Tommy Wiggins was on a business trip when he walked into the Fort Collins, Colorado, location of the cannabis-themed restaurant Cheba Hut circa 2003. He returned to Louisiana and told his wife, Meredith, about the restaurant’s unique concept, friendly service and mouthwatering sub sandwiches.
The then-early-20s couple did some research on the company but discovered it was not franchising. They shelved the idea of bringing the restaurant here.
“Everything fell into place,” Meredith says. That’s the couple’s general outlook on life. They say they’re positive people because every challenge they’ve faced, from the house fire to COVID-19-related business setbacks, has created better opportunities.
And just like its owners, there’s more to Cheba Hut than meets the eye. The Louisiana “joint” makes its premise evident from the moment you walk through the door: hemp leaf-shaped decor, a drink machine sign reading “cotton mouth cures,” paintings featuring characters like a bird smoking a blunt and a blazed-looking tiger (with puffy purple eyes, of course). The funky atmosphere is amplified through neon artwork and a sticker wall by the counter where customers can add their own personal touches.
Menu items are affectionately dubbed after strains of marijuana, like the “Jamaican Red” buffalo chicken sub, the “Sensi Kush” BLT and the “A-train” mushroom marinara. There’s also an array of “munchies,” to choose from, such as pretzel nuggets, garlic bread, loaded “not’chos” and French onion soup.
With everything from the decor to the menu items’ names centered around what is still an illegal recreational substance in the Pelican State, Meredith and Tommy know that’s where some of customers’ initial fascination will come from. However, they look forward to subverting expectations with high-quality food.
“You can’t B.S. people about food in Louisiana,” Meredith says. Before meeting with executives about potential franchise opportunities, she insisted on having a sub at the original Colorado Cheba Hut that her husband dined at 20 years ago. She remembers asking her husband what they would do if it wasn’t as good as he remembered, to which he responded: “We would get on the plane and go home.”
The couple had some initial hesitations about bringing the Cheba Hut concept to a non-legal state, but Meredith says they asked around town, heard positive feedback and ultimately decided this was “something Baton Rouge is ready for.”
Indeed, for nearly two decades Mellow Mushroom sat just down Burbank Drive from the new Cheba Hut location. The pizza restaurant popular with LSU students played off a similar theme of stoner culture until closing in 2019.
Tommy says the work atmosphere at Cheba Hut is designed for “stoner professionals, not professional stoners,” and crafting savory sandwiches while maintaining high standards of cleanliness are top priorities.
“We have to exceed those expectations because people are going to think we’re a bunch of potheads who sit around and smoke and make sloppy sandwiches,” Tommy says.
The restaurant will begin welcoming guests to its indoor dining area and full-service bar along with its outdoor bar and dining areas beginning Sunday, Aug. 8, with a grand opening slated for Monday, Aug. 9.
Cheba Hut is at 411 Ben Hur Road, Suite A, in the same shopping center as Rotolo’s Pizza.