Casa Bonita (the Spanish translation is “Pretty House”) is a former chain of Mexican-themed “eatertainment” restaurants that originated in Oklahoma City. A total of 4 restaurants existed – Oklahoma City (1968-1993), Little Rock (1969-1993) Tulsa (1971-2005), and Denver. The Denver location, which opened in 1974, is the only one still in existence.
Similar in architecture to the Tulsa location (both were previously large retail store locations), the Lakewood restaurant seats over 1000 people at a time, and features strolling mariachis, flame jugglers (no longer allowed in 2019 for violating fire code), and a 30-foot (9.1 m) waterfall with cliff divers. It also has a small puppet theater, a “haunted tunnel” called Black Bart’s Cave, an arcade with a large skee-ball room, and a magic theater. It was designated a historic landmark of the city in March 2015.
Casa Bonita has always had its share of regional clients, but has gotten a boost in popularity over the years thanks to the South Park TV show. The creators of the show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with several other people involved with the production of South Park, grew up visiting the restaurant when they were kids, and they wound up incorporating it into several episodes of the popular TV show over the years.
Here’s the episode – South Park has it available for purchase on YouTube (we get nothing for posting the link). You can also find it on HBO Max and Google Play Movies & TV.
Not surprisingly, COVID has not been kind to Casa Bonita. They stopped serving food in early 2020 due to the pandemic (apparently the food wasn’t that great anyway – people would go for the atmosphere) and had just been sustaining on the gift shop and arcade staying open, and doing behind-the-scenes tours.
Anyway, as per Hollywood Reporter, Summit Family Restaurants, the company that currently owns Casa Bonita, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year.
BUT! There’s hope! Because GUESS WHAT?
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are trying to buy it.
‘South Park’ Creators Aim to Buy Casa Bonita, Restaurant Featured in Show (Exclusive) https://t.co/Q6NiMmfglF
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) July 28, 2021
“We want to buy Casa Bonita and treat it right,” said Parker. “I feel like it was neglected even before the pandemic.”
Casa Bonita is in something of bankruptcy limbo right now, because its boiler system is broken and it has to pass final health and fire inspections to provide menu service. That will supposedly happen later this month, or sometime in August.
“We are absolutely trying to buy it,” Parker continued. “We are going to do everything we can. We want to make it right and make it amazing.
“We started talking about the changes we’re going to make — mostly with the food,” Parker told the magazine. “We’re going to make really awesome food. I was already thinking about how I was going to make Black Bart’s Cave a little bigger.
“It’s just sitting there. It sucks,” Parker said. “For a moment when it was like, ‘Casa Bonita is going to close down,’ we said, ‘We’re going to go buy it.’ And I felt like it was the crowning achievement of my life.”
Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis appeared to be pleased, based on his response on Facebook:
So yeah, there ya go. The South Park guys, who helped keep Casa Bonita cool, want to buy Casa Bonita, AND make the food better.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary