You guys, you guys! We have awesome news: Casa Bonita is going to reopen soon.
Oh, you knew that? Well, after more than a hundred journalists were allowed in Friday, May 26 — not coincidentally the fictional birthday of Kyle Broflovski, the “South Park” character who famously celebrated with friends at the iconic Denver eatertainment concept in Season 7 — for a “special press preview” of a small portion of the building, we still don’t know when that much-anticipated day will be. But we do know that the more than $12 million poured into the place brought about a few changes.
Owned since 2021 by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and offering a new menu courtesy of Dana Rodriguez (chef/owner of Work & Class, Super Mega Bien and Cantina Loca), Casa Bonita hosted a sneak-peek operation that was as tightly controlled as a presidential visit: Armed security guards shepherded the groups into the building, and the list of rules included not directly quoting tour guides, asking questions or peeking into the many off-limits areas. We were told that the restaurant wants some surprises left for the public on opening day, whenever it comes.
Apparently, a couple of astute journalists spotted Stone — who voices Kyle and Butters Stotch — walking across the lagoon bridge during the event, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans.
Here’s the most important thing we did glean: The sopaipillas, from the same recipe created to withstand the challenges of deep frying at altitude, are still rectangular, crispy, flaky and drizzled with honey (otherwise, there might have been riots). And they still come free with a meal, along with chips and salsa fresca.
LEFT: A line forms at the Casa Bonita sopaipillas window. RIGHT: Casa Bonita chef Dana Rodriguez prepares fresh sopaipillas. (Photos by Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)
TOP: A line forms at the Casa Bonita sopaipillas window. BOTTOM: Casa Bonita chef Dana Rodriguez prepares fresh sopaipillas. (Photos by Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)
The rest of the menu is short and sweet, although prices have yet to be revealed for the place whose motto once was “Lots of Food. Peso Little.” Gone are the deluxe platters and combos that all came with an enchilada. Instead, the focus is on fresher Mex and a little fancier approach: shrimp sautéed in adobo sauce, roasted chicken mole negro, picadillo. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available. Enchiladas are still an option, but they come with green and/or red chile (assuredly not the watery tomato paste recipe of yore).
Meanwhile, the super-fit cliff divers are back atop the waterfall, sporting 70s-sexy red-and-white bathing suits, with more female divers than there were previously and a reconfigured pool (same size, same setup, just safer). They still do the synchronized flips and spins.
Three newly built portions inside have expanded the space to 56,000 square feet from 54,000; part of that is a reworked entrance, which no longer feels like an amusement park queue. Instead, guests are herded into a cozy waiting room made to look like a Oaxacan town square. Also new: an elevator that brings the place into the ADA-compliant modern day.
On the way to the food line — set up as an exposition space, so that guests can see everything being prepared from scratch — the revamped tortilleria now has a window for an up-close peek at the hot masa-flattening action. The massive, gleaming kitchen is also new; the remodel took it to the studs, digging down 2 feet and reinstalling the entire kitchen, which Rodriguez reportedly redesigned for efficiency.
In the main dining area, spaces that were candy-striped red and white have been repainted to look more like the room did when it opened in 1974 (that’s a big theme here, bringing back the original look). Gone are the sticky walls and the overpowering smell of pool chemicals that threatened to singe off your nose hairs. They also added more bathrooms, a much-needed fix for a place that teems with toddlers. The exterior is bold, with a fresh coat of paint from 300 gallons of what must by now be officially known as Pepto-Bismol pink.
LEFT: Casa Bonita’s fountain draws the attention of journalists gathered. RIGHT: The sun shines above Casa Bonita and a crowd of journalists. (Photos by Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)
TOP: Casa Bonita’s fountain draws the attention of journalists gathered. BOTTOM: The sun shines above Casa Bonita and a crowd of journalists. (Photos by Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)
Word is that a soft opening is imminent and will be offered to randomly selected people who have signed up for emails at casabonitadenver.com/email. So you might not have to kidnap Butters to get in, like Cartman did on the show, but with more than 13,000 people on the unofficial Facebook waiting list, it may be time to start looking around for that little dude.