Sunday, September 5, 2010

Casa Bonita (Lakewood, CO)


This place is difficult to miss… The GIANT pink tower bearing its name stands as a beacon of Colorado Pride to those have spent their formative years in the Greater Denver Area. An institution if you will, one of the places in this world that locals know and keep hidden until you have lived here long enough to call Colorado home.

Ambiance: To say that Casa Bonita is an assault on the senses would be a bit of an understatement. Cliff divers, caves to explore, and poorly acted stage shows every 15 minutes, all back dropped by a cascading indoor waterfall, are just a few of the entertainment choices available in this pantheon of child hood playthings. It seems around every corner there is somewhere new to go, and something else to see.

Of all the attractions my favorite was Black Bart’s Cave. This is just "one of those things." Even as an adult Black Bart's Cave gets your imagination moving and gives you just a hint of excitement. Dark corners, tight turns and little bits of poor special effects give you the feeling of being a kid once again. I can only wonder what this was like for my brave little Kai. He would go through the cave only once, citing “that’s spooky daddy, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Kai (our two year old) was thrilled and amazed with the stage shows. As he ate, Gorillas, Pirates, and Cliff Divers all came into view and preformed for his amusement. He clapped, smiled and paid little attention to the meal before him. He was in a word bewildered by the amazing spectacles in front of his young eyes. .

Food: Let’s talk price then quality.

Food price: The first thing one might notice is to gain entrance to Casa Bonita you MUST buy and entrée. The pricing is VICIOUS. For a KIDS plate of “Chicken” strips, a Taco/Enchilada Plate and a Pitcher of Margaritas we paid $44.99. To put that price in perspective, I have dined at 4 star restaurants for less per person.

Food Quality: I should also tell you that indigestion is on the menu as a side item.

The quality of food is nothing less than atrocious.
Enchilada = Flour tortilla covered in melted cheese wiz
Taco = Old El Paso taco seasoning, grade D beef, and a hint of salmonella

I am reasonably certain the beans and rice are made with remaindered food supplies from taco bell.

If you have the mature palate of a two year old you will enjoy yourself tremendously. The “chicken” tenders and French fries were hailed as “good dinner” and given an enthusiastic thumb up.

Service: Expect NOTHING. Upon entry we were greeted by a Troll whose job it was to force me into buying a meal. My wife has Celiac Disease, which for lack of a better term is a wheat allergy. When I explained that she could not have the items on the menu, the troll began to enlighten us. Apparently my wife could have FLOUR tortillas, and the BREADED fried chicken. When I retorted that those items are made with flour and not suitable for this special diet, the troll retorted saying “I thought flour was made of just flour, I will check with my manager.” 5 minutes later we were allowed to pass without a meal purchase.

Our “server” was nice, and delivered the items in his charge quickly. Those items were the pitcher of margaritas, and sopa pillas. I was a little surprised that the ticket requested a tip.

Overall: I don’t know that I could rate this establishment on the “Something” scale, as it stands as a landmark and local treasure. I have never heard anything good about the food, and for good reason. I believe that eating Casa Bonita fare stands as a rite of passage in the Denver area, and having now done so I feel one step closer to being a native Coloradan. If you're planning a trip to Casa Bonita I will give only 2 pieces of advice.

1. Eat before you go and consider the meal your admission price
2. Let go and give your inner child a tour of Black Bart’s Cave

Consider this the worlds first Mexican Chucky Cheese, and have a blast. Totally worth the trip.

Happy Eating

Nick Pollard

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