Casa Bonita! – Denver, Colorado

Casa Bonita

What’s that growing out of the sad, nondescript strip mall? It’s the most audacious restaurant ever!!!

I’ll admit, I probably never would have discovered Casa Bonita if it weren’t for the half-hour commercial that was South Park’s Season 7, Episode 11: Casa Bonita.

For those who missed it, the consistently brattish Eric Cartman was not invited to a Casa Bonita birthday party with his friends. To free up a spot on the guest list, he tricked a friend into hiding out in a junk yard while making him believe the world had ended. Everyone was looking for a runaway kid, but Cartman insisted that the party must go on.

Why would a restaurant be worth all that trouble?

It’s an enormous playground, too. It has entertainment every fifteen minutes with skits centered around the centerpiece waterfall, where divers regularly make a splash in front of potentially hundreds of diners. The design of the place is a meandering maze of caves, theme rooms, mines and arcades.

It’s a wonderland for children … of the 80s.

Kids still seem to love the place, but it is so incredibly dated. Where to start, where to start…

Fire Diving

Some of the diving shows included an artistic flare (and a science lesson about how water and fire mix).

The diving show was an interesting feature, but everything about it was dated. The music, the cheesy skits. The horrible punchlines that always end with a dive, of course. But the facilities are showing their age, too, because of the waterfall and diving pool. A giant air vent over the main pool area is dusty and rusty and entirely unappetizing.

Seriously, I just kept looking at the vent and thinking “I’m breathing air in that went through that, and that air is also covering my food and… yuck!”

The arcades featured some great vintage games. Unfortunately, but the looks of it, “vintage” appeared to be “original and never replaced.”

There were at least two arcades that we found while wandering through the meandering maze of dining rooms. Maybe I’m missing something, but they were mostly empty on our visit.

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It’s a strikingly decorated place, until you look close.

One of the cool things about arcades is always the redemption areas. For only a few hundred tickets you can win something worth a few cents. Woohooo! However, at Casa Bonita, the redemption shelf behind the counter in the gift shop was meager. I mean, it looked sad.

I guess that they realized it’s easier just to let people buy the stuff in the gift shop. Save everyone the time energy and money.

The dining experience was a bit confusing. We were early for lunch, so we didn’t see the lines in full action, but when you enter the place you have to go through twisting and turning amusement park-style lines through a few rooms just to see a human who takes your order. I can’t imagine waiting in that line just to place an order.

Then, you meander through a few more line twists and turns before they serve you your food, and then another 20 or so feet to get your drinks.

And then you enter the wonderland that is Casa Bonita, seeing the whole place in all its aging glory, and it’s almost enough to make you forget you are there to eat.

The food is my last heading, because it’s literally the last thing I want to talk about.

I had read reviews ahead of time, so I knew the food was awful. I love Mexican food, and I rarely find Mexican food I don’t like.

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Come for the entertainment! Stay for the entertainment! Leave for the food!

I did not like this Mexican food.

I guess the plates we ordered were all-you-can eat, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish the first plate. I’m a big guy capable of downing more than his fair share of enchiladas, but I’m certain my stomach would have had other plans.

It wasn’t totally inedible. It just wasn’t good.

And then there were the sopapillas. The staff bragged and bragged about the sopapillas. I have enjoyed some crispy, tasty sopapillas in my day, so I hoped that these little pastries would redeem the whole affair.

I’ll just say they didn’t, and we’ll leave it at that.

 

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