Skip to main content

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.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Editors' Recommendations

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…
You’re probably making these 3 mistakes when you’re preparing baked chicken
Just say no to overcooked chicken
Roasted chicken

Baking chicken is one of those things that most homes probably do a few times a week. Chicken is delicious, crowd (and kid)-pleasing, generally pretty healthy, and usually simple enough when it comes to cooking. Whether you're roasting an entire bird for a group or just preparing a single baked chicken breast for one, there are a few mistakes we're all guilty of making from time to time. Mistakes that are easy to avoid if you know what to do. That's where we come in.

Starting with cold chicken
You may have heard this tip around Thanksgiving for roasting a perfect turkey (if not, take heed), but the same goes for pieces of chicken - and all other poultry and meats, in fact. We're all guilty - perhaps in a rush to get dinner on the table - of grabbing a protein out of the fridge and tossing it directly into the pot or pan in about as much time as it takes to get the package open. Look, we've all been there, but for the best-ever baked chicken, try to have a little more patience.

Read more
Our 4 favorite mezcals for sipping
Four great sipping mezcals

If you’re even the most basic drinker, you probably know a little bit about tequila. This agave-based spirit is popular for sipping neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a variety of cocktails, including the classic Margarita, Paloma, and Ranch Water. But mezcal, on the other hand, might be a bit of a mystery.

When thinking about mezcal, a good idea is to think of it like this: all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. That is to say that mezcal is the umbrella term used for all agave-based Mexican spirits. Tequila is simply a type of mezcal. It’s made with a specific set of rules. It must be made only with Blue Weber agave in Jalisco (where the town of Tequila is located) and a handful of other states.

Read more
Our 6 favorite rum brands and bottles in 2024
Buy these rum bottles in 2024
Rum drink

When it comes to spirits perfect for sipping neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a cocktail, many drinkers tend to look at whiskey immediately. But if your second choice isn’t rum, you’re missing out. White rum is a fantastic base for daiquiris, mojitos, and other drinks; spiced rum is excellent for tropical-centric Tiki-style drinks and for giving your drink a little extra spice, and dark, aged rum is perfect for slow sipping neat or on the rocks.

For the uninitiated, rum is a spirit made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane juice or molasses. It’s then either bottled immediately (or lightly aged) and sold as white rum, has spices added to create spiced rum or is aged in charred oak barrels like your favorite single malt scotch whisky, bourbon, or rye whiskey. We sipped on and mixed with a lot of rum in 2023, and we’ll do the same this year.

Read more