Smother love: Happy 100th, Stella Cordova

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Back in 1967, Stella Cordova was working as a cook at Chubby Burger Drive-In at 1231 West 38th Avenue when its owner, Bill Gray, asked if she wanted to buy the place. Even though she had a big family and little money, she took him up on his offer, paying on the installment plan.

Today, more than forty years later, this Chubby's is still going strong -- and so is Cordova, who turns 100 today. She still goes to the restaurant almost every day, to make sure all the Mexican dishes she added to the original menu are up to her exacting standards, to chat with the regulars and to generally oversee her empire.

That empire now extends to dozens of grandchildrenand great-grandchildren, and several more-or-less related Chubby's outlets that different relatives have started over the years. Grandson Danny Cordova has day-to-day responsibility for the 38th Avenue outpost

The Chubby's line gets complicated, as we reported in our November 2007 cover story, "Smothered." But the reasons for success of Chubby's are very simple: Cordova's very, very hot green chile (best sampled on the chile fries), and Cordova herself.

Like her restaurant, she's a Denver institution. Happy 100th, Stella.

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