Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / May 26, 2023
What will you do first? Explore Blackbeard’s cave? Watch the cliff divers? Eat your weight in sopaipillas?
It will all be available soon at Casa Bonita, the “Disneyland of Mexican restaurants,” located on Colfax in Lakewood.
For the uninitiated, the restaurant is known for its eye-catching pink tower and stars in an episode of “South Park.”
The restaurant means even more to families and individuals entertained there for decades.
South Park’s creators, who grew up in Colorado, purchased the restaurant in August 2021 after the original owners filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The restaurant was founded in 1974 by Bill Waugh, and was named a historic landmark in 2015 by the Lakewood Historical Society.
This week, owners Trey Parker and Matt Stone allowed dozens of media members, restaurateurs, and others to preview the eatery. The entire restaurant has been refreshed or remodeled to “change nothing and improve everything,” according to the public relations specialists hosting the event.
The work is especially evident in the kitchen, rebuilt from the dirt up under the close direction of chef Dana Rodriguez, a James Beard award winner with several beloved restaurants in the Denver area. The goal is to make the food far better than before.
Instead of “surviving the food” to enjoy the rest of the experience, as Gov. Jared Polis expressed the issue (along with most visitors), Rodriguez has elevated the menu with fresh, made from scratch tortillas, salsas and enchiladas, supported by a streamlined kitchen setup with several new bars and sopaipilla stations.
Casa Bonita fans will remember how the “cafeteria line” was an unavoidable part of their experience.
During Friday’s preview, restaurant representatives explained that entrance to the restaurant’s entertainment will include purchasing a meal, now located in a “ticketing plaza” built to resemble a plaza in Oaxaca, Mexico.
After passing through the plaza and past a live reenactment of traditional Mexican culture in Abuelita’s Casa, visitors can watch tortillas being made.
An assembly line of food will be presented clearly behind glass, allowing visitors to easily choose meal options. The new menu supports vegan, gluten-free, and other diets
Sopaipillas and chips with salsa are included with every meal, and every table will still be equipped with a small Mexican flag that can be run up a miniature flagpole to signal for refills.
The entertainment remains largely the same — just upgraded, like the menu.
A pack of cliff divers attended the Friday preview, performing a variety of dives into the newly expanded and deepened pool. Stages dotted the restaurant, and each area is designed to reflect a different Mexican state. Nooks and crannies were decorated with kid-friendly and interactive decor. One, for example, was decorated like the inside of a submarine.
The ultimate question on everyone’s lips was when the restaurant would open, but that remains a mystery.
Interested parties can sign up at CasaBonitaDenver.com. The restaurant will reopen to the public “soon” with limited dinner hours and no walk-ins.
“During this soft open period, guests will be selected exclusively from Casa Bonita’s email list,” the restaurant said in a statement. “Full ticketing and pricing information coming soon!”