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Tiki Central Forums Beyond Tiki Casa Bonita, Lakewood/Denver CO. (restaurant)
Casa Bonita, Lakewood/Denver CO. (restaurant)
Hakalugi
Site Administrator

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 3027
From: Redondo Beach, CA
Posted: 2011-08-14 4:53 pm   Permalink

Name: Casa Bonita
Type: restaurant
Street: 6715 West Colfax Avenue
City: Lakewood (near Denver)
State: CO
Zip: 80214
country: USA
Phone: (303) 232-5115
Status: operational
Website:
http://www.casabonitadenver.com
wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Bonita


Description:
Mexican-themed "eatertainment" restaurant. As of 2011, only one location remains open, in the western Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colorado. Other locations included Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The Oklahoma City location, which was the first location, opened in 1968 and closed in 1993. The Tulsa location opened in 1971 and closed in 2005, reopened with a new owner in 2006 as Casa Viva, sold back to previous owner in 2008 and renamed back to Casa Bonita, finally closing forever in early 2011. The Lakewood, Denver location was built in 1973 and opened for business in 1974. It is the largest and most intricate of all the Casa Bonita restaurants built. Did I mention it is now the only Casa Bonita?

From the menu the Denver location is described as such:

"Unique live entertainment atmosphere featuring strolling musicians, daring cliff divers, exciting gunfights, amazing magician, hilarious puppet show, dancing monkeys in costume all amidst spledid appointments: Behold the roaring waterfall, graceful palms, volcanic mountain, caves, sparkling pool, mine, palace, jail, etc, etc, etc."


...Ohh, and it's all indoors.


The Tulsa location was similar to the Denver location but had a smaller waterfall and hence no divers, however they supposedly had a "volcano room" with eruptions.

Casa Bonita has been mentioned numerous times on Tiki Central but contrary to the below image from the notorious South Park episode, there is no Tiki at Casa Bonita so I am posting this in Beyond Tiki.

Tiki Mugs at Casa Bonita:

Image and reference from Tikipedia's post


Excerpt from the "Casa Bonita" South Park episode:
"Less Than a minute"
The Police are on their way to arrest Cartman at Casa Bonita, and he decides to make the most of it.


The full "Casa Bonita" episode can be viewed HERE.
Just look up Season 7 Episode 11




Another worthwhile video clip was pointed out by Unga Bunga:
Funny documentary about Casa Bonita
"Casa Bonita Denver Colorado (Up Close & Personal)"



If you do a search on YouTube you'll find many clips of both the Denver and the Tulsa locations. However, I'm still looking for clips or images of the Tulsa "volcano room". In anycase, if you have photos or stories regarding Casa Bonita, this is the place to post them.




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Hakalugi
Site Administrator

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 3027
From: Redondo Beach, CA
Posted: 2011-08-14 4:53 pm   Permalink

I first heard of Casa Bonita back in 2000 while planning a business trip to Denver, Unfortunately I wouldn't get to visit at that time. There was no way I could justify taking co-workers to what essentially might be construed as a Chuck-E-Cheese on steroids in the middle of a strip mall. Finally, over 10 years later, I had a chance to spend a few days in Denver, this time with wife and child in tow. First I did some more research on Casa Bonita and the consensus is that the food is deplorable. The Mexican entrees are all prepared with what may be goopy nacho cheese from a can. Supposedly they claim kids like it better this way. Additionally, the meat has been described by some as cat food. Unfortunately, to gain entry to Casa Bonita you must purchase a meal. So with this caveat in mind we were psychologically prepared. Our plane landed in Denver on a Friday around 12:00 noon, first stop after picking up the rental car... Casa Bonita!


Yes, Casa Bonita is in a strip mall. Here's a Google Maps street view approaching Casa Bonita:




Casa Bonita is huge. Apparently the location was previously a multi level department store.






Outside of the entrance is this plaque:



Upon entering you can pick up a small paper menu:






You then stand in a line and give your food order to an attendant. We wanted to avoid anything with meat. Fortunately they did have some non-menu items and also do special orders without any fuss. Today they had a Chile Relleno entree which I ordered. My eight year old daughter special ordered a bean and cheese burrito entree and my wife special ordered a cheese enchilada entree. You then continue in line and pick up a tray, silverware, drinks and then food. Then you wait to be seated. I have been told that people may wait up to an hour or more just to get their food order and then seated. You may wait even longer if you ask to be seated near the waterfall where most of the entertainment action happens. Fortunately we were there early enough to beat the weekend crowd and were promptly seated right next to the waterfall.


Soon the food arrived:

Chili Relleno:


Bean and Cheese Burritos with chocolate shake (or as they call it, a Chocolate Bandito):


Cheese Enchiladas:


Yes, the cheese on the enchiladas was some sort of goopy nacho cheese possibly from a can. Casa Bonita could easily improve their food reputation by at least offering an option for better cheese. Other than that, it wasn't as bad as I was prepared for. The Chili Relleno was actually quite tasty. A little different from what I'm used to here in Southern California but still palatable. The bean and cheese burrito also received a thumbs up. As far as drinks, I stuck with lemonade although they did offer beer, wine, some sort of Margarita as well as a few other booze concoctions.


On the table was a card listing the daily entertainment:


And right on time, out came the 1:45 Gorilla Show. Consisting of a trainer, assistant, and of course a man in a gorilla suit. Soon the assistant ends up over the cliff into the water and the gorilla breaks loose, running around the place:









Dessert was all you can eat Sopaipillas, a fried dough served with honey:




The Sopaipilla stand was right behind our table:



After our meal it was time to go exploring.







Black Bart's Cave:







Puppet Theatre seating area:



Blurry Pinata Courtyard:


Dive Show:




Pink Dining Room:


The Cave Behind the Waterfall and view:








Bubble gun purchased onsight:








More dining areas around the water:










Faces in the rocks:






The Mine Dining Room:

Entrance:


Inside:





Another Dining Room:


The Cave Dining area:











closeup of the bats:


Fortune Teller:




Mystery cave:
I think this might be an entrance to a backstage area. I'm not sure if this is ever actually open to the public. Maybe someone here more familiar with Casa Bonita can confirm either way.




Treasure room:
Free treats for departing children



Some areas I didn't get photos of were the arcades, the gift shop, the jail cell and much more. Meanwhile, these photos I posted hardly do justice to the place. Casa Bonita was absolutely amazing and if you ever get the chance to go, don't pass it up.






Okay, and lastly, here's a photo I didn't take but wanted to post here anyway.

Fire Jugglers:


[ This Message was edited by: hakalugi 2012-01-02 20:48 ]


 
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lucas vigor
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 12, 2004
Posts: 3985
From: SOCAL
Posted: 2011-08-14 10:05 pm   Permalink

Simply incredble!


This not tiki, but the intent is surely the same! Sheer kitschy escapism on an epic scale! Amazing that a place so close in spirit to "the tikis" (as seen in Sven's book) could still exist! And the food! utterly over-priced and fake! It's perfect! The food looks like what they used to serve at the "case de fritos" in frontierland, Disneyland. I so want to go to this place!
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Slacks Ferret
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 1248
From: Calgary
Posted: 2011-08-15 7:57 pm   Permalink

Looks like a fun place. I really want to go to Denver now...


 
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gabbahey
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 10, 2011
Posts: 230
From: Denver, CO
Posted: 2011-09-03 6:10 pm   Permalink

Hakalugi - wow! You really captured everything! Great work! I hope this inspires more people to visit.

I grew up in Lakewood so I spent nearly every birthday at Casa Bonita since I could walk. I almost worked there but took another job instead. Another friend got to be the good cowboy. I still get chills remembering black bart rushing by me on the stairs and saying ''outta my way, kid'' It is a really weird and special place.

I will offer some advice to people planning on visiting the house beautiful: bring some kids. In the same way we wouldn't want to change the atmosphere of our favorite tiki joint, at its core Casa Bonita is a kids resturant. Maybe I'm just protective but I can't picture myself eating there without a wee one to help explore the cave or hit the pinata. It will make it 1000 times more fun.

gabbahey

[ This Message was edited by: gabbahey 2011-09-03 18:14 ]


 
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