How to survive Casa Bonita, the world's weirdest Mexican restaurant

Categories: Cafe Society

Casa_Bonita.jpg
I recently visited Casa Bonita for the first time, and I'm still trying to recover. No, that's not an indigestion joke about the food, sub-par as it may be. Actually, my mind was blown in a good way. As I'd been told, there's no easy way to describe the Lakewood institution, which bills itself as "The World's Most Exciting Restaurant" - a pronouncement that very well might be true. The multi-story, Mexican-themed behemoth includes a 30-foot-tall waterfall, cliff divers, fire jugglers, strolling mariachi bands, a pirate cave, magicians, puppet shows, skee-ball machines... you get the idea. As one of my colleagues put it, it's like Disney had sex with Tijuana and left the goofy-looking bastard to fend for itself in a random strip mall on Colfax.


I loved every insane second of our trip there - except for the fact that I felt like those kids in the movie SpaceCamp who were accidentally launched into space and had no fucking idea what the hell to do. There was just way too much stuff going on at Casa Bonita and no helpful little robot named Jinx (yes, that's a second SpaceCamp reference) to help me figure it all out.

With that in mind, we here at Westword decided, as a community service, to create a Casa Bonita survivor's guide. Follow these rules and you'll have a hell of a time -- who knows, you may even live to eat again.

7) Avoid Black Bart's Cave. Of course you want to make the most of your time at Casa Bonita. By all means check out the puppet show, the magician, the arcades and everything else. But whatever you do, avoid Black Bart's Cave. That place is scary - and we're not referring to the stupid cackling, glowing plastic skull on the wall. We're referring to what gets left all over the cave when the ten-year-old who's had one too many tacos loses his shit because of the stupid cackling, glowing plastic skull on the wall. Take it from us: You don't want to go home smelling like the curse of Black Bart.

6) Don't tip the strolling mariachis. These guys may seem cute in their adorable wide-brimmed hats, but really they're as single-minded and debilitating as suckerfish. Slip 'em a greenback and they'll never leave your side until you're hemorrhaging dollars to their merciless, unending tunes. Then again, maybe it's worth the dough to have your own Mexican theme music wherever you wander, especially if the musicians take requests. It would be pretty sweet to stroll by some hotties as your personal band plays a mariachi version of the theme from Shaft. Better yet, convince them to perform the Benny Hill Show music while you get chased around by the guy in the Chiquita the angry Gorilla suit.

5) Order beer by the bucket. Just like how characters in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy need to eat lots of peanuts to make up for the salt and protein they lose from going through matter transference beams, your best chance of making it out of Casa Bonita without losing too much sanity in the process is to drink beer. Lots of it. Unless, of course, you already dropped acid in the parking lot.

4) Demand a table by the waterfall. Casa Bonita employees are like the Navy SEALS of waitstaff. The place is a well-oiled machine, a perfectly calibrated cadre of maƮtre d's, busboys and margarita servers, so it's only natural not to complain when they sit you in the mine shaft or spooky forest or some other forlorn corner far away from all the action; they seem to know best. But stand strong. You came here for the flame-juggling, the cliff-diving, the inappropriate shenanigans involving make-believe natives and a guy in a gorilla suit, damn it, and you're not going to take anything less than a table by the waterfall, where all the good shit goes down. Yes, they'll make you wait a bit for a table to open up, but since you've already been waiting in line for an hour, a few more minutes won't hurt.

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114 comments
CO64.com
CO64.com

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Cassie Wright
Cassie Wright

David Helm Bridget Helm Jenny Schwartz Smith Kim Yarnes Nick Yarnes Brianne Wagner

Barb Goldstein
Barb Goldstein

Regardless, they have managed to stay in business all these years and that's an accomplishment in itself!

Katy Martin
Katy Martin

I love Casa bonita. I had many great times there with friends and family. I really liked their food also. I use to order the deluxe. I will probably go back soon.

Lawrence Brown
Lawrence Brown

I take all my friends from Oklahoma there. We no longer have ours in Tulsa.

Barb Goldstein
Barb Goldstein

Great idea Karen. I ate there once years ago and it was enough.

Maria Ortiz Avina
Maria Ortiz Avina

Haha you're funny !! That place is like the old lakeside amusement park.. NOTHING has changed in 25 years!!

James Montoya
James Montoya

first off- Casa Bonita is no Mexican restaurant. It is a non authentic theme restaurant and a very poorly reproduced one at that. The place once was fun to children on Halloween and birthdays, however over the years the place has lost all of its credibility.

Karen Kataline
Karen Kataline

Skip the food and visit the caricaturist, Chuck Morris. He's terrific.

Jason Brown
Jason Brown

Tom Shockley This is funny how I was just telling you about this place then I saw this in my news feed... LOL!

Mel L-b
Mel L-b

Jenna Lee Mathews and Luke Lindsay-Brisbin lol

Mary Jarrett
Mary Jarrett

My sister worked there when she was 16 after she came home every night and told us what happened I could never get enough courage to go there. Still can't

Mary Cicotello
Mary Cicotello

watch out for the slippery floors especially when carrying your tray. I slipped and fell and my tray went flying. They did manage to replace my food order, but by the time they did we lost the rest of our party, and their employees did not remember where they sat them. So we ate alone, the food was cold by then and the whole episode ruined our night with out of town friends.

Joe Ponce de Carrano
Joe Ponce de Carrano

Casa Bonita is holding on to the South Park connection like grim death. Probably the only thing keeping that ship afloat.

Joe Ponce de Carrano
Joe Ponce de Carrano

Casa Bonita must be giving the Westord a lot of hardup cash for advertising. How many times can you advertise a shity restaurant in a month?

Hannah West
Hannah West

I remember when it was in a big parking lot all by itslef, it's so strange that they built a strip mall around it...

Diana Reavis
Diana Reavis

Bwahaha so true...take heed Heather Winokur but go you must.

Gary Givant
Gary Givant

We need to go Randy Heckler Matheson

Hailey Hayes
Hailey Hayes

The only way to survive is to not eat there.

karidrgn
karidrgn

Due to my personal likes & dislikes of the food all I've ever had was the beef fajitas and of course the sopapillas and I've always thought it was good. My husband and others that were with me thought the food was ok as well. Perhaps we aren't as discriminating as others. Black Barts cave is my favorite place to go thru as well.

George Chris Syrpes
George Chris Syrpes

Ha ha ha ha - pretty good analysis! But I say just don't go - place has not been cleaned in decades ...!!

Doug Hubka
Doug Hubka

WTF. I thought this story sounded familiar, it is dated from 2009.

Don Corvette
Don Corvette

A place you GOT to go just to check it out, but..............the food.....how the hell are they still selling that crap!

Shinkhan Zen
Shinkhan Zen

Sooooo true and hilarious! #2 was spot on. The worst food EVER!

Joel Warner
Joel Warner

Don't trust anything the author wrote. He'd clearly overdosed on sopapillas.

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