Casa Bonita… again!

by DanWolgemuth on January 19, 2024

It was March 25, 1974, when Bill Waugh opened the doors to Denver’s Casa Bonita for the first time. Waugh had opened several restaurant locations, but his Lakewood, Colorado location would become legendary.

I remember hearing about it for the first time from family members who were in awe of the meal and cliff diving combination. Alas, who wouldn’t be, especially when it is located in a strip mall!

Mary and I secured our first visit shortly after we moved to Denver in 2005. At that point, the restaurant had lost much of its appeal, and a lot of its public acclaim. But don’t tell that to folks across the country! When busloads of YFC kids would traverse the country for a camp experience in the Colorado Rockies, they often included a trip to Casa Bonita.

Time had not been friendly to either the menu, or the ambiance.

Then, COVID. And by April 2021, the owners of Casa Bonita had shuttered their doors and emptied the pool. Chapter 11 was next.

It was two “local-boys-made-good”, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who saved the restaurant from being relegated to pure lore and history. In 2022 they announced that they were buying the property and would invest in a complete renovation.

$40 million later, they lit the pink tower and cut the ribbon on the rehabbed restaurant. Tacos and cliff diving were back in action.

It was Mary’s brainstorm to make a full family outing to Casa Bonita our Christmas gift for 2023. We extended the credit limit on our Visa card and reserved our spot for a family Casa Bonita experience. The anticipation was palpable!

And on January 17th, we did it. Bring on the unmatched experience, and the bottomless sopaipillas. 

Although I had only walked in the restaurant once before, I was immediately struck by how familiar the place felt. The darkened lighting, slanted walkways, nestled tables, rock ledges protruding above a clear blue pool. And yes, the mingled aroma of chlorine and freshly baked tortillas.

This similarity was no mistake. In fact, the new owner’s goal was to recreate the mystique and magic of the original design. To harken back to the vision of Bill Waugh.

This was not a renovation as much as a recreation. And yes, a recreation that aligned with the creation.

$40 million to go back to 1974.

Crazy. Overpriced. Unprecedented.


At the dawn of time, God’s design for His crowning creative achievement was complete. Humankind. In His image.

And yet it took no time at all for the degradation of the initial perfection.

Then God, rich in mercy, paid the ultimate price to buy His creation back. Not so He could dust us off, add a new layer of paint, replace a few broken chairs, revive a great menu, and clean the sticky floors. No, this was about making us brand new. A new creation. In alignment with the original design.

From bankrupt to fully restored.

Casa Bonita is back.

A recreation that aligns with the creation.

An infinitesimal reminder with a pink tower and cliff divers.

Thanks be to God for His incredible gift.

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