LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – As we wait on bankruptcy court to clear the way for “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to buy Casa Bonita, we’ve been reflecting on what makes the Lakewood restaurant so magical.
It’s a magic Parker and Stone have shared with their families. Last Friday Parker shared what his wife told him just weeks ago. “She said to me, ‘Every time you talk about Casa Bonita, your eyes light up in this way that they don’t do any other way.’ It’s like a magical place.”
The restaurant might just be one of the pioneers of the “fast casual” concept, meaning you stand in line to order, receive your food and then find a table.
But at Casa Bonita, once you leave that serving line you find yourself in something akin to a Mexican village at night, one that’s celebrating a festival.
The restaurant is about 52,000 square feet in size and divided into different areas with specific themes like the Palace, Terraces, the Grand Vista and the Rooftops. It’s in that Rooftop area where you’ll find the Cartman table featured in the “South Park” episode that introduced Casa Bonita to the world. There are even tables tucked into caves on the lower level.
And if it’s a festival there must be entertainment, with bands and wandering mariachi bands as well as cliff divers. The latter regularly plunge 30 feet down into a pool. But it’s not just the divers who find themselves at the top of that cliff. Black Bart will leave his hideout cave to take on the sheriff in fights that frequently end with a plunge by the waterfall.
That area holds a special temptation for Parker.
“Of course everyone wants to jump off the cliff into the pool,” he said during the announcement of the planned purchase. “We actually had a private party at Casa Bonita when we opened ‘Book of Mormon’ here several years. I (asked) can you do (dive off the cliff)?” The answer was “No, you’d have to own place,” an answer that now has Parker rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
If you are brave enough, you can track Black Bart back to his cave yourself. If that’s a little too much of a claustrophobic experience for you, nearby you’ll find arcade games, a mercado for shopping and a magic show. But if you get into too much “trouble,” you might find yourself thrown into the on-site “jail.”
And you’ll keep your eyes open for the “pet gorilla” that frequently escapes and then joins diners. Parker joked he’s ready to start trying on gorilla suits.
While the quality of the food is much maligned, there is one menu item no one wants to see changed: the sopapillas, the perfectly fried dessert treat made better when coated on the inside with honey.
So we can’t wait to raise the flag and return to all the fun of a trip to the Mexican village near the corner of Colfax Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard.