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A favorite eatery closes…it was time….Casa Bonita was unique…



Growing up in Oklahoma City, I had my personal Casa Bonita Restaurant to visit, on NW 39th and Portland.  Eating Tex-Mex or really any form of Latin, Mexican, or south of the border is a big fricken deal for me and my family.  Casa Bonita was a big fricken deal for me in OKC.  The original stores that have morphed into the Taco Bueno chain, were started in Oklahoma but the grand daddy of the Casa Bonita chain was the one in West Denver, Lakewood if you want to be correct, on Colfax Avenue.   Fact of the matter, this Denver location was the largest serving restaurant in America, with as many as 1500 eating on a good Saturday night.  The place was fun for all, with a stage, various games for kids to play, different parts of the place to eat such as a grand dining room or a cave, and true cliff divers doing their thing from the tall top of the inner building into a pool of water 30 feet below.  It was the place to spend an evening in the Mile High City.  By the way, the food was also good if you like that sort of Tex-Mex. And their sopaipillas  were the best in the country.

On my honeymoon in the summer of 1978 my new wife and I traveled through Denver and we ate at Casa Bonita for the first time as a married couple.  It was her first time to visit this nationally recognized place and my second time.  Remembering the experience for this visit was not memorable as of being in love at the time.  As a couple with kids, we had dinner at this Casa Bonita every time we traveled to Colorado on vacation or to view a sporting event. The number of visits had to be over 15 to the best of my calculations.



The visit I remember the most was the night we had to stand in line for over almost two hours as the line was completely down the sidewalk of the strip mall where it is located. Once in, another forty minutes as the line twisted and turned to where you could order your all-you-can-eat food.  Once the food hit our table, we had spent over two hours in waiting, with kids ages ten and four.  Exhausted from the wait, I told my wife and kids that I could not feel my legs and thought I was having some sort of medical emergency.  I was sitting at my table, looking at the food, wondering if I was dying. It had been a hot day in Denver and standing in line outside on concrete for over an hour was not good.  The bad feeling in my legs passed a few minutes later and the dinner was eaten. That visit scared me.  Never again would I stand in line for an hour for food was the oath I took that night.


Casa Bonita, closed since the pandemic in 2020, shut it’s doors for good with a bankruptcy this week.  I can understand this as for the life of this physical restaurant, it never changed but for a fresh coat of paint every five or so years.  Walking back into the place in late 2019 was walking back into time like it was 1980.



Sports fans, the run in Denver is over…RIP Casa Bonita.


About Fred Pahlke

Fred Pahlke, an Oklahoma native has viewed over 10,000 sporting events in his 65 years. A season ticket holder of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former season tickect holder for the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma City University Chiefs/Stars, he is an expert in both professional and college basketball and football. A high school athlete at Classen High School in basketball and tennis, he played amateur tennis after high school in the Missouri Valley Tennis Association. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, he taught in the public schools for 6 years before becoming a building administrator in the Oklahoma City Public Schools for 31 years, 28 as the Principal of various schools in the district. He has guided various high school and college athletes in his time as an educator and coach. Fredsportsextra has recorded 101, 410 article views in its first ten months, from August 2015 through May 2016.

2 Responses to “A favorite eatery closes…it was time….Casa Bonita was unique…”

  1. Mike A.
    April 22, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    CB was cheap food shoveled fast and deep. My family lived a few blocks north of the 39th and Portland location. As to quality Mexican food there were better choices and CB was the bottom of the barrel. It was nothing special.

    • April 23, 2021 at 10:31 am

      Yes, it was, to many, cheap food. But is not all Tex-Mex food cheap food? What do you have? Cheap ingredients basically. I love cheap Tex-Mex food myself. The now gone Pepe’s in Edmond, OK, was reviewed by a top food critic and in the review he called the food that Pepe’s served as “field food”, a menu loaded with cheap foods that Mexicans out in the fields all day would have for lunch….easy to fix, basic food for the working Mexican. Yes, CB and their offshoot of Taco Bueno is cheap food, but cooked on site. Yes, not the best Tex-Mex….but CB had other things that went there for, such as entertainment for the kids, various settings to sit, the little flag, all-you-can-eat, and perfect sopapillas. Yes, it had its drawbacks. But as for quality food, I never go sick eating the food, enjoyed it’s cheap taste and even if you think bottom of the barrel, you are in the minority. Those CB places made money and did what they were suppose to do. And I do NOT agree. They were special. Thanks for reading my stuff and please comment again. Appreciated Mike.

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