Tacos come (close) to Trinity Park

I was super excited to learn that Trinity Park was getting a locally-owned, nonfancy taqueria within walking distance. Chubby’s (748 Ninth Street) is where Xiloa used to be, and I think that it does a great job of filling in the Trinity Park taco gap. Service was fast, the food was good, and I’ll definitely be walking there a lot when I get back next fall.
An initial word on atmosphere: Chubby’s seems to be catering to the student clientele from nearby East Campus, toeing the line between generic corporate Mexican and the local shops on Roxboro, but with a hippie twist. The plastic containers are made of corn, the flatware is made of potatoes, and then there is a tofu taco with mixed veggies. (I didn’t try it—sorry).
In addition to offering the usual options that one can find at other local taquerias such as barbacoa, pastor, and asada, Chubby’s has seafood (grilled tilapia, ahi tuna, and grilled shrimp) and some vegetarian tacos (rice and bean, no lard, the aforementioned tofu taco). My tacos were pretty good. The tacos al pastor were less greasy than others I’ve had in the area, but I could not find any pineapple in them. The tilapia taco was very flavorful and the chipotle cream sauce on it added a pleasant richness. (Warning: I haven’t had many fish tacos, so all I can say is that I enjoyed them, but I don’t know how they compare to the kind you get on the West coast.) My only complaint is that each taco only came with one tortilla, so they were falling apart by the time I got them home to eat.

Chubby’s doesn’t have a salsa bar, but they have a wide variety of housemade salsas in condiment bottles lined up next to the kitchen. I tried and liked them all, and my favorites were the chile de arbol, with a creamy texture, and a guacamole-based green salsa.

Juice lovers will be pleased to learn that they offer a few juice options—today’s selections were horchata and sandia (watermelon). I don’t drink juice, but the lady in front of me sampled the sandia and thought it was good enough to order despite being on some kind of no-sugar diet.

A taco al pastor will cost you $2, a tilapia taco is $3, and the top-of-the-line extra special seafood tacos are $4. I didn’t try the gorditas, tortas, burritos, or any of the various desserts they offer, but will report back when I do. Also, soon they’ll be expanding the menu with breakfasts including huevos rancheros, migas, Mexican pastries, and breakfast burritos. PLUS, they’re applying for a liquor license so that they can serve margaritas and beer. (And you all know how we feel about that!)

Published in: on May 6, 2008 at 1:25 pm  Comments (21)  


  1. Wow — thanks for the report! The menu looks great and I look forward to trying the veggie and fish tacos and of course the many salsas. The prices seem a little higher than what I think of for tacos of any sort. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re selling out of a store with a roof, tables, chairs, and a bathroom — instead of out of a truck in a parking lot.

    BTW: while you’re entirely correct that Chubby’s is within walking distance of Trinity Park, Ninth St. is actually in the Old West Durham neighborhood. I thought I’d mention this out loud before anyone started yelling 🙂

  2. Oh, thanks for pointing this out. I like the alliteration in the title and will thus leave it alone (unless my cobloggers make me change it), but I stand corrected.

    As for the prices, I agree that they are a little high, but attribute them to the location, the “green” containers, the fact that they are probably targeting students, and the seafood, which is naturally going to be a more expensive ingredient.


  3. OMG finally, I was about to hit withdrawal without a new CD post! lol 😉
    hope exams went well…

    so essentially…this place falls in line with Cosmic cantina at the end of the block? Lets be honest here…not SO authentic, but good enough?

    *still do love my $2 Old School at the cantina on hungover late weekend mornings

    weird, i never thought of Ninth st as trinity park…more Old west…hmm

  4. OK, the title has been modified to avoid confusion regarding the neighborhoods.

    Chubby’s falls somewhere between Cosmic and the Roxboro taquerias/taco trucks in terms of “authenticity,” or at least what my gringoized palate would consider authentic. Their salsas are way more interesting than plain old pico de gallo, for example, but they don’t offer tripa or cabeza (and do offer taco salads and fried ice cream).

    Bottom line: on the GNR authenticity spectrum, it probably falls closer to taco trucks than to Cosmic.

  5. Thanks for the detailed review. Sounds delicious. We WILL be walking there : )

  6. im glad they took my “migas” recommendation to heart!

  7. i think i may have been their first customer on monday. i ordered one barbacoa taco, one carnitas taco, and one gordita al pastor.

    i thought the barbacoa was especially tasty, but it definitely wasn’t like any other barbacoa i had. it had a sweet, smoky sauce that actually reminded me of BBQ brisket. the carnitas was decent, but i’d be more interested in trying tilapia, grilled shrimp, or ahi tuna next time. i wasn’t totally sold on the pastor, to be honest. it just wasn’t bursting with flavor, but i’m willing to give it another shot. the gordita shell was topped with plenty of queso fresco, which was a plus. overall i enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere very much and will be returning.

    i’d like to see if their “big burritos” live up to their moniker.

  8. service was excellent, as was the salsa — i agree, chile de arbol was my fave. sorry, this is my last post!

  9. Yeah, I thought the pastor could be better. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t special.

    Thanks for your comments!


  10. went again today. i concur – tilapia taco was excellent! the carne asada burrito was plenty filling, as well. another solid meal. not to mention that jody (sp?), one of the owners, is very friendly and super enthused about his new venture. i’ve gotten a chance to chat with him each time i’ve visited; he’s a huge fan of mexican food and comes across as totally dedicated to the quality of chubby’s offerings. it’s nice to know that he’s every bit as “militant” as the other Durham taco fiends, which shows in chubby’s still-expanding menu.

    the upcoming breakfast menu seems very promising.

  11. did someone say “breakfast!?” oh weee!

  12. some thoughts:

    1) the pasilla salsa is fantastic. they also pack it in tight enough so it squirts all over your shirt, which is entertaining.

    2) the “big burrito” isn’t that big, sadly, but it’s good.

    3) the queso dip is awesome

  13. Eh. I wasn’t too impressed. My barbacoa torta was on the bland side, though the various salsas improved it.

    The queso is, well, queso.

    I agree with MP about the pasilla salsa. It’s very good, but having it in a squirt bottle and providing tiny little paper cups is really insufficient.

    I’m also not a huge fan of the gimmicky potato cutlery. It’s a clear appeal to the 9th St “we’re saving the world by eating with recyclable cutlery” crowd. In fact, it’s just a cost-saving measure with little real environmental impact.

    I’ll go to the taco trucks and/or real tacquerias most of the time, unless I just want a quick bite to eat when I’m hanging out on 9th. La Vaquita is my first choice these days.

    Having said all that, I’ll try their breakfast when they start it.

  14. I went there for dinner just now. I have to say I give it a hearty “meh”.

    The grilled shrimp taco was delicious but it was TINY and $4. The ahi tuna taco was likewise tiny and $4, and was way overcooked.

    The beans were very flavorful – probably the best I’ve had in recent memory. And all of the salsas that I tried were good to very good. I also had the exploding-salsa-bottle issue, which they’ve been trying to work on.

    In any case, paying over $10 for not much food (although they were generous with the chips) was too overpriced for the quality. If they brought the prices down or increased the sizes, that might be better. I’d get 2 of the grilled shrimp tacos for $6.

  15. IMHO, Ninth Street is Ninth Street…not really part of a neighborhood. I dunno anyone around here who’d say “Oh you’re going to Ninth Street? Is that the strip of shops in Old West?” Rather they’d reference Old West as being near Ninth Street. That doesn’t matter.

    Tofu tacos are good, well seasoned and included brocolli. It’s nice when vegetarian means a dish has vegetables, not just beans, rice and cheese. Plus they’re cheap ($2). A veggie can walk out of there waddling for less than $10 for sure. Not as cheap as cosmic, but hey, I think there is room for two cheap latin bites in my diet.

    The relleno taco is OK,, but really it’s just a relleno in a tortilla. Still, having dealt with making rellenos at home, I’ll gladly pay someone else $4 to make one for me with all the roasting, egg batter and frying. I’d go to Azteca if I wanted a good one, but I think the watchword here is convenience.

    The salsas are smashing as well. Particularly liked the Chile de Arbol.

    Did anybody else notice the “Chubby Lover” T-shirts? I think that’ll be funny until I see a legion of undergrads in them. Oh, well, I’ll enjoy the summer of it.

  16. My kids and I really enjoyed our meal last night. The different sauces are very good. The owner is a nice guy, dedicated to his craft.

    By the way, Old West Durham stretches from Broad Street, across Ninth Street to Hillandale Road — and from the Durham Freeway, north to Englewood Avenue.

    Here are some old pics of Ninth Street on the neighborhood website… http://www.owdna.org/History/history1a.htm

  17. […] that close to Toast, just go to Toast, and if you actually want some Mexican food go to Chubby’s or Taqueria La Vaquita or Super Taqueria or […]

  18. […] it was. Two dollars bought you a fabulous taco from Chubby’s Tacos, which has received rave reviews in the Durham food blog world. Then there were the fabulous beer-fried jalepenos with cheese sauce, […]

  19. I really like this place I went yesterday with some friends and liked it so much I went back today.

    The salsa is now in big containers you ladle from so I guess no more shirt squirting. I got the carne asada gordita which was fantastic, and then an al pastor taco which was good but not as good as the tacos I had last night (barbacoa and carnitas)

  20. […] in the interior corner of Lake Boone Shopping Center.  read more of her article, or read review 1, review 2, menu (.pdf) […]

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