby's a bit closer than Saratoga Springs, the fact that it sticks to the fringes of Utah's metropolitan areas adds to its appeal. It's entrenched in the nostalgia of carhop burger joints braided into the foundation of American food culture, which draws its power from small-town charm. If you happen to be in Utah County or Tooele, and find yourself craving a plethora of finely-tuned burgers, track down a Chubby's and dig right in.