Whether you’re looking for fine dining, a place to watch the game, or local music and craft beer, Anastasia Boulevard is home to some great restaurants and delicious food. And now there’s a new kid on the block – Cheba Hut has proudly added its name to the Boulevard roster of excellence. The franchise was started in Tempe, Arizona just over twenty years ago, but Dustin and Monica Derickson along with their son Levi were the first to open a Cheba Hut east of the Mississippi. Already owners of a Dairy Queen in Indiana, Dustin says they were looking for a restaurant to open here in St. Augustine. “We ran across Cheba Hut,” he says, “and thought it was a great fit.”
Cheba Hut was started, it says, to showcase the harmony between flavorful food and the counterculture around which it themes its decor and menu. With an array of toasted subs, salads, munchies (like cereal bars, brownies, cookies, chips, and pretzel bites), on-tap Kool-Aid, cocktails, and local craft beer and wine, it’s the type of spot that you frequent for some unusual but ingenious combinations and a laid-back atmosphere. Overtly “anti-establishment,” the restaurant prides itself on homegrown food and a friendly staff. Their atmosphere has seemed to strike a chord with the locals and despite having only opened in October of last year, the Dericksons are already looking to Gainesville and Jacksonville for their next two franchise locations.
After a little refreshing Kool-Aid (offered in a number of electric colors with clever names), the first dish to our table was the White Widow. Served toasted, grilled chicken is covered in their signature ranch dressing and topped with mushrooms, bacon, and provolone cheese then garnished with some lettuce. One of the restaurant’s best sellers, it’s a substantial sandwich and doesn’t shy away from bold flavor.
Much like the Kali Mist, which introduces some heat into the equation. A roasted turkey sub, the sandwich is filled with fresh jalapeños, bacon, pepper jack cheese, and avocado then finished with chipotle mayo. Though not overwhelming to the point of overpowering the flavor, the variety of peppers adds an unrelenting kick to the sub that’s perfectly counteracted by the mild avocado and proteins.
There are also plenty of options for those of the vegetarian persuasion, like the Power Plant. A veritable garden of ingredients, the sub starts with guacamole and hummus then adds a little feta, some spring mix, onion, tomato, pickle, cucumber, sprouts, mushrooms, black olives, and house dressing. Packed with flavor and fresh veggies, even the carnivores in the audience wouldn’t notice the lack of meat.
And if you’re searching for something to share (or just to munch on), you can always turn to the Hummus Platter – both house and jalapeño hummus, cucumber, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and toasted garlic herb bread. If you’re in the mood to be a little more daring than hummus will allow, the Loaded Not’chos might be calling your name. Melted Cheddar Cheese, jalapeños, red onion, and black olives on a bed of Nacho Cheese Doritos with ranch drizzled on top, it’s one of those combinations that really is as good as you always dreamed it would be.
Unpretentious and loaded with flavor, it’s no wonder that the food at Cheba Hut has been so popular in its new neighborhood. Their welcome from the local diners has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Dustin. “The community loves our food and great customer service.” Well we can say that the community has good taste.