Happy 40th birthday, Casa Bonita: We love you so much we could puke

CasaKateLevy.jpg
Kate Levy for Westword.
South Park exposed our secret. After an episode aptly titled "Casa Bonita" aired in 2003, the existence of Casa Bonita became known to the world outside of Colorado.

Up until that point, Casa Bonita was mostly a regional gem. If you grew up in Colorado, chances are you celebrated at least one birthday at the 50,000 square-foot Mexican Village/restaurant inside of a Lakewood strip mall. I'm not just talking elementary school birthdays where you dressed up like a Tex-Mex "criminal" and got to pose inside of a jail cell with your bogus loot and fake booze for a sepia-toned "Wanted" poster; I also mean adult birthdays like my own 21st, when I threw up into a planter after one too many Casa Bonita margaritas.

But now it's time to celebrate Casa Bonita's own big birthday, as the glorious pink palace on West Colfax turns forty years old on Thursday, March 27. If a monumental event like four decades of being Colorado's most fascinating eating establishment isn't enough to persuade you to take a trip there, I hope I can convince you with some of my own feelings on one of the best places in Colorado to eat sopapillas while watching a gun fight between a kid in cowboy hat and a guy in a gorilla costume.

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

I guess I should start by getting the topic of vomit in relation to Casa Bonita out of the way, since hurling is a common experience shared by many of us who have been to CB. There's a lot of whining about the food being "disgusting" (a bemoaning I find to be over-exaggerated and sourced from super-dramatic folks who don't like to have fun, anyway.)

I personally think the high volume of puking stories is actually related to the fact that the restaurant is so unique that you remember the experiences where it made you sick -- unlike, say, Taco Bell, which has probably made you throw up many more times. But the process of going to a Taco Bell is often too rapid and trivial to be remotely memorable. If you throw up from Casa Bonita's West-Mex fair, it's most likely because you got drunk or ate too much -- and that's your own fault.

If you've never been to Casa Bonita, something you should understand is that though CB is a restaurant, food is just your ticket in -- literally. Upon entering the building, you join a train of folks and crawl through a strange maze of faux mission-style barricades covered in pretend-vintage bull-fighting posters, all just to get to a gate where a cashier takes your order.

Then, you continue on through a network of twists and turns with your ticket in hand, a small piece of paper that you will eventually exchange for a scalding hot plate of cheese that comes out of a hole in a wall. You will then take this meal with you on a wobbly tray, stopping only at a beverage corral where a teenager hands you an already spilling plastic glass of Coca-Cola, one that you then must balance and carry up a steep hill and use as proof of purchase to enter the village where you will finally be seated.

Because the meal is the ticket, you cannot go through this tangle of tiled halls and into the wide Casa Bonita world without a tray of food and very spilly drink (but keep reading, because even if you don't like "Spanish" rice with frozen peas in it, there may still be a way to enter this guarded city without buying a hot plate).

I have some friends who used to host a group birthday party of sorts at Casa Bonita that also doubled as an eating contest -- which was won once someone finally ate enough to puke onsite. I never accepted an invitation to these gatherings because I didn't want to taint my love of the Casa. Besides, there are only so many plates of all-you-can-eat enchiladas that you can attempt to stomach before before heaving becomes the only option, and I happen to not mind those enchiladas and know that as long as CB is open, I'm gonna be consuming them.


Location Info

Casa Bonita

6715 W. Colfax, Lakewood, CO

Category: Restaurant

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130 comments
btdawg
btdawg

I have taken visitors from all over the world, Russia, Sweden, Singapore, Chile, Poland and more and they all loved Casa Bonita ! The men and women were all visiting Denver on business so I took them somewhere they would never see in their own countries. I asked them all to take pictures, dressed like cowboys or barmaids and I think some of them thought that was the best part. All over the world there are sepia photographs of high-ranking business and government officials, posted in offices or at least in their homes. Thank you Casa Bonita for being the best one-of-a-kind in the world.

Marci Hladik
Marci Hladik

The ragging on Casa Bonita is just so tired.

Joe Ponce de Carrano
Joe Ponce de Carrano

Westword is so desperate for advertising cash. They would support Obomber bombing the crap out of Syrians if it made them cash.

Angela Marie
Angela Marie

I hate the fact that they MAKE you order their crappy food!!! WHY cant I jus order the sopapilla's??!

ogghandi
ogghandi

It's really not "that" bad it may be a little tacky but the food is better than the journalism at Westword :) and it beats standing in line for over an hour on colfax just to get an over hyped Dunkin Donut smothered in cereal and served by some hipster douche bag.

Ryan Lee Sims
Ryan Lee Sims

There is a really easy cure for this. Don't go. It's awesome. It works so well!

Jayne Doe
Jayne Doe

No matter what location, there food will still taste like shit

Doug Hubka
Doug Hubka

Interesting that Casa Bonita has been around longer than Westword.

Doug Hubka
Doug Hubka

Westword is being trashing this place. But it has been successful and a fun place to take the kids for years. Maybe if it was in a hip location with all the latest trendsetters then Westword would back off.

Ryan Lee Sims
Ryan Lee Sims

Anthony because hating restaurants that aren't vegan, vegetarian, farm raised, grass fed, local, and doesn't have a bar filled with contemporary individuals is totally in this year!!!!

Dominick Black
Dominick Black

The food isn't so bad. Just don't order the Chicken Fried Steak.

Bradley Langston
Bradley Langston

Thanks for reminding me what I was doing 40 yrs. ago. Working there.

Darren Douglas Danahy
Darren Douglas Danahy

That is truly amazing, how does a restaurant manage to sell meat that is older than the restaurant itself? They must have a time machine in that place.

Mike Skeel
Mike Skeel

Anthony Siraguse because casa bonita is crap

Rodrigo Rodriguez
Rodrigo Rodriguez

Then don't fuckin go, tired of these elitist hipster douchebags

Eric Bueno
Eric Bueno

There's probably generations of level 2's down there! Ask Thom Luatt

John Donohoe
John Donohoe

Eric Bueno I bet they have some level 2's at the bottom of the falls from you know who right Sheri Duran Joseph Vasquez

Doug Hayduk
Doug Hayduk

went there in 1975-76 .... did not know it was a new restaurant then.

Jon Ackelson
Jon Ackelson

Why can they not serve edible food? Can you imagine the love Denver has for this place being given additional fuel by food that just at least tastes ok?

Karen Sangster
Karen Sangster

So funny it's only 40. Seems like its been here my whole life.

oldschool
oldschool

Wow - I've never witnessed a bigger collection of dumb asses gathered in one spot than in this comments section.


You people have got to be transplants and did not grow up in Denver.   


If you did, you'd remember xeroxing the kids color sheet to get free meals.


Casa Bonita is better than Taco Bell, you just hate that it's more expensive.  


Shut the hell up already, retards.

Rebecca Proctor
Rebecca Proctor

At least they are consistent, can't be disappointed if you are already expecting to be

Ell Marree
Ell Marree

Yani Animuss...cool place, food not so good

Jeff Bones
Jeff Bones

If you're from Denver it's a landmark, if you've been there you know that place lives off the name. Love ya' Westword for calling it how it is

Les Baca
Les Baca

Casa Bonita is awesomely retro?

Reca Brodie
Reca Brodie

Would never set foot in this place.....probably never will......

Tweeter Williams
Tweeter Williams

And to think a few years ago this place was on the verge of shutting down and filing for bankruptcy.

Cyn Naeb
Cyn Naeb

Sis you made me spit my water out with laughter! But, the soppa's are good, remember Tony Moon was one of the first divers!

Sandra Porter
Sandra Porter

I applied there years ago. Never really liked the place.

Judy Cerasoli
Judy Cerasoli

I can't believe we moved here before Casa Bonita opened. I thought it had always been here too!

Benjie Robinson
Benjie Robinson

I've got an iron gut. I can eat several plates of that food. It's like having a TV dinner without having to wait for the microwave. And I love the gorilla!

Susan Larkin
Susan Larkin

I cannot believe that it only opened the year before we moved here!!! I thought it was here forever...and, hopefully we are ALL better cooks, but you can't compete with a gorilla...

Steve Potts
Steve Potts

If it wasn't for the tourists and ill informed they would of closed in the 80's.

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