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Denver’s Casa Bonita Restaurant Explained

Casa Bonita is a Mexican-themed restaurant in Lakewood, Colorado, a Denver suburb. The restaurant is famous for its colorful decor, live entertainment, and unique dining experience.

When you enter Casa Bonita, the atmosphere transports you to a fantasy village in Mexico, complete with strolling mariachi bands, cliff divers, and other entertainers. They designed the restaurant to look like Hollywood’s idea of a Mexican village, with different rooms and areas decorated with bright colors, faux stucco walls, and hand-painted murals.

Casa Bonita means “pretty house” in Spanish. Although it is in a suburban shopping center, Casa Bonita’s exterior resembles a Mexican church or mission.

The restaurant’s famous pink interior contains many nooks and crannies. Notable features include a 30-foot indoor waterfall, Black Bart’s Cave, a theater, and a statue of the Aztec Emperor Cuauhtémoc. Consequently, many people call Casa Bonita the “Disneyland of Mexican restaurants.”

The World’s Most Exciting Restaurant

Casa Bonita has promoted itself as “The World’s Most Exciting Restaurant.” Accordingly, Casa Bonita has appeared on some lists of the nation’s top-ten road side attractions.

The menu at Casa Bonita includes traditional Mexican-American dishes such as tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, as well as American favorites like burgers and fried chicken. The restaurant is also famous for its sopapillas, a fried pastry served with honey.

One of the chief attractions at Casa Bonita is the entertainment. Throughout the day, performers such as mariachi bands, magicians, and puppeteers entertain guests while they dine. In the evening, there is a full stage show that includes live music, dancing, and a skit that features the restaurant’s iconic cliff diving.

The cliff diving show takes place every 30 minutes, and featured performers diving from a 30-foot-high cliff into a pool of water. This is a signature feature of Casa Bonita and is a must-see for first-time visitors.

Overall, Casa Bonita offers a unique dining experience that combines Mexican cuisine, live entertainment, and a festive atmosphere. While the restaurant is not known for its gourmet food, it is a popular destination for families and tourists looking for a fun and memorable dining experience in the Denver area.

The restaurant is so popular, the City of Lakewood named Casa Bonita a historic landmark in March 2015. Strangely, the Lakewood location was not the first Casa Bonita. Casa Bonita was one of a chain that began in Oklahoma City in 1968. They opened the Lakewood location in 1974. Lakewood’s Casa Bonita is the last one in operation.

Casa Bonita and South Park

Casa Bonita has become a cultural icon, thanks in part to its appearance in the popular animated television show South Park. In the show’s seventh season, the main characters visit Casa Bonita, and the restaurant becomes the setting for several episodes.

The South Park portrayal of Casa Bonita includes many of the restaurant’s actual features, such as the cliff diving show, the colorful decor, and the sopapillas. However, the show also exaggerates some of the restaurant’s quirks and shortcomings, such as the low-quality food and the cramped seating.

Despite the satirical portrayal in South Park, Casa Bonita remains a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike. The restaurant embraced its pop culture fame and even hosted South Park viewing parties and themed events.

The restaurant’s appearance in South Park has helped to further cement its place in Denver’s cultural identity and has made it a must-visit destination for fans of the show.

Why Casa Bonita Appears on South Park

Matt Parker and Trey Stone are the creators of the popular animated television show South Park, which features Casa Bonita in several episodes.

Parker and Stone grew up in Conifer, Colorado, just 23 miles from Lakewood. Both creators attended the Jefferson County Public Schools, where field trips to Casa Bonita were a tradition. Thus, the two visited Casa Bonita many times as children, which is why they include the restaurant in their show.

In interviews, Parker and Stone have discussed their fond memories of visiting Casa Bonita as kids and how the restaurant has become a cultural icon in Colorado. They have also mentioned that they enjoy the restaurant’s over-the-top atmosphere and cheesy entertainment.

The South Park episodes featuring Casa Bonita are some of the show’s most popular and iconic. In the episodes, the characters go on various adventures within the restaurant, including a search for a lost child and a battle against a gang of rival diners.

Overall, Parker and Stone’s love for Casa Bonita has helped to further popularize the restaurant and has made it a key part of South Park lore. The show’s portrayal of the restaurant may be satirical, but it has also helped to celebrate Casa Bonita’s unique charm and entertainment value.

Promoters have even set up Casa Bonita-inspired pop-up restaurants and bars in Chicago and at conventions, Eater reports. The pop-ups feature Casa Bonita style cocktails.

Save Casa Bonita

The COVID-19 pandemic almost killed Casa Bonita. Its owners filed for bankruptcy in April 2021. The closure prompted Casa Bonita’s fans to organize Save Casa Bonita to raise money to revive the eatery.

However, the Save Casa Bonita effort failed. The restaurant went dark in August 2021 and will remain closed until May 2023 or later.

South Park Saves Casa Bonita

Shortly after the closing, Parker and Stone announced they were buying Casa Bonita.

The two made the announcement to Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D-Boulder) on an 11-minute livestream. Hence, Casa Bonita is so important to Coloradoans, the state’s governor took time out from fighting COVID-19 to celebrate its rescue from oblivion.

The current plans are for Casa Bonita to reopen in May 2023. Its website promises a “Grand Reopening” in May 2023. However, Parker and Stone had announced no reopening data as of 22 April 2023. Notably, Casa Bonita’s website is booking events for August 2023. If you want a job, Casa Bonita is hiring staff, including Cliff Divers.

The New Casa Bonita

Conversely, the Casa Bonita that reopens in May 2023 will not be the same restaurant. For example, Stone and Parker promise that the new restaurant will offer far better food.

The duo has hired restaurateur Dana “Loco” Rodriguez to revise Casa Bonita’s menu as executive chef. Rodriguez is a three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist who operates three Denver area restaurants. Loco is the ideal person to save Casa Bonita because her cuisine combines traditional Latin American comfort food with gourmet cooking and Tex-Mex staples such as tacos.

For example, Rodriguez’s Catina Loca offers “authentic Mexico City street food” including the “best mezcals and tequilas.” Rodriguez co owns Work & Class and Super Mega Bien. Super Mega Bien offers unique Latin American food and US favorites, including tacos in Downtown Denver. Work & Class offers American and Latin American favorites such as Cajun Deep Fried Trout and Conchita Pibil (Achote Braised Pork).

Ironically, Casa Bonita management turned Rodriguez down for a job in 1998 because didn’t have enough restaurant experience, Westword reports. Today, she is a dominant force in Denver’s restaurant scene.

Casa Bonita is in the Lamar Station Plaza shopping center at 6715 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, CO. Stone and Parker promise a grand reopening in May 2023.

However, we recommend diners wait a few weeks or months to visit this Colorado institution. Denver media predicts Casa Bonita’s grand opening will attract immense crowds.