South Broadway got a bit stranger this week. At Chubby Cattle, which opened Tuesday in the former Walnut Room, an automated train carries hot plates such as fried rice and dumplings from the kitchen, while a refrigerated conveyor belt moves cold ingredients such as raw wagyu, live geoduck, and cuttlefish balls around the dining room. Customers order on an iPad, they are notified of their exact wait times, and then they cook the ingredients themselves to create hot pot. A server comes to check on things and there are cooks in the kitchen, but otherwise this is not your familiar restaurant.
“We’re taking the oldest tradition of cuisine and mixing it with latest technology,” says David Zhao who handles marketing for the Las Vegas-based business. Chubby Cattle opened a year and a half ago in Vegas with its tubular refrigerated transport, and now in Denver it’s introduced heated train delivery referred to as the “Chubby Cattle Express.” Streamlining as they go, Zhao and the team plan to expand to 10 locations; Denver is the first stop, followed by Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Chicago. And they have big ideas for the future of the “automated restaurant brand,” meaning, eventually, another national chain where robots work in the kitchen.
Chubby Cattle is just version 1.0, Zhao says. But customers will likely still have some adjusting to do with the concept, which is sort of a robot love child of the systems at Birdcall and Sushi-Rama already in Denver. On the menu are more familiar pork, shrimp, and fish dumplings; Mongolian beef and lamb pies; and six hot pot soup bases with myriad meat, seafood, vegetable, noodles, mushrooms, and tofu add-ins.