Casa Bonita is a restaurant famous across the country for its delicious Mexican food and unique attractions. This Colorado icon has brought customers joy with its sopapillas and festive decor since the 70's. Sadly, the eatery will be closing its doors for good, and Colorado will have a hard time replacing it.
The Rise and Fall of Casa Bonita
Casa Bonita was founded by Bill Waugh in the 1970s, and it was beloved for its all-you-can-eat chicken or beef plates, fajitas, enchiladas, taco salad, and the sweet sopapillas offered with every meal. The delectable menu items are enjoyed to a backdrop of festive decor and a lively mariachi band to add to the experience.
The Colorado restaurant is located at 6715 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, about half an hour from Boulder. Along with tasty food, the destination is known for its wild attractions, such as a 30-foot waterfall and cliff divers. Casa Bonita is considered one of the nation's top 10 roadside attractions, and is so beloved that the Lakewood Historical Society has made it a historical landmark.
It has also taken a role in American pop culture, largely due to a 2003 South Park episode that featured the restaurant. The episode was based on the fond memories of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Since then, the iconic spot has been well-known around the country, and was even featured in the 2017 South Park video game. To add to its fame, the Denver Broncos used the location to announce their draft picks in 2018.
Casa Bonita translates to "pretty house" in Spanish, and it started off as a chain of "eatertainment" restaurants. The first location was in Oklahoma City, and it then expanded to Lakewood, Little Rock, Tulsa, and Fort Worth. Like many restaurants across the country and world, the famous Mexican restaurant struggled throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The last existing Casa Bonita restaurant of the chain, in Lakewood, Colorado, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2021 as a result of the slow to nonexistent business during the the first year of the pandemic. The state of Colorado mandated all restaurants to close at the start of the pandemic, but Casa Bonita's Lakewood location never reopened its dining area despite providing private tours.
After hearing that Casa Bonita had filed for bankruptcy, its devoted patrons came together to create a fundraiser, Save Casa Bonita, in an attempt to raise enough money for the national attraction to remain open. However, the restaurant has recently made it known that it will be closing permanently, a tragedy for all who have come to love it.
Last month, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the creators of South Park, who brought so much national attention to the restaurant, are hoping to buy it. However, the owners of Casa Bonita have not confirmed that the restaurant is for sale. Although the era of Casa Bonita is coming to a close, no one can deny the entertainment and joy that it brought to customers for nearly 50 years.