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Casa Bonita

Posted by tinako on August 11, 2010

Lunch was leftovers at the water park Waterworld in Denver, Colorado: edamame, tabouleh, microwaved tofu, grilled veggies, raw veggies and hummus, chips and salsa.  My daughter was hungry later and she enjoyed a fruit smoothie at Aokee’s Desserts in the park.

Casa Bonita

Dinner was at Casa Bonita, a very odd restaurant in the corner of an unremarkable strip mall in an unfashionable suburb of Denver.  This is probably the most amazing restaurant I have ever been in, with some of the lamest food I have ever eaten.  It is too bad their business model is to make the food and ordering portion so unpleasant.  It was bad timing that we came here after spending the day queueing up in rat mazes at Waterworld, because that’s what your first twenty minutes experience at Casa Bonita is.  I wanted to sit and order a drink, and instead I and 100 of my closest friends crammed into dark, narrow cattle chutes and perused the paper menus.  Our choices were chicken or beef disguised in various Mexican-like dishes, or nothing.  I didn’t see any vegetables except for lettuce and tomato, and was looking forward to a lettuce and tomato burrito a-la Estes Park when my brother pointed out the green peppers in the chicken or beef fajita.  So I ordered a chickenless dairyless chicken fajita (because it was cheaper than the beefless cheeseless beef fajita).

But I didn’t just order it once.  First I told the girl taking orders on a notepad in the middle of the cattle crowd, who simply wrote down “Chicken Fajita – Special” and for my daughter’s cheeseless children’s enchilada, “Pinata Plate – Special.”  So I handed the paper to another order taker behind a register, and she asked me exactly what I wanted, I went through it all again, and then she printed out something that said the same thing, “Special.”  I felt so special.  Then the line wound back and forth a bit more and we finally arrived at the food window with our trays.  I told the woman handing out food what I needed and she said, “At the table” and waved me away.  An employee took my and my daughter’s poor empty trays away.  Finally we were at the very front of the line, and an employee led us upstairs to a table, which had just about the view you can see in the picture above.  It was really an incredible setting, very well done so that every table seems to be special, I mean actually special instead of weird special like before.  Our waiter came along and I (patient sigh here) repeated my order and also asked him to replace my son’s taco, which I stupidly had not realized would be filled with beef.  I mean, why wouldn’t it?  The waiter brought the food, and even though the fajita vegetables were 90% onions and the cold plate was 90% lettuce, the refried beans were straight from a can and the rice was straight from a box mix, I was grateful I didn’t have to explain it to anyone else, such as the performers or the busboy.

This is a magical restaurant for kids.  Even though the food is terrible, and everyone has to order to go in, it is probably worth it.  The performances are corny, but it is pretty entertaining to see a talented diver dive several stories down into a lagoon every few minutes.  The puppet show was the worst display I have ever seen – I could have put on a better one with 45 seconds notice, but fortunately it’s in a corner so you don’t have to watch it – you’ve been warned.  But the kids loved the pinata-bashing, and the mariachi band’s catchy Happy Birthday song, which they played every few minutes to a different table, will be stuck in my head for months.

I think a card at the table claimed Casa Bonita is the largest restaurant in the world, seating 900.  At first this is hard to believe, but then you start wandering around to see the attractions, and then keep wandering into room after room – it just goes on and on.

Apparently there’s a South Park episode about Casa Bonita, with the description calling it the Disneyland of Mexican restaurants.


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