The Long Road to Casa Bonita – The Beloved Icon Returns Next Year

Photo courtesy of Casa Bonita on Facebook

Casa Bonita has become the unlikely star of Colorado’s pandemic woes.

Many eateries were hit hard following the pandemic’s first year, but the offensive-to-call-it-a-Mexican-restaurant took a hard whack after closing its doors in March 2020, then filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April.

Since then, efforts to save the Lakewood neighborhood emblem were in full swing. A group of loyal fans even organized Save Casa Bonita, fundraising and exploring ways to re-open and improve the place as all seven members were en route to becoming its new owners.

Those plans got busted after a big-time offer came in from new, familiar ownership — but more on that later. Notably, the local fans group filed an objection to the sale, only to withdraw it shortly after.

Under new ownership, an incoming culinary expert and some tweaks to amp up construction and safety, Casa Bonita the sequel will return with the concept of “change nothing, improve everything.”

The biggest improvement, by far, starts with experienced Chihuahua-born chef Dana Rodriguez, who was appointed executive chef of Casa Bonita earlier this month. Rodriguez will bring her award-wining skills and years-long culinary experience from leading Latin and Mexican-inspired concepts like Work & Class and Super Mega Bien.

Incoming Executive Chef of Casa Bonita, Dana Rodriguez. Photo courtesy of Casa Bonita Media.

Rodriguez applied for a job at Casa Bonita when she first moved to Colorado from her hometown in Mexico. No offer at the time, but years later, she finally heard back from the new owners — and an unlikely duo.

“I got a phone call and I didn’t know if it was real or not. I thought it was a joke,” said Rodriguez. “But it was them and they wanted to interview me. I met with the whole team and everything went by so quickly. It was kind of unreal.”

Colorado household stars Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the comics behind South Park and the University of Colorado at Boulder alumni, officially announced plans to purchase the totem in August and sealed the $3.1 million deal in September.

South Park creators, and new owners of Casa Bonita, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Photo courtesy of Casa Bonita Media.

Despite the rumors, no: Casa Bonita 2.0 won’t be South Park-themed. In fact, with a commitment to “change nothing, improve everything,” things will look pretty much the same. Yes, the cliff divers will be as corny as ever, the gorilla will make its appearance and aside from upgraded safety features, a new kitchen and a menu led by Rodriguez, the tourist totem of Colorado promises to make an impressive come-back. 

That starts with an improved menu with specialty cocktails, tortillas made from scratch, along with everything else and an open space where customers can see all the magic happening in the kitchen. “I wanted to give people the opportunity to have the same name, with a little twist on the menu,” said Rodriguez. “We’re going to make everything a lot better.” 

Before its anticipated re-opening next summer, Casa Bonita plans to hire plenty of new staff, keep current ones, and provide workers with extensive training. “It’s going to be a better experience for the customer overall,” added Rodriguez.

Photo courtesy of Casa Bonita Media.

With an emphasis on quality customer service, a reinvented kitchen with new equipment, Rodriguez is stoked to debut her concept. Still, she’s expecting some challenges with adjusting to a large flow of people who are eager to see what the nostalgic temple came to serve. “My food is delicious, but this is going to be thousands of plates coming out of the kitchen every day,” said Rodriguez.

Busy business aside, she sees an improved Casa Bonita creating a legacy of taking care of their employees, bringing more opportunities for local workers and support for the surrounding neighborhood. 

People in Colorado need to know that they’re here to make it better,” said Rodriguez. “Those guys [Stone and Parker] are amazing the way they’ve been supporting the community.”

Denver born and raised Leroy Wrich, a recent homeowner in the neighborhood located just north of Casa Bonita, is excited to see how redevelopment projects like Casa Bonita can support the surrounding residents with a community-first approach. “I think this is a great thing for the area, I’m pumped to see Casa Bonita’s upgrade,” said Wrich.

  1. I wonder if the fortune teller will be there again in the arcade catacombs… We LOVED Casa Bonita with it’s 2nd floor tables overlooking the restaurant, the little gold lights, the fake foliage and cavern walkways, the joy of raising the flag again for yet more sopapillas and then of course the best… the diver. It was that wonderful Casa Bonita fantasy atmosphere, stepping into a whole new world, a break from the depressing, relentless stock show theme of life that was Denver at the time, it was the whole enchilada, and then there was the arcade… One time we hid behind the fortune teller’s box and waited and as soon as someone came up to his box to I announced a fortune for them mustering up my best deep voice and said… (something I cannot say here) something alluding to their fortune of meeting an exciting dark stranger with certain attributes. Needless to say we were teenagers who loved to kill our suburban boredom pulling crazy pranks on the unsuspecting public at retail venues such as May D&F and King Soopers so we could hardly contain ourselves from laughing, but we did hear the people after a stunned moment of silence say… “WHAT did he say?!” One of my fondest memories of Casa Bonita. God I loved that place!

    1. All we know so far is it’s scheduled to reopen sometime in the second half of 2022. We will update this article as more information comes in! Thanks for your interest.

  2. While serving a mission in 1977 for the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints in Denver Colorado my missionary companions and I in the whole zone met at Castle Bonita‘s for lunch on various occasions. While visiting Denver on business in April 2022 I was so excited to hear about the re-opening the new menu and upgrades and cannot wait to make a special trip from Portland Oregon to return to Cassa Bonita‘s once again this fall as it reopens bigger and better than ever!!!

  3. I’m from Scotland and I wish I had the funds to experience casa Bonita as well.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from 303 Magazine

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading