It's weird to think about South Park having been around for 13 years or whatever it's been, but it has.
There have been some absolutely excellent episodes over the years. The one where Cartman gets his own amusement park. The one skewering World of Warcraft and Anime and Scientology and Mormons and ________.
One of my all-time favorite episodes is called Casa Bonita. The basic idea plot is that Kyle is allowed to take 3 friends to this crazy theme restaurant known as Casa Bonita. A place featuring completely ludicrous things like cliff divers, and a strolling mariachi band (which I guess isn't all that ludicrous), and a place called Black Bart's Cave (a haunted tunnel). Cartman is upset by being left-out in favor of Butters (my all-time favorite South Park character.) He tricks Butters into hiding in a bomb-shelter and gets the replacement invitation. Cartman's plot is discovered, and once caught he runs through Casa Bonita enjoying all it has to offer. It's pretty fucking hilarious.
All this time I assumed that Casa Bonita was a fictional place with invented features assigned to it, in order to poke fun at theme restaurants like The Rainforest Cafe or House of Blues or whatever. I like those places, which made it even funnier to me.
This past week, while on vacation in Denver, I took Tofu Muchacha and her sister Ping to a few thrift stores. The first thrift store we visited is on West Colfax in Lakewood. To my great shock and delight, the store shared a parking lot with THE REAL CASA BONITA.
I couldn't effing believe it. All this time I thought the place was fictional. Even if it wasn't, I would have assumed it was exaggerated for the sake of comedy.
Nope... Totally and completely real.
The exterior from South Park was depicted as this sort of Pink Mexican style hacienta type place... Here's a picture from the episode: Here's the actual place: It's amazingly accurate, don't you think? Even down to the big-boned dude posing out front.
I admit that I was incredibly excited. I demanded that we went in and take more pictures. Here's what we came up with... T.M. and her sister outside, with one of the sign-boards showing all kinds of fun entertainment to be found inside.
The map of the whole restaurant, featuring all of the delights I thought South Park made up.
The "streetscapes" we encountered just walking in to the host station. This reminded me of something Disney would do incredibly well. The Casa Bonita version of this was a little dirty. Kind of smelly too. It's a pretty long journey from the front entrance to the point where you first meet an employee...
Lastly, here's me after being completely shot down when I simply asked if I could walk in and take a look around the dining area. We were told that we would not be allowed in at all without purchasing a meal, which... appears to be buffet style. Effing bastards. I was really bummed. I wanted to see a god-damned cliff diver. Maybe next time, when I'm prepared to come across the now non-fiction Casa Bonita.
Now I wonder what other crazy things South Park has featured are real. Underpants gnomes? The Brown Noise? Mel Gibson?
The world is suddenly full of amazing possibilities.