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The famed Casa Bonita restaurant is reopening (with a decorated chef)

Casa Bonita was made famous by South Park. Now the show's owners run the place and it's about to reopen

Eric Cartman’s favorite restaurant is reopening this summer. Casa Bonita, the Colorado restaurant fit with over-the-top props, including an indoor waterfall and divers to jump off of it, is set to reopen this May. It’s both the subject of a classic South Park episode and an audacious Mexican-themed entertainment restaurant that dates back to the mid-1970s.

The restaurant is somewhat polarizing, having attracted lovers and haters. Some think the Lakewood restaurant’s food is actually quite good and can’t help but marvel at the very tropical interior, becoming Casa Bonita usuals. Others scoff at the absurdity of it all, convinced it’s nothing more than an amusement eatery with average food.

A scene from the South Park Casa Bonita espisode.

Fan or no fan, the place is captivating. There’s a thirty-foot waterfall made to look like the cliffs of Acapulco. It calls itself the most exciting restaurant in the world. The place is Pepto Bismol pink, and there’s even a giant statue of Aztec emperor Cuauhtémoc. And yep, there are actual high-divers who perform here. In short, there’s nothing boring about the place.

Cliff divers plunge down a waterfall at Casa Bonita

But the story gets better. After a long run in its Lakewood location, slower traffic and Covid shut the place down. Casa Bonita filed for bankruptcy in 2021, only to be saved by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. They’re the current owners, and the restaurant is set to reopen its doors in just about a month.

While it may not be the most authentic Mexican cuisine, the food at Casa Bonita has attracted a following. As part of the reported $12 million facelift, the restaurant is going to revamp its menu and had already worked to improve the structural integrity of the waterfall. The food will no doubt take a step in the right direction, as the owners hired a James Beard Award-nominated chef in Dana Rodriguez. It’s exciting times for South Park fans and hungry Coloradans alike.

The entrance of Casa Bonita.

The fan base is still there and perhaps larger than ever, thanks to the celebrity takeover. According to the Denver Post, more than 10,000 people have already RSVP’d to a make-believe opening soiree called the Great Wait.

There’s a charm to this kind of kitsch. These restaurants were some of the first to franchise experiential dining (at least since the dinner theater jazz clubs of old). The cliff divers may distract from the food (not sure, haven’t tried the food yet), but who cares. Like the Rainforest Cafe or dining in the Excalibur as two jousters go at it, it’s all about the insane context. For the record, Casa Bonita Denver began as one of four locations in the chain across the U.S. but is the only one remaining.

We can’t wait to see what the new menu looks like, thanks to the introduction of an exciting new chef. Rodriguez, from Mexico, has made her culinary brilliance felt in Denver over the years, overseeing the menus of popular spots like Cantina Loca and Super Mega Bien. She’s known to team up with specialty importers for some of the best ingredients from south of the border and even helps in making some of the tequila for her restaurants.

They’re also hiring, if you want to make this slice of paradise your long-term backdrop.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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