Come one, come all and listen to a tale of a magical place complete with cowboys, damsels, divers, gorillas, foreboding caves, the height of 1984′s video game technology, and, of course food so, um, well, special, that it has the ability to induce explosive diarrhea and continuous vomiting even in men with strict constitutions and strong digestive systems.
I speak, of course, of Denver’s own, Casa Bonita!
Yeah, it’s real. It’s not quite the magical wonderland that Cartman makes it out to be, but, yeah, Casa Bonita is quite real. It’s located in a strip mall on East Colfax next door to the corpse of a Hollywood Video. On the drive there we passed a combination laundromat/pay day loan place, 56 used car lots, 872 liquor stores, a business advertising itself as “a grocery store for cats and dogs”, and 23 skeevy motels. Six of those skeevy motels featured obvious prostitutes outside working the street. It was ten degrees outside. Regardless of any consideration of the moral and ethical quandaries that come with the issue of prostitution, that is one hell of a work ethic.
So we roll up to the Casa and the strip mall parking lot was empty except for a couple of other folk hittin’ up the Casa with us. The occasion was a birthday party. I’d imagine that’s what most of their business is since it’s not exactly the kind of place that business people hit up on their lunch break.
The lobby features a VHS tape playing in a loop on an old SD TV. The video features a number of people who obviously either worked for the Casa, were paid actors, were roofied, or had their tongues burned off in various horrific accidents. All of these individuals attested to the awesomeness of the food. The lobby also gives you a taste of what is to come in terms of decor. It’s got tile straight out of the seventies, complete with what looks like 40 years of wear and tear, chairs I decided against sitting in, and traces of dirt mixed in with the fading paint. These decor choices are fairly consistent in the rest of the place.
Food is served sort of cafeteria style where you order with one dude and then walk through a queue where you grab a tray and wait for your food to slide through a hole in the wall. Seriously. They throw your plates through a hole in the wall and you pick them up and carry them to your table. Our food slid through the hole and I grabbed my plate. We went with the fajitas because we knew how disgusting everything else was, and we were hoping beyond hope that maybe, just maybe, a meal without sauces that congeal into a paste-like substance would be edible. The visual image of my plate did little to assuage my fears. Even the lettuce looked gross. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it didn’t look like lettuce. It wasn’t wilted, or off-colored, or anything, but it just didn’t look right. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, but It looked more like colored paper than a vegetable.
We ate. I had to actually tear the “beef” apart with my teeth. A normal bite just didn’t do the job and there was nothing that I recognized as a flavor to the meat. There was some kind of flavor because it wasn’t an empty taste like paper, but I don’t know what to compare it to. I know what not to compare it to, though: beef. I got down about half of one fajita before I had to tap out. The Kid did about as well as I did before she gave up the cause. I filled my stomach with diet soda and stale chips while we awaited the “world famous” sopapillas that are more like “pretty okay” sopapillas. But, compared to everything else on the menu those things are like manna from heaven. At least I didn’t have to consider whether or not I was making a bad decision on every bite of sopapilla, which was a nice contrast from the fajitas. With our food down (temporarily at least) it was time to explore the wonders of Casa Bonita.
Step one: The restroom. Well, hmm. They are probably due for some updating. Maybe some new tile or even just a decent power cleaning would do wonders to update the restrooms. I could go on and on and on, but it’s probably best summed up with this quote by The Kid anyways: “that was so gross. I’ve seen cleaner porta-potties.”
Step two: The show. I’m afraid that we might not have caught them for their most inspired performance ever as the actors were only performing for a small group of us. I didn’t feel like the actors were pouring their heart into their craft. Nevertheless, the cliff divers were cool and it kind of blows my mind that there are people who’s job is to put on a bathing suit and jump off a 30′ cliff into a pool of water for the entertainment of the masses. It’s not quite as weird as some of the jobs in Vegas, but it’s pretty damned odd. It’s always fun to see a guy in a gorilla suit, even if I want more vocal monkey sounds out of my dudes in gorilla suits, but whatever. And the mariachi/guitar guy was actually pretty good, especially when he was jamming out “Happy Birthday” to embarrass the friend who brought us to the Casa.
Step three: The arcade. They had Skee Ball. I have nothing else good to say about the arcade and “arcades” like this one make me feel really old. Arcades used to be the place where you went to play the hottest games and play against the best of the best. Now? Now, at best, you have Dave and Busters and at worst you have shit like Casa Bonita’s arcade which is only memorable because I couldn’t get the weird smell that infected the room out of my nostrils for a good fifteen minutes.
Step four: Black Bart’s cave. It’s actually a pretty cool little cave, especially when you consider that it really is intended for little kids. It was fun to go through it and remember how intimidating the place was back in the day.
We hit the sites and left. We had to be careful on the drive home to avoid hitting any bumps in the road because The Kid was doing everything in her power to avoid vomiting up the entirety of her stomach’s contents on our new car’s clean seats. She’s a trooper and kept it in until she got home. Me? I ended up leaving work early on Monday to try and sleep off the damage that Casa Bonita had inflected on my unsuspecting stomach. I was out about seventy five dollars and all I had to show for it were some memories and two cases of food poisoning.
So, with that in mind, I can sum up the entirety of my experience with just three short, meaningful words:
Fuck Casa Bonita