Has there been a more anticipated restaurant opening than the rebirth of Casa Bonita?
The iconic Denver restaurant is reportedly scheduled to officially begin a limited opening on Friday after a $40 million renovation by new owners Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the TV series “South Park.”
But don't start lining up just yet.
Fans will be invited in on a rolling basis for June 23 and 24, and then June 29 through July 1 with timed-entry tickets that can be purchased online for $39.99 ($24.99 for kids ages 3-12 and kids under 3 are free). Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable, and limited to groups of eight or fewer. On the website, Casa Bonita calls the opening “beta testing,” saying guests will be pulled exclusively from the email list, and no walks-ins will be accepted.
Tickets reportedly include an entrée, soft drink and the restaurant’s famous sopaipillas. Additional beverages and other items can be purchased at additional cost.
Parker and Stone acquired the 52,000-square-foot very pink restaurant out of bankruptcy in 2021 for $3.1 million. First opened in 1974, the restaurant at the time had been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, and reportedly needed quite a bit of work to bring it back to its former glory.
One aspect that badly needed an update: the food. Parker and Stone hired James Beard Award-nominated chef Dana Rodriguez (Work & Class, Super Mega Bien) to overhaul the menu, and she planned to create from-scratch versions of classic dishes appropriate for a restaurant that many hold very dear as a place of cherished childhood memories.
Casa Bonita’s fame beyond Colorado has come in part from “South Park” episodes, in which the Cartman character’s obsession with the kitchy restaurant perhaps reflected Parker’s own childhood birthday party experience there.
The challenge for the new owners was keeping the restaurant and experience largely the same—weird and whimsical—but giving it an extensive polish. Media previews in the local press and New York Times indicate the restaurant no longer smells of chlorine, for example, the kitchen has been completely modernized and the sopaipillas are still terrific.
But Casa Bonita still faces the hurdle of opening to a public that appears to be chomping at the bit to experience the new-and-improved venue, which was initially projected to open in May.
Earlier this year, Casa Bonita launched a hiring push to recruit about 500 workers to staff the 1,000-seat restaurant, including jobs like cliff diving, mariachi performers and entertainers to help set the scene in the spooky Black Bart’s Cave.
Parker and Stone in media interviews have admitted that the project may not have been the best idea from a business standpoint, with renovations costing four times more than initial projections (or “close to infinity dollars,” they said in several interviews), but they describe the redo of Casa Bonita as a love letter to Colorado and perhaps an indulgent walk into the past for the two, who met at University of Colorado Boulder.
In fact, Casa Bonita is inviting fans to submit their own content from past visits to the 50-year-old restaurant, back in the day.
Pretty excited for the Grand Re-Opening of @CasaBonita! 🌮⛲️😃 This was me when I visited there for the first time a few years back. Quite the experience! So fun! #CasaBonita#Denver#Colorado 🌮⛲️🌮 https://t.co/rdEDsFCjh9pic.twitter.com/S99cb84cZ5— ★彡 DOMINIC.GRX 彡★ 1¹1🌐📻🎶🔴⚫🌵1¹1 (@DominicEffect) June 12, 2023
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