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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172 comments
Cheresa Hanes
Cheresa Hanes

I grew up going there and got really sick one time. I still love to go there because it's awesome, but I only eat the sopapillas!

Randy Gutierrez
Randy Gutierrez

Food sucks but it's all about finding the personality of our town. Lmao

Randy Gutierrez
Randy Gutierrez

Finally you post something that's not fucked up! Been keeping you around just to see that. Your always posting negative shit or bashing the "natives". You're on your way up.

Anthony Shaeffer
Anthony Shaeffer

That place sucks unless you like horrible food and an arcade that smells like a high school locker room.

Matthew Fitzpatrick
Matthew Fitzpatrick

I've NEVER gotten sick from Casa Bonita's food. Been there almost ten times in my life. It doesn't taste bad - it is just cheap food. If I went there today, I'd probably gorge myself on the all you can eat beef deluxe and sopapillas. If you want primo food, you go to Dos Margaritas, etc. You go to CB for the atmosphere.

Raquel Brassfield
Raquel Brassfield

Terrible food, but a freakish wonder to behold. More freakish, I can't believe that episode was 11 years ago!

Kyle Warren
Kyle Warren

The fajtas are good there and my kids love playing there. That's what people really go there for. Not for the food. So please stop talking about how bad the food is when you all know nobody goes there for the food. Get real people.

Kay Coyoteco
Kay Coyoteco

We love South Park! and Casa Bonita - one word - "Totally!"

Debbie Byers Phillips
Debbie Byers Phillips

Just wish they could at least get a few pointers on food recipes from Taco Bell which has MUCH better food!!! A shame.

Stacey Early
Stacey Early

Case Bonita is a place to go to at least once to say you've been. We took my sisters husband when he visited because he saw the South Park episode and didn't believe it was real.

Billy Hinch
Billy Hinch

Worst Mexican Food I have ever eaten!

Drew Blood
Drew Blood

Overheard a conversation at the Dairy Queen in Clayton, NM about where to eat in Denver and this was the place mentioned. Hilarious!

Lexi Healy
Lexi Healy

Kris Luizzo schooling you on Denver

nick garcia
nick garcia

Umm. It's from Oklahoma. Do some research Westword before arrogantly gloating about "our secret"

Ray Jay
Ray Jay

I was living in Az when I saw this episode. I moved to Colorado two months later and found out it was a real place. So awesome!

Pamela Harmes
Pamela Harmes

Haley Chaffee Florez did you know your favorite place is world famous?

Susan Murray Rader
Susan Murray Rader

Literally the best sopapillas I've ever eaten. Best cheesy atmosphere too! A real Denver icon! Happy Birthday CB!

DarlingCR
DarlingCR

It's like stepping back in time to 1993. Seriously, forget your cellphone, eat an edible, and enjoy the ride... When you sit down with your food, proceed to throw it away and just eat the sopapillas.

Dian Feral
Dian Feral

It isn't the food people go there for. What they DO go there for is great!

Lynne Estes
Lynne Estes

Only restaurant I have ever had to wait in line to get in and to get out. Mexican TV dinner style food barely edible but kids and out of town guests always love it

Steve Illich
Steve Illich

LOL I don't think some of the food is that bad. I remember going there as a kid and maybe that's how my eyes still see it. Love me some Casa Bonita! Black Bart's Cave? Come onnnnnn.....how can you dislike Black Bart's Cave? Come ahhhhhnnnnnnnnnn.....

La Trayl Veasley-Semien
La Trayl Veasley-Semien

The reputation of the food being horrible is a reality because I've tried it twice, the second time was to give this place another chance it was worse the second time. My kids didn't like it either and children usually like to eat no matter what, so I'm wondering how CB is celebrating 40 years and why they haven't closed down yet...

Chelly Serna
Chelly Serna

11 years ago??! Damn, I remembered when that first aired. Are you trying to make me feel old?

Garrett Wickre
Garrett Wickre

Going there on Saturday. First time and probably last for me and my daughter.

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.

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