For those who are fans of the TV show South Park, you may have seen the episode about this Denver-area institution. Despite having lived in Denver nearly seven years, I had yet to set foot inside this unique establishment until this past weekend, when we took Scarlett and Jason to celebrate her move to Denver.
I don’t think, even given the breadth of the English language, that I am capable of fully describing the Casa Bonita experience. Here are some things you may not know about it:
*It seats over 900 people
*If you are over the age of two, you must purchase a “meal.” I use that term only in the most official sense, as I wouldn’t say what I ordered truly was food. My “taco salad” consisted of half a head of shredded iceburg topped with five kidney beans, two slices of barely-pink flavorless tomato, tasteless cheese shreds, a plop of sour cream, a plop of something greenish that was supposed to be guacamole, all inside a fried flour tortilla shell. A small amount of seasoned shredded chicken came on the side. When I asked for some salad dressing, it took half an hour for the guy to bring it to me. The cost? $12.
*When you get inside, you go through a veritable maze to get to where you can look at a menu. Then you order. Then you go through some more maze and you grab a tray and a napkin roll. Then some lady hands you what you ordered, which just came out of the kitchen. Then you walk through some more maze until you get to the second hostess, who shows you to your table.
*It features a variety of live entertainment, including cliff divers, people dressed as gorillas, sound effects, mariachi bands, Black Bart’s Cave, and puppet shows.
*A little flag sits on your table, and when you raise the flag they bring you fresh sopaipillas.
*People come around to your table and try to sell you plastic glow-in-the-dark crap.
The area in which we were seated was set up to look like the inside of a mine. They had a recording of a snoring sound effect playing, which must have been near where I sat because I was the only one who could hear it. I guess there must have been a “miner” someplace nearby but I didn’t see it.
Photo courtesy Dan, who managed to get my camera to do a manual 5-second exposure.
After we ate, we watched some of the live entertainment. We saw some people dressed in costumes (including one in a gorilla suit, who of course ended up in the water). We saw a cliff diver. Then we explored the place a bit and found Black Bart’s cave, which was probably the highlight of the whole deal for me. We watched a “gunfight” and then decided we’d had enough.
Sign outside Black Bart’s cave. Obviously they care very much for their attractions.
When we got home, we spooled up that episode of South Park and watched as the visions of Casa Bonita dancing through Cartman’s head echoed our evening’s experience. “Food and fun and festive atmosphere!” Cartman sings.
Well, there was “food.” The sopaipillas are pretty good, anyway. Jason, at least, had a lot of fun (as did Dan, who hadn’t been to the Casa since he was in middle school). And it is nothing if not a festive atmosphere.
Casa Bonita: the ultimate cheeze factory; an experience I only needed to have once.