Casa Bonita is perhaps one of the most remarkable restaurants I’ve ever visited.
It is enormous; with the ability to seat 1,100 diners. Its fountains and cathedral-like tower stand out in an otherwise rundown West Colfax strip mall.
Casa Bonita is surreal; with faux Mexican decor that makes you feel as if you somehow missed the Colfax Avenue exit and wound up at some fantasy casino on the Strip in Vegas.
It is entertaining; with a silly show that ends up in multiple people cliff diving into a pool that serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece. There’s also a raucous mariachi band playing throughout the night.
It is also disgusting.
The food is horrific, absolutely terrible. It is truly scary that the line, on a weekend night, is out the door. I was warned prior that the food was gross–that is an understatement–and hoped the experience would be worthwhile.
And it’s hard to imagine that so many people are willing to subject themselves to what could quite possibly be the worst food in any restaurant in America.
I challenge someone to find something that is worse. It’s a Mexican version of Chuck E. Cheese’s, with parents watching over a tables full of children excited by the spectacle of it all.
If Chuck E. Cheese’s is this bad, I apologize profusely to my parents for having to take me there when I was a child. If I ever have kids, they’ll be forbidden from eating such garbage no matter how cool it seems to them. I want them to develop good eating habits. And don’t want to risk a trip to the ER.
I know I should give a restaurant more than one chance, but I cannot bring myself to ever be subjected to Casa Bonita again. The dinner, despite me only taking a bite or two of each taco, burrito and enchilada served on the plate, put me out of commission for a night.
Have you ever wondered why some restaurants advertise using 100 percent real cheese? It’s because of places such as Casa Bonita. Its cheese is as familiar with a cow as an Antarctic penguin. It’s laughable to be considered cheese, actually. Movie theater popcorn topping is more natural.
If you’ve never heard of Casa Bonita, you’ve somehow avoided hearing about what has become a pop-culture phenomenon. Cartman glorified it during an episode of South Park; the creators should jailed for the subsequent promotion.
The setting is, to use the same descriptor again, remarkable. You enter into a cavernous hallway, akin to a line at an amusement park. After weaving through a cattle line, you order an all-you-can-eat chicken or beef plate, or a few other traditional Mexican options including a taco salad (more on that in a moment). Then you meander for a few minutes more before coming across the assembly line that shoots fully finished dishes through a hole in the wall.
I can only imagine what goes on back there. Actually, the thought frightens me.
Your plate is then dished onto your cafeteria tray (yes, all class at Casa Bonita) before confused teenagers shuffle you to one of the hundreds of tables.
Once seated, your adult beverages are delivered. They shouldn’t bother carding folks; there’s no tequila in their margs despite there being a dire need to get hammered while eating at the Casa.
I took a bite of an edible taco–edible is the most complimentary word I can muster. Everything else on the plate–from the quadruple refried beans to chicken enchiladas doused in something that is so gross it defies logic to the sticky and hard rice–wasn’t fit for a dog’s dish. Being that I was hungry and this was all-you-can-eat, I figured some more tacos might be safe. The chicken in the second helping had the consistency of canned tuna mixed with a jar of Hellmann’s. About the only entrée that looked safe was the aforementioned taco salad, which was basically shredded lettuce in a stale tortilla chip.
How can you mess up lettuce? Then again, I thought the same thing with Mexican food in general.
But at every turn, Casa Bonita fails. The chips were too stale to provide sustenance; the salsa was three parts water, half part salsa. Luckily the sopaipillas reached that ever-so-high level of edibility, and I filled my stomach up with a few of those and a slice of ice cream cake we brought in for a birthday celebration.
After paying more than $25 a person (we tried our darndest to get drunk off the margaritas), I left feeling as bad as Morgan Spurlock after the filming of Super Size Me; I can only imagine what 30 days of Casa Bonita would to do one’s health system, let alone one’s soul.
So please, despite the lure of cliff divers, dancing monkeys and South Park references, never patronize Casa Bonita. With any luck it’ll be forced by demand to start serving food that can actually be eaten.
Considering it’s been open since 1973, I won’t hold my breath.
For more info: Casa Bonita, 6715 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 303.232.5115